The Bourne Initiative (Jason Bourne #14), by Eric van Lustbader

A painful four stars

Returning with another novel in the Jason Bourne series, Eric van Lustbader is back to extend a collection well past its ‘best before’ date. As Jason Bourne remains in hiding and mourns the loss of his friend, General Boris Karpov, he is targeted by his own country. A top-secret death squad is sent to kill Bourne and destroy the one item Karpov left him; a yacht. However, Karpov was not as stingy as one might think. The former head of the Russian FSB also created a cyber weapon he named the Bourne Initiative, trusting only Jason to control it. The Initiative, at full capacity, could strike terror into the heart of America, as it is designed and capable of ascertaining the president’s nuclear launch codes. With those codes, no one is sure what could happen, or how devastating the blowback might be. As Bourne learns of this ‘gift’, he realizes that his life is in an even more precarious position. Bourne is left to turn to one of his own enemies to ensure his own safety, alongside an operative who is anything but trustworthy. Bourne learns more about this Initiative weapon and what Karpov might have had in mind as he concocted the ultimate strike within American borders. Will Bourne allow the Initiative move forward, thereby placing the world in a state of dire volatility? Only time will tell, though even that is in short order. An interesting twist in the Bourne saga, though I am not fully captivated by the premise of this novel or the series continuation.

I will be the first to admit that there are times when a book simply does not connect with the reader. This is one such situation for me, though I fear that each book that van Lustbader adds to the Bourne series has been less than impressive and builds a stronger case that he ought to stop churning them out. In fact, as I have said before, it is perhaps time to let Jason Bourne head out to pasture and insist that van Lustbader turn to other projects. I simply cannot connect with Bourne, even though van Lustbader seems to have provided a decent premise for this novel. The characters are some that would appear enticing, though Bourne has left his espionage days behind and has become somewhat flat. Use of a Russian-based villain is refreshing, as it seems authors are still caught on the ISIS and Muslim-centred evildoers, which can only fan xenophobia. Even the plot, when reading the book’s summary, seems to be something on which the reader could grasp. Alas, I seem to have lost the ability to connect with any of it, as though the entire experience were Teflon and the entire novel slips away as quickly as it is delivered. I tried, but could not find myself latching on, no matter the time of day or activity undertaken. It is not the audiobook narrator, for I have much esteem for his work, nor is it that things were dull and one-dimensional, per se. There simply was a lack of anything that reached out and zapped me to attention. One can hope that other readers will find some solace in the plot and premise, but I suspect it might have something to do with the author. It is impossible to fill Robert Ludlum’s shoes and van Lustbader has never sought to utilise the Bourne we have all come to know in early novels. Sure, characters need to progress and become a little more…versatile, but this Bourne is not one I know or even one I want to know. Best to end things now and let Bourne enter obscurity on his own terms, rather than have scores of readers come to the same conclusions I have and risk tarnishing a character and author’s reputations.

Mr. van Lustbader, the time has come to let Bourne fade off your radar screen. Surely you have your own series to manage and the Ludlum Estate can survive off proceeds already in place.