Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Deception" by Eric Van Lustbader

Reading this book was annoying. I mean, it was an entertaining read with lots of thrills, surprises and excitement, but there were so many important minor characters that I had trouble keeping track of them.
The body count was so high that by the end it was hard to remember who was still alive and who was dead. I just finished reading this book this morning, and already I have trouble recalling...who was Tarkanian? I'm pretty sure he was one of the two Russians sent to get Arkadin... but then what happened to him? And who was Tracy Atherton, and what exactly was her mission, again? Maslov and Yevsen blur together in my mind (and wasn't there a third Russian mob boss I confused with those two? Or was there?) Who were Frederick Willard, Steve Stephenson, and Peter Marks? If I remembered more from the original Bourne novels would I have had an easier time keeping track of these former Treadstone employees and various government, Typhon (what was that again?) and Black River employees? In the past I have taken notes on certain books if I found I had trouble keeping track of characters (like with The Joy Luck Club and War and Peace which, by the way, I need to finish reading), but in a book that otherwise requires no thought I hated to put so much effort into reading it.

I don't even know what the title refers to. Being a spy novel, of course the entire thing was full of deception upon deception, and there really isn't one that stands out. Was it Jason Bourne's faked death that only three other people knew the truth about? Was it Tracy Atherton's mission and the identity of the person(s) who hired her? Was it Willard's hidden goal to start Treadstone up again, which was only revealed in the final chapters? Was it Arkadin's double-crossing of everyone involved in order to be the one to take control of the Iranian oilfields? Was it the fact that Black River shot down the airplane and blamed it on Iran since an Iranian missile was used?

I need to mark down a brief synopsis of this book in case I ever read another Bourne novel. If it's hard enough to keep track of what's happening in the book I'm reading, imagine how hard it will be to remember the plot of this book when I'm reading the next one. So here goes: In a previous book, Bourne thought he killed his arch-nemesis Arkadin by tossing him off an ocean liner, but Arkadin actually survived. Arkadin poses as Bourne's friend and ally Boris Karpov and meets with US Secretary of Defense Bud Halliday, and the two make a deal to exchange assassinations. Arkadin was to ensure the death of Jason Bourne and Halliday was to assassinate Abdulla Khoury, the head of a terrorist organization called the Eastern Brotherhood. Halliday follows through, leaving a power vacuum which allows Arkadin to take over the Eastern Brotherhood (which had been his reason for the assassination), and Arkadin shoots Bourne who is in Bali with Moira Trevor. However, amazingly and unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Bourne survives the shooting, but Moira Trevor, Willard, and a doctor fake Bourne's death so that he can recover and then figure out who was trying to kill him. Bourne tracks the gun Arkadin used to shoot him to an arms dealer in Spain named Don Fernando Hererra, and meets up with Tracy Atherton on the way there. Tracy is an art dealer who wants to buy a Goya from Hererra; the person who sent her (if I remember right) is Noah Perlis of Black River (the painting was to be payment to Yevsen, whose role I really don't remember), but Arkadin also had her on a side mission to lure Bourne to Khartoum so that Bourne would kill Yevsen. All roads lead to Khartoum, where Perlis and Arkadin have a deal to work together to take control of the Iranian oil fields under cover of a war between Iran and America because Iran purportedly shot down an American jet over Egypt (though the jet was really shot down by Black River, so that Perlis would have an excuse to start a war and take over the oil fields). Arkadin stabs Perlis in the back (figuratively) and takes the oil field over for himself after overpowering and disarming Perlis's forces, but all Arkadin's plans are foiled by Jason Bourne, whose combat helicopter takes out three fourths of Arkadin's forces, which are then finished off by the scorned Perlis. At the end, Arkadin has escaped, Perlis is killed by Bourne, and Halliday retains his position as Secretary of Defense.

I am only left with more questions. Why was it so important to Willard to start Treadstone up again? Apparently he wanted it badly enough that he allowed Bud Halliday to escape unscathed from the entire scandal, even though he had been neck-deep in the entire thing. And who exactly was Holly Marie Moreau, and what was it that she stole for and from Noah Perlis? Was it really the ring Perlis was wearing when Bourne killed him, and if so, what was its significance? And why did Perlis kill Holly if he loved her? All of these Perlis/Holly questions are raised in the last two pages, which is pretty strong evidence that there will be another Bourne novel coming. I'm just not sure I'll be interested enough to read it.


Anonymous said...

So Arkadian escaped...? it was so poorly writen and confusing near the end - i wasnt sure. Good call about the Holly thing too (what the hell was that?) and the final killing of Perlis which never really made sense along with that buddhist clairvoyant fellow supawita (super poor plot!)

Kathy said...

Yeah, the whole book was just a muddle. (Even more so now that it's been over ten months since I read it). Looking back now, I can't tell you if Arkadian escaped or not, but that's evidently what I thought when I read it. Anyway, I kind of wondered if I just wasn't paying enough attention as I read, and that's why the whole thing was a jumbled up mess in my mind, but judging by your comment, perhaps I wasn't the only one. Like, maybe it was the book's fault and not mine. ;)

Scott said...

This might not have been the best book in the series, and difficult to follow at times, but if you don't know why it's called the Borne Deception...well, I feel sorry for you. Must really not have gotten into the book. It was the Borne Deception because he was deceived himself, something unique in the series. He was played and didn't see Tracy coming, or the final sequence between he and Arkadin, and more than anything, because the whole book was setup to trick him in...10 different, but congruent ways. Arkadin meeting with Holiday as Boris,'s the first time he isn't a step ahead of everyone else.

Janet Brodsky said...

This book was terrible - I have never encountered more bad and silly metaphors and similes.

Kathy said...

I don't think you should feel sorry for me, Scott. It sounds like a thinly-veiled attempt to call me stupid. Besides, I would argue that The Bourne Identity begins with Jason Bourne several steps behind everyone.

I know it's been a while since I read this book, but time has only increased my hope to avoid reading books like this in the future.