Friday, June 12, 2009

Jason Bourne rides a bicycle

My morning commute reading this week is The Bourne Sanction by Eric van Lustbader.

Guilty pleasure

I was kind of a fan of Robert Ludlum and the first couple of Jason Bourne books. Sanction is kind of meh -- there's a power struggle between the U.S. military and the CIA that only Bourne can defuse and an Islamo-Nazi (!) terrorist scheme that only Bourne can stop. Bourne can turn any object into a weapon, leap tall buildings, dodge speeding bullets and even ward off the effects of tranquilizing darts with chocolate bars, but he's unable to ride a bicycle through DC city traffic.

Jason Bourne is chasing The Bad Guys when he takes a bike from a gutter bunny and runs red lights to catch up to his quarry.
Bourne was able to make good headway, as the GMC had been slowed by the sludgy traffic. Just as he neared the light he saw the GMC take off and knew he had been spotted. The problem with a bicycle, especially one that had caused a minor uproar lunging through a red light, was that the cyclist became conspicuous.

Bourne threw caution to the wind, following the accelerating GMC into the fork as it took Pennsylvania Avenue. Swerving in and out between vehicles, he put on another burst of speed. Just as he was coming abreast of the far crosswalk, a gaggle of drunk teenagers tumbled off the curb on their way across the avenue. They closed off the lane behind the GMC.

Bourne swerves to avoid the teenagers, hits the curb and endos into a crowd on the sidewalk.

Bourne's mistake: He aimed for the sidewalk. He clearly should have taken the lane directly behind the GMC.

Van Lustbader's storytelling, dialog and plot are all pretty weak, but his word pictures are superb, engaging all of my senses through his prose.

Amazon: Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Sanction


  1. "Van Lustbader's storytelling, dialog and plot are all pretty weak"

    So is his proofreader:
    "Bourne through caution to the wind"

  2. Thanks for the proofreading, Anon -- I've corrected. You'll note several misspellings in my posts since I'm usually in a hurry!

  3. Howdy, Fritz--

    Gutter bunny?

    Maybe I'm revealing my rural bent, but you'll have to help me out here.

    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

  4. Gutter Bunny: somebody riding his bike in the gutter.

  5. ..."leaving a trail of bent spokes & broken hipster bodies in his wake, jason bourne salmoned down the the bike lane on his appropriated gutter bunny bike, in pursuit of his malfeasant quarry"...

    ...hey, just workin' on my "style", 'cuz well, you know, in case i get the call...

  6. =v= Meh. Read Neal Stephenson's Zodiac for some better biking than that (from a decidedly unBournelike hero).

  7. Bourne Sanction? More like Bourne Lack of Talent. That copy is about as well written as an 7th grade love letter.

    "Sludgy traffic?"

    "gaggle of drunk teenagers?"

    "The problem with a bicycle... was that the cyclist became conspicuous?!?!"

  8. @Kit: Yeah, that part where the Bad Guys notice the cyclist because he ran a light was pretty goofy.

    @Jym: I've tried several times, but for whatever reason I've never been able to get into Stephenson's stories. These days Bourne stories aren't really my piece of cake either, but it's what I have on hand at the moment.

    @BGW: You should write the next cyclist spy thriller ;-)

  9. ...thanks, fritz, but sheesh, w/ critics like these guys, i don't know if i could handle the pressure...

  10. =v= Zodiac is less wordy (and thus less boggy) than his later tomes. The bicycling takes place early in the book.

    People kept telling me that I reminded them of the protagonist, since at the time I was an eco-activist in the Boston area who got around by bike and would comment on such things as an aftertaste of polychorinated biphenyls. They would then pause, and say, "but of course you're much nicer." (Stephenson has said that the book was in part an exercise in having a protagonist who was a total, um, sphincter.)

    For more fast-paced excitement, though, maybe Jason Bourne should leave the bicycle chases to Jackie Chan.