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The Bourne inevitability

Our mission: With The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, opening in theaters next week, let’s examine the most recent Bourne print legacy, June’s The Bourne Imperative, by Eric Van Lustbader.

It’s still about Bourne, right? Yes. Unlike the movie series, which now switches focus to a different rogue super-agent, the books are still about rogue super-agent Matt Dam … Jason Bourne.

What’s the plot this time? Which one? There are assassination plots, corruption plots, massive energy plots, secret Middle Eastern installations …

Good villain? Which one? Let’s see, there’s a corrupt Chinese diplomat, a corrupt Mossad commander, a corrupt Mossad assassin, a corrupt U.S. intelligence administrator, a corrupt energy mogul, a corrupt Internet security mogul … there might be a corrupt drug-cartel boss, but it’s hard to keep track.

Sounds busy: It is. Perhaps excessively. The story lurches around the globe as Van Lustbader tries like 35 spiders to weave these messy strands into a web. It’s the same franchise curse that movies have — always gotta go bigger than the last outing. The story is told on multiple fronts, each substory with its own protagonists, sometimes overlapping, sometimes moving parallel to each other.

Does it all hang together? Eh … it requires a lot of coincidences, suspension of disbelief and improbable action sequences to keep this thing going. Not all of them work. Still, a few characters — two spy bosses clearly in love — have some decent presence on the page. And there are a few plot twists you can only see coming for a half-mile instead of the usual full mile.

Is there a plot device intended to be resonant but which is merely ridiculous? Early in the novel, Bourne pulls a man out of the sea … who has lost his memory … just like … Bourne himself!

Sheesh. Well, at least there’s nothing as potboilerishly lame as a female operative impregnated by a snaky Washington journalist. Uh …

Ugh. So, what makes this imperative? Cash. There’s still money to be milked from the franchise originally created by RobertLudlum.

Do you recommend it? If you want undemanding escapism, sure. Otherwise, wait for Jeremy Renner.

ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE BOURNE IMPERATIVE by Eric Van Lustbader, Grand Central Publishing, 448 pages