Literature: The Bourne Series

Cain is for Carlos, and Delta is for Cain...

Series of ten novels (so far), three written by Robert Ludlum, the rest by Eric Van Lustbader. They involve Jason Bourne, an ex-CIA assassin, who was involved in the Vietnam War as part of a secret organisation called Medusa. His goal was to create the image of a great assassin to lure out and kill (real-life assassin) Carlos the Jackal.

The first novel, The Bourne Identity (1980), involves Jason Bourne losing his memory and being hunted through the streets of Paris by the CIA (who think he's dodgy) and Carlos the Jackal (who just wants to kill him). On his way, he meets (well, more or less kidnaps) a Canadian economist called Marie St Jacques.

In The Bourne Supremacy, someone has started killing under the Bourne name and is threatening to cause a war between China and the West. To get Bourne to kill him, the CIA kidnap Marie (now married to Bourne). Carlos the Jackal does not really feature here.

In The Bourne Ultimatum, Carlos issues a final challenge to Bourne, now in his 50s and a college professor.

Made into a TV mini-series in 1988 that was fairly faithful to the first novel, and a recent series of movies that drops the Carlos plotline and recasts Bourne as a Present Day black-ops CIA assassin.

These novels include examples of:

  • Anonymous Ringer: Averted with Carlos the Jackal
  • Arc Words: "Cain is for Carlos, and Delta is for Cain." (and when it's not that, it's "Cain is for Charlie, and Delta is for Cain", and "Delta is for Charlie, and Charlie is for Cain". Ludlum loved this, apparently)
  • Ascended Extra: Johann, a minor henchman in the novel who is killed by Bourne in his second scene, is basically promoted to Carlos' Dragon in the '88 TV movie.
  • Attempted Rape: Marie is subject to this twice. Once in the first novel (Bourne saved her) and once again in the second (she manages to save herself).
  • Author Tract: Lustbader has a dislike with neoconservatives, and he shows it. Ironically, the original author Ludlum seems to have a mild dislike for leftists, as witness the free-market economist in The Bourne Identity favorably commenting on government policies of the 1980s.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Maceo Encarnacion. It's Spanish for "heavy staff incarnate".
  • Ax-Crazy: Carlos after he snaps. And he kinda enjoys killing for the hell of it before then.
  • Badass: Bourne has no problem taking you out, even if he doesn't have a gun.
  • Bad Habits: Carlos the Jackal dresses up as a priest.
  • Batman Gambit: Asher Sever/Dominic Specter's plan in Sanction. He convinces Bourne to pursue a pipeline of anti-terrorist vigilantes in order to retrieve blueprint of impending terrorist attack. It turns out that the plan is decoy, the pipeline is bogus, Bourne, who is on the run from American intelligence, has been used by Sever to inject misdirections to US security forces
  • Becoming the Mask: 'Jason Bourne' was originally a false identity created for CIA operative David Webb, when he went undercover to carry out black-ops missions. However, owing to his amnesia, and other psychological issues, the Bourne persona gradually starts to dominate Webb's psyche. In the latter two Ludlum novels, the Bourne persona takes over completely when Webb, or his family, are in danger. And in the Lustbader continuation novels, he has essentially abandoned the 'David Webb' identity and now IS Jason Bourne.
  • Broad Strokes: Ludlum's original backstory for Jason Bourne, and the events of the first three novels, have become this in the context of the Lustbader continuation novels. All that has been retained from Ludlum's works is that David Webb was recruited by Alex Conklin to become part of a CIA black-ops program called Treadstone; he was given the false identity of 'Jason Bourne'; while on a mission in Marseilles he was shot repeatedly, nearly drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, and lost his memory; and that at one point, he was married to Marie. Virtually everything else from the original books has been ignored.
    • Also for the film series. Bourne is a US government operative, part of an organization called Treadstone, with amnesia who operates out of Europe. He meets a woman named Marie and deals with a man named Conklin. That's about all the films have in common with the books.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Subverted in The Bourne Legacy, as a terrorist attempts to use a fallen guard as a human shield, but is mowed down when the blast go right through the body anyway.
  • Cold War
  • Comic-Book Time: Bourne is 50 in Ultimatum, which is set before the fall of USSR. In Deception, which is written by the new author, the same character mentions about Bali Bombing in 2005.
    • In Retribution (published in 2013, set around the same time), we're told that its only been around a decade at most since Bourne lost his memory, placing the events of Identity in the early 2000's (rather than 1980, when the first book was published).
  • Complexity Addiction: Maceo Encarnacion's plan to trap Bourne in Imperative. First, he smuggles her disabled lover, Constanza, to Mexico City airport. Because Bourne and Rebeka are on the run from a Mossad assassin, they happily join Constanza as her caretaker to avoid confrontation. Constanza then invites them to her house, feeds them some bullshit about her feud with Encarnacion, and supposedly pulls some strings to sneak them into Encarnacion's villa. How do they sneak in? Inside a casket delivered by Encarnacion's mortician. Why a casket could get in? Encarnacion's goon kills a servant of his, giving an excuse for a mortician transport to enter Encarnacion's villa. When Bourne and Rebeka are inside the villa, they are drawn in by the sound of a shower stream in Encarnacion's bathroom, which is a ruse meant to split them up. At that moment, from a closet, Encarnacion's son attacks them. It ever occur to Encarnacion that he could just hire a bunch of hired guns to mow Bourne down?
  • Contrived Coincidence: An atrocious one. In Lustbader's novels, a character can just use prosthetics and cosmetics and pass off as another character. That in and of itself is quite a stretch to believe, but the kicker is this word: HEIGHT. Apparently in Lustbader's universe everyone has the same height.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Bourne and Carlos are good at planning several steps ahead, which is why they're so good at their jobs.
  • Death by Adaptation: Alex Conklin, in both the 1988 TV adaptation and the 2000's film series. Also Marie in the film series. Interestingly, though both characters survived the Ludlum novels, they ended up getting killed in the Lustbader continuations. See Retcanon
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: In Legacy, where Lustbader kills Conklin and Panov right at the start of the story. In Betrayal, Marie is dead because of pneumonia.
  • Faking the Dead: Bourne does this in Deception after he is shot and grievously wounded by Arkadin.
    • In Retribution, it is revealed that Mossad agent Rebeka's death was faked in the previous book by her father, the Mossad chief; in order to allow her time to safely recover and provide Bourne with a motivation to avenge her near-death
  • False Flag Operation, with flavor of Shrouded in Myth: The whole point of Jason Bourne, at least in the original Ludlum books. Jason Bourne the assassin is a myth. He does not assassinate anyone; he just takes credit for prolific assassinations, which real murderers happily let him. The point behind this myth is to insult Carlos the Jackal and force him into the open to confront Bourne.
    • Deception also involves one plotted by a private security contractor, Black River, in collaboration with a hawkish Secretary of Defense. The plan was to shoot down an American airliner and implicate the Iranian government in it to provide the US Government with an excuse for an invasion.
  • Flanderization: Eric van Lustbader's books.
  • Foil: Leonid Arkadin is this to Jason Bourne. Both are highly-trained killing machines, products of the Treadstone project. Both were mentored by Alex Conklin. Both eventually turned rogue at one point. And both have tragic backstories involving the deaths of loved ones. However, Bourne, despite everything that has happened to him, remains a force of good, whereas Arkadin became a terrorist. Also, Bourne, due to his amnesia, doesn't remember most of his tragic past, while Arkadin is constantly haunted by it, and even envies Bourne for the latter's memory loss.
  • Gay Paree: Averted
  • A God Am I: Carlos has a pretty massive ego
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Bourne to Marie. And a few others seem to be attracted to her somewhat as well.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: In a Chinook, no less.
  • History Marches On: Not only has the real Carlos the Jackal been captured, but he's no longer regarded as the Big Bad terrorist mastermind of popular myth.
  • Hong Kong: The setting of the second novel.
  • Informed Attribute: The Old Man, the DCI in the new series. Everyone says he's great, The Chessmaster, The Magnificent Bastard, A Father to His Men. And yet he orders his DDCI to sever Bourne after Bourne just rescued the DDCI, fails to notice all terrorist schemes in both books of his appearance, and orders assassination on Bourne just because he hates Bourne.
  • Insistent Terminology: "CI", in Lustbader books. For reason unknown Lustbader always omits the "A" in "CIA" and "Agency" after "Central Intelligence". Made even more puzzling in that in his other novels, Lustbader uses "CIA" correctly.
  • Kissing Cousins: Carlos and his first cousin were lovers since childhood
  • London England Syndrome: Inverted - a guy has to specify he wants Vienna, Virginia, not Vienna, Austria
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Soraya Moore, Boris Karpov, and Amun Chalthoum qualify. They are directors of nationwide spy agencies, and yet they are continuously found in the field. It never seem to occur to them that they can just delegate their own investigation.
  • Master of Disguise: Bourne's story was influenced by real-life 20th-century assassin Carlos "The Jackal", who was infamous for his ability to blend in and elude the authorities. See also The Day of the Jackal, another espionage thriller and resulting films where Carlos supposedly got his nickname. BournÚs light gray eyes are perfect for color-changing contacts, his hair is easily died, and he even underwent plastic surgery to make his face unmemorable. On top of that, not only is he so fluent in multiple languages that he can alter his accent in each in order to play a role, but he can assume a role on a moment's notice, from arrogant tourist to low class fisherman to purchaser of haute couture. As per the trope, Bourne even calls himself The Chameleon. A lot.
  • Never Forgotten Skill: Jason Bourne is introduced with having amnesia. However, his memory loss does not affect his combat skills in the slightest.
  • Oh, Crap: Arkadin's reaction in the climax of Deception when three-fourth of his ninety-nine men cadre are blown in just two shots of anti-tank missiles.
  • The Purge: Two of Carlos' unnamed minions do this to Treadstone Seventy-One pretty much all by themselves.
  • Purple Prose/Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Books that are written by Lustbader suffers this greatly. See links on Flanderization above.
  • Put on a Bus: Disturbingly common in the Lustbader continuation novels.
  • Quest for Identity: The Bourne Identity
  • Related in the Adaptation: A mild example in the 1988 TV mini-series adaptation of The Bourne Identity. In the book, David Abbott was simply the mastermind of the Treadstone project and had no personal connection to Bourne, apart from being one of his handlers. In the tele-film Webb/Bourne was essentially David Abbott's adopted son. Webb's father was an old friend and colleague of David Abbott (so much so that David Webb was NAMED after David Abbott).
  • Replacement Love Interest: In Lustbader's books, Moira replaces Marie. Later, she herself is replaced by Rebekka.
  • Retcanon: The movies have significantly influenced the continuation novels by Lustbader. For instance, Bourne is considered a Rogue Agent by the CIA, just as he is in the movies (whereas in Ludlum's novels he cooperates with the CIA in the latter installments. Also, characters like Marie and Alex Conklin were killed, just like they were in the movies, whereas they survived in the original books.
  • Retcon: See False Flag Operation. In Ludlum's novel, Bourne is no assassin; he's just a tough man who takes credit of assassination. In Lustbader's, Bourne was a full-blown assassin for the CIA, much like in the movies.
    • In the Ludlum novels, David Webb witnessed the deaths of his first wife and two children during a bombing and continues to be haunted by fragmentary memories even after his amnesia. In Legacy, we're told that David WASN'T present when his family was killed, and continues to feel Survivor Guilt over the fact.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Irritable turncoat Alfred Gillette is promptly shot dead by Carlos' hitman, after serving his purpose.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: During the Zurich lecture scene Ludlum lavishes attention on how much the light from the projector reflects off the lenses of the gold-rimmed glasses of the hitman.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Jason Bourne in Legacy. Stepan Spalko really has to choose someone weaker to be set up.
    • the truth of Sarah ibn Ashef's murder in Betrayal. At that climax of the book, CIA is under complete control of Karim, an Islamist supremacist who poses as CIA's Deputy Director. He breaks his cool and calm when Bourne reveals that truth.
  • Swiss Bank Account: In The Bourne Identity, the only clue he has to his identity in the beginning is the details of a Swiss numbered bank account.
  • The Vietnam War: Backstory
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the climax of Betrayal. Confronting Karim, Bourne reveals the truth of the murder of his sister, which causes the terrorist lunge up to him recklessly.
  • Wretched Hive:
    • Kowloon
    • Nizhny Tagil in the new series.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Arkadin's plan in Deception. If Bourne survives the ambush in Bali, the trail would lead him to Nikolai Yevsen, an arms dealer whose business empire is on Arkadin's takeover list. If Yevsen kills Bourne Arkadin's vengeance on Bourne is fulfilled; if Bourne kills Yevsen then Yevsen's business is Arkadin's. Either way, Arkadin wins.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Bourne and Carlos are good at setting, predicting, and reversing traps. When they go directly against each other, this results in traps being double and triple reversed ''constantly''
  • You Have Failed Me: Although in general Carlos is a pretty decent villain to work for (compared to most, anyway), Koenig is done away on Carlos' orders for the glorious screwup that was the Zurich hit.

Alternative Title(s):

The Bourne Ultimatum