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The Bourne Dominion

by Eric Van Lustbader

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


The Bourne Dominion by Eric Van Lustbader
© Grand Central Publishing
Grand Central Publishing, 2011

The August 3, 2011 on-line edition of The Washington Times carried a story by Claire Courchane. The headline reads, "Neb. mine find to challenge China's dominance of vital rare minerals." The lead paragraph noted that the tiny town of Elk Creek "may be sitting on the world's largest untapped deposit of 'rare earth' minerals, which have proved to be indispensable to a slew of high-tech and military applications such as laser pointers, stadium lighting, electric car batteries and sophisticated missile-guidance systems." Courchane's article goes on to indicate that the U.S. is attempting to become less dependent on foreign sources, especially China, our source of the 17 minerals for years.

Such is the germ of truth that drives The Bourne Dominion. In Lustbader's scenario China has cut its exports 70% (or 85% on a later page), but the U.S. has found a major deposit in Indigo, CA. NeoDyne, a new company, will mine the site, but maintaining secrecy in the early stages is paramount. Of course, there is a group, the Domna, which is trying to bring the U.S. to its economic knees.
The Bourne Dominion mines the problems of East versus West in all its permutations. The Domna was once a place where Suni and Sh'ia sects worked together; now it is in thrall to the Mosque of the Black Legion. Drug wars, spies, violent deaths, double dealing, and more violent deaths are everywhere. Best friends are sworn to kill one another. Jason Bourne, the eponymous hero of this expanding series, kills at least five people in the first six pages and may have to kill the one person in the world whom he trusts. One character sums up the uncertainty that pervades the novel: "We are all liars here, we are all pretending to be what we are not."

The pace is frenetic, clearly written with a movie script in mind. There is one miraculous escape after another. One eventually begins to think: Enough! How many more escapes, how many near-death experiences can one character/reader endure? In how many ways can one man kill another man? Consider one incident: Bourne is trying to save the lives of two people. He sends them away and shoots down one helicopter, but the Strela-2 launcher fails on the attempt to shoot down the second helicopter. Bourne disassembles the 370-gram TNT charge, creates a sling (Think David and Goliath.), and climbs ("moving nimbly") a nearby pine tree. As the helicopter begins to fire at him, he slings the TNT onto the helicopter which explodes. The chopper's forward momentum carries it toward Bourne's perch. As he scrambles down amid flaming debris the "gummy sap" from the tree acts as a "fast-drying glue" to stop the death-dealing blades.
Yet, Lustbader clearly understands who Bourne is, or would be if Bourne knew who he was. Jason Bourne "was not happy in the spaces between, the dark, solitary, actionless moments when the world came to a standstill and all he, an outsider, could do was observe it and feel nothing... He lived for the periods when he sprang into action, when both his mind and body were fully engaged, sprinting along the precipice between life and death."

This is the ninth novel in the Jason Bourne spy fiction series, the sixth by Lustbader who out-Ludlums the Ludlum of The Bourne Identity. It is more violent, more episodic, and has a more complicated plot. Clearly, it is an amalgam of the Ludlum novels and the Bourne movie adaptations. As such, it is a successful novel and could be a successful movie. Simply as a novel, without its back story, in the grand tradition of Ludlum and Le Carré, it is less successful. The ending implies yet another novel in this popular series.

Lustbader, a successful novelist in his own right, was chosen by the Ludlum estate in 2003 to continue the Bourne series. Since 1975 he has written more than twenty-five novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages. He was also a teacher in the New York City schools and a knowledgeable music critic who was among the first to predict the success of Elton John.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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