The Bourne Supremacy.
Confession: I started reading the Bourne books when I found The Bourne Supremacy at the library looking for something to read while Schmoopette watches her Elmo videos. I figured that as with most thrillers, any plot that I needed to be filled in on would be (rather clumsily) exposed in the first three chapters. I’ve certainly encountered this in other series and found it to be an obnoxious trend. Well, this is sort of true, but the “problem” with the Bourne books is that Robert Ludlum is a) so damned smart and b) writes so damned fast. There’s no introduction or conclusion as such, though many other “thrillers” I’ve read start off slow and take a few chapters in the end to wrap things up. Oh no. Not Ludlum. He just goes for broke, the whole way. Keeping up requires more mental effort than I’ve put in for most books that come in mass market paperbacks. (And yes, I totally judge books by their covers and consider anything mass-market to be “cheesy.” Clearly, this does not stop me from reading them.)
So, this is actually the second time that I’ve read The Bourne Supremacy. However, it is the first time that I had more than half a clue what the hell was going on. The character of Jason Bourne is so well done that you really need the whole background and character development in the first book to understand his decision making processes in the second. I also re-watched the second movie before re-reading the book, which both helped and was totally pointless.
The book and the movie share a similar plot: Jason Bourne is framed for a crime he didn’t commit by an impostor who wants to trap and kill him. That’s really the only similarity. The movie, takes place in the present day and is mainly staged in Berlin and Russia. The book, on the other hand, is set in Hong Kong and its environs and uses the 1997 British transfer of Hong Kong as a backdrop. The book contains a pivotal scene in Tiananmen Square, which is rather eerie when you realize that it predates the famous protests by about two years. While I’m confessing things: I’ll confess that I totally forgotten that Britain had owned Hong Kong until ’97 and it took me a good four chapters to realize why the British MI-6 would be involved in covert operations in China. Duh.
It’s really hard to write any more than this about a thriller series without giving away any spoilers about either the book or the movie. Suffice it to say that both are incredibly well done, even if their storylines are wildly divergent. I do wonder why the filmmakers decided to adapt the story to the present day, rather than sticking with the original timeline (which involves greater background and motive for the character of Bourne, involving his training and experiences in the Vietnam War – put that into a spy series now and the guy would be eleventythousand years old. Ok, well, at least 60. And that only works if you’re Indiana Jones) – but hey, they’re awesome movies, so it’s not like I’m lodging any complaints here.
Also, Ludlum at one point references Hamlet. Nothing endears me more than a good Hamlet reference.
Perhaps conscience did not always produce cowards. Sometimes it made a man feel better about himself.
One more quote just because I love it:
No man was a match for him; no eyes, no throat, no groin safe from an assault, swift and agonizing.
DID YOU HEAR THAT? NO GROIN IS SAFE.