To say the film entitled The Bourne Supremacy is based loosely on this novel is the understatement of the century. Essentially the only similarities are that there are characters named Jason Bourne, Marie, and Alex Conklin, and a top secret government program called Treadstone that trained killers. However, once I got past that, I really enjoyed the book. The flaws in the writing were masked by the audio format, and the plot is fast-paced and extremely suspenseful.
I particularly appreciated Bourne’s interactions with the characters he pulls into his quest to find the psychotic ex-commando posing as Jason Bourne and a Chinese madman, Shen Chou Yang who is the ultimate target in the novel. Jason’s sidekicks are Echo (aka D’Anjou, a former Medusa mate of his), Edward McAllister, the duplicitous, but ultimately heroic, Undersecretary of State who lures Bourne into the government ploy that drives the plot, and the fake-Bourne himself. The dialogue between these characters cleverly reveals Bourne’s struggles as he tries to control his warring identities: David Webb, Delta, and Jason Bourne, and makes him a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that he is a killing machine.
The love story between Bourne and his wife Marie is annoying and distracting. Marie’s character is tolerable when she is not around Bourne, but she turns into a simpering idiot most of the time when they are together. This is not very believable considering she is supposed to be a tough internationally respected Canadian economist. To be fair, Jason Bourne’s continual anguished cries of “Marie!” put him on similar footing in this regard.
The novel is set in Hong Kong and China, and was written in the 80s so it is somewhat dated in its political correctness. One thing that really stood out, however, was Ludlum’s exceptionally evocative description of Tiananmen Square. The depiction stands in stark contrast to Ludlum’s fairly brief treatment of most of the settings of the novel. Considering the novel was written a few years before the 1989 student protests, Ludlum’s description of the utter silence of the massive square is particularly jarring. And for added awesomeness, one of the most amazing scenes in the novel comes on the heels of this description involving Jason Bourne shooting his way out of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in pretty much the most spectacular blaze of glory ever.