Jason Bourne #6: Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Sanction by Eric Van Lustbader (Orion)

Jason Bourne returns to Georgetown University and the mild world of his alter ego, David Webb, hoping for normalcy. But after so many adrenaline-soaked years of risking his life, Bourne finds himself chafing under the quiet life of a linguistics professor. Aware of his frustrations, his academic mentor, Professor Specter, asks for help investigating the murder of a former student by a previously unknown Muslim extremist sect. The young man died carrying information about the group’s terrorist activities, including an immediate plan to attack the United States.

The organization, the Black Legion, and its lethal plot have also popped up on the radar of Central Intelligence, where new director Veronica Hart is struggling to assert her authority. Sensing an opportunity to take control of CI by showing Hart’s incompetence, National Security Agency operatives plan to accomplish what CI never could-hunt down and kill Bourne.

In Europe, Bourne’s investigation into the Black Legion turns into one of the deadliest and most tangled operations of his double life-the pursuit of the leader of a murderous terrorist group with roots in the darkest days of World War II-all while an assassin as brilliant and damaged as himself is getting closer by the minute . . . 

Reading series out of order is always an interesting experience particularly when it’s the Jason Bourne novels as I can dip in and out whenever I want and usually understand what’s going on, and that was once more the case with The Bourne Sanction, the second Jason Bourne novel that I’ve read that wasn’t written by series creator Robert Ludlum, instead by Eric Van Lustbader, who has taken over and written every Bourne title since 2003’s The Bourne Legacy, and as a result, we have seen 12 Bourne books with the latest entitled The Bourne Ascendancy, which was released in 2014.  I have read both The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Dominion, so I’m pleased to say that for the most part, The Bourne Sanction is a satisfying read, even if it can’t quite live up to the quality of the original Jason Bourne novels.

Despite jumping in at book six there are a few disadvantages and I’m missing out on a few plot points that I would have been familiar with had I read the series, but for the large part it’s fun. The characters included are ones introduced in previous volumes that readers will be familiar with, Deron, a forger, Tyron, an enforcer, and the two female protagonists, Soraya Moore and Moira, who make interesting additions and it was fun reading about them for the first time. There’s also newcomer, a DCI Veronica Hart, who makes an interesting addition to the book as she tries to stop NSA from taking over the CI. However at the same time, The Bourne Sanction sees a growing list of people who want Bourne off the map for good, considering him a liability and dangerous. It’s no surprise then that a possible rival is lurking in the shadows then, the sinister Leonid Arkadin. Both Leonid and Bourne find themselves involved with the sinister and legendary Black Legion, a group of Muslims who once fought with Germany in World War 2 but now have another target in mind, America’s economy.

The Black Legion make for a sinister group of antagonists but The Bourne Sanction doesn’t quite utilise them as well as Lustbader should. It’s made even more of a problem because given the amount of characters that I’ve mentioned above, there’s too much focus elsewhere on Jason Bourne who will be the main reason that most people are reading this book for over anything else. Chances are, most people who are reading The Bourne Sanction will be reading it in the actual order of the series and coupled with the films will care about the character by now, but due to his limited role in this novel, it never really works as well as it should and we never really get the feel that Bourne is in any danger at all. There’s a lack of suspense which is where I’m partly at fault for coming to the series late, but also, The Bourne Sanction doesn’t really surprise readers as much as a thriller like this should. The plot itself is incredibly convoluted as well, and as a result, never really has the impact that it needs to be memorable, rather than just another “Jason Bourne” novel.

The action is mostly fun though, and the book still moves along at quick pace. The Jason Bourne character doesn’t get as much to do elsewhere but even though he risks becoming just another standard super-spy in this novel, there are glimpses of the character that fans love here and there. The Bourne Sanction could have used a greater antagonist though if it were to be truly memorable, as the main villain doesn’t stand out at all and is quickly forgettable. It’s probably the weakest Jason Bourne novel that I’ve read yet which is a real shame, but it’s not without its merits.

VERDICT: 6.5/10

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