Title:                      The Bourne Supremacy

Author:                 Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (1986). The Bourne Supremacy. Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library

LCCN:    87100059

PS3562.U26 B68 1986c


Date Updated:  November 10, 2015

I’ve enjoyed the Bourne series. I’ve enjoyed the movie versions less. As good an actor that Matt Damon is he is not convincing to me as representing the character in the book. This second in the Bourne series, The Bourne Supremacy, is a head-spinning, spine-jolting, intricately mystifying, Armageddonish, in short Ludlumesque, thriller.

A Beijing leader of seemingly irreproachable reputation, secretly a Guomintang fanatic, has masterminded a plot to take over Hong Kong via political assassination, the result of which would be civil war in China and possibly global disaster. His principal agent is an assassin-for-hire masquerading as the legendary “Jason Bourne,” a one-time secret U.S. agent now, under his real name David Webb, struggling with the aid of a psychiatrist and his loving wife Marie to recover from amnesia.

Only one man can destroy the conspiracy: Webb, who must be persuaded to re-assume his Bourne identity, track down the impostor and through him lay a trap for the vile Shengthe “persuasion” to be by way of his abducted wife. The action jolts from the back alleys of Hong Kong and Kowloon to a secret government complex in the Colorado mountains to the seats of power in Beijing and even the interior of Mao’s tomb. Every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger; the story brims with assassination, torture, hand-to-hand combat, sudden surprise and intrigue within intrigue.


Great Christian Jesus!. . .He’s come back. The assassin has come back to Asia! Jason Bourne! He’s come back!” So it seems—when that legendary killer Jason Bourne apparently hits Hong Kong, killing (among others) the visiting Vice-Premier of China. But is this the real “Jason Bourne,” amnesiac US commando David Webb (a.k.a Delta), who (mostly against his will) posed as a super-assassin in order to trap the true-life assassin Carlos (a.k.a. the Jackal) in The Bourne Identity[2]? No, it isn’t! It’s a fake Jason Bourne, a mercenary psycho employed by the evil Sheng, a Peking minister-of-state with secret right-wing takeover plans—plans that will lead to Armageddon in the Far East!! What can the US spymasters do to foil these vile schemes? Well, ruthless weirdos that they are, they decide to use the real Bourne, poor old David Webb (happily retired), to hunt down the fake Bourne and Sheng himself. And since Webb won’t do any of this willingly, the spymasters (in disguise, of course) kidnap Webb’s beloved wife Marie to Hong Kong, threatening to kill her unless Webb captures the fake Bourne. So, for the next 500 repetitious pages, Webb trails the psycho-killer from Hong Kong to Macao to Peking, sprinkling cash and blood and exclamation points as he gets Bourne-ier and Bourne-ier (“Good God!. . .Good Lord!. . .Oh, Christ!”). Meanwhile, Marie escapes with dubious ease from her US captors, becoming a Hong Kong fugitive with help from a Canadian diplomat (“Christ in Calgary, I don’t need this!”). Eventually, with help from an old French ally (“Mon Dieu!”), Webb does nab the fake Bourne: “It was the commando! The impostor! The assassin!” But, after a bloody shootout and a feverish reunion with Marie in H.K., Webb voluntarily heads back into China to assassinate Sheng—because he has now learned just how evil Sheng really is: “He’s Auschwitz, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen all rolled into one. . . He’s Hitler and Mengele and Genghis Khan. . .the chain-saw killer—whatever—but he has to go.” Here and there Ludlum supplies chunks of crudely effective derring-do: border-crossings by parachute, a chase through Mao’s mausoleum, hand-to-hand combat with flashing knives. Heavy slatherings of Far Eastern local color are mildly diverting. Otherwise, however, Ludlum remains the most garishly inept of suspense storytellers, the most ludicrous and lumbering of unexplainable best-sellers. And readers who keep returning for more of the same—tediously implausible, convolutions, fatuous non-stop dialogue, comic-book narration—will get exactly what they deserve in this headache-inducing sequel.

[1] Kirkus Review, downloaded November 10, 2015

[2] Ludlum, Robert (1980). The Bourne Identity . New York: R. Marek Publishers

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