The Bourne Supremacy
||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary. It should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (April 2013)|
The Bourne Supremacy first edition cover
|February 11, 1986|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Pages||597 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PS3562.U26 B68 1986|
|Preceded by||The Bourne Identity|
|Followed by||The Bourne Ultimatum|
The Bourne Supremacy is the second Jason Bourne novel written by Robert Ludlum, first published in 1986. It is the sequel to Ludlum's bestseller The Bourne Identity (1980) and precedes Ludlum's final Bourne novel, The Bourne Ultimatum (1990).
In the first book, The Bourne Identity, the title character suffers amnesia. Over the course of the book, he regains his memory with the help of a Canadian economist, Marie, and eventually finds out that his real name was Webb. He had previously been an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency in an elite project in Southeast Asia and Vietnam codenamed Medusa. Following the American forces' withdrawal from Vietnam, he joined Project Treadstone 71, where he was used as bait for the infamous European assassin Carlos the Jackal, and assumed the identity of a mock assassin, Jason Bourne. “Bourne” took credit for various kills in China and the rest of Asia, acting as a rival to the Jackal, in order to draw him out of hiding.
Webb/Bourne has recovered from most mental and all physical injuries and is teaching Asian studies at a university in Maine under his real name of David Webb. He is also living happily on campus with Marie and is getting regular psychological tests from his doctor, Morris Panov.
Meanwhile, high-ranking U.S. officials discuss an increasingly alarming situation in the People's Republic of China, where the popular Communist official Sheng Chou Yang is planning a hostile takeover of the country, using a Bourne imitator (“impostor”) to eliminate his political rivals. The officials decide to use Webb to kill the Chinese official, but know of his mistrust of the U.S. government. Aware of Webb's deep-seated emotional instability due to the loss of his first wife and children in Vietnam, they hatch a plan to abduct Marie and thereby force Webb to work for them.
It is then that a representative of the U.S. Government arrives and informs Webb of an imitator in Asia, someone who is killing under the name of Jason Bourne, a name feared in Asia because of the accredited kills during his work with Treadstone 71. Webb is told he requires a more visible security force because there is evidence someone wants him dead.
Soon thereafter, Marie is abducted by unknown men while Webb is at the university. Webb returns to the house, finds clues to her abduction, and immediately phones government officials, threatening to leak information about Treadstone and Medusa in an attempt to get assistance. He finds out information has been manipulated in order to make him seem crazy and delusional, and that his only course of action is to follow the instructions left for him by the kidnappers. He turns to the only person he thinks will be able to help him, Alexander Conklin. Conklin is convinced there is government involvement but that they have lost control of the situation and the hired guns holding Marie are no longer in their control. Webb, who now has transformed back into his hated persona of Jason Bourne, now has no choice but to go to Hong Kong and play out the scenario to get Marie back. There he meets with a mock wealthy Taipan who wants Webb to bring back the impostor Jason Bourne because the impostor killed his wife; the Taipan is played by an intelligence officer because the impostor is wanted to track down Sheng.
Marie, held captive in a British hospital, fakes an illness and escapes, taking refuge with Catherine Staples, a former colleague employed at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong. She later contacts Conklin, who confronts Under-Secretary MacAllister and Ambassador Havilland, the orchestrators of the plan to manipulate Webb. Webb, tracing the impostor Bourne through Kowloon and Macau, encounters Echo, another former Medusa operative, who is also tracking down the impostor Bourne, who he personally trained. They join forces and track the impostor to mainland China, where Echo is captured. Webb tracks him and the impostor to a meeting in a bird sanctuary, where Echo is executed by Sheng Chou Yang, the Chinese nationalist leader that Havilland has been desperately trying to eliminate. Webb captures the impostor Bourne, but in attempting to swap the impostor for Marie, is misled by MacAllister, as Marie is still hiding with help from Conklin. Without Marie, Webb has stated clearly he will kill the impostor. Thinking Marie has been killed, Webb assaults Havilland's "sterile house" estate, where the impostor is killed and Webb nearly as well, saved only by the timely arrival of Marie and Conklin.
Webb is then told of the whole plan and why Havilland had to abduct Marie. Since Webb has seen what Sheng is capable of and possibly due to a dying wish of Echo, he says that he must go back into the fray and kill Sheng. McAllister goes with Webb, and during their search for Sheng, McAllister explains that he must be the one to kill Sheng, that was his plan from the start. The meeting between Sheng, Webb and McAllister takes place on the Chinese border, and during the meeting McAllister is shot before he can make the kill, so Webb has to kill Sheng instead. They escape with Sheng's helicopter.
Continuity of the sequel
The Bourne Supremacy is written as a sequel to The Bourne Identity, so it largely continues the story of the latter. There are some minor differences: In The Bourne Identity, Conklin knew Bourne/Webb, but had no closer ties with him: "We were friends once, David! (...) I did not know you that well—drinks and a dinner or two do not a close companion make..." (The Bourne Identity: chapter 34). Bourne/Webb does not even remember Conklin at all. Three times throughout The Bourne Supremacy, however, Conklin—who now also happens to have a drinking problem—and Webb/Bourne are described as formerly close friends (e.g., "his [i.e. Conklin's] once close friend, David Webb", chapter 6).
The date of the execution of the original Jason Bourne was of some importance to the plot of the first novel and repeatedly referred to: "On March 25, 1968, Jason Bourne was executed by an American Intelligence officer in the jungles of Tam Quan." (The Bourne Identity: chapter 20) The story of the novel apparently takes place seven years later (according to General Crawford's musings in chapter 34), i.e. in 1975, which also coincides with some dates in the novel (e.g., "Wednesday 26"), even though eleven years before the plot Bourne/Webb already worked as a guerrilla fighter (according to d'Anjou's/Echo's memories in chapter 30). Without further explanation, the date of the execution has been changed for the sequel: "The execution of Jason Bourne. The date was May twenty-third in Tam Quan... (The Bourne Supremacy: chapter 7). The showdown of the first novel is now described as having taken place "the same day [as the execution] in New York four years later", i.e. 1972. Along with the variation of the date comes a variation of the timing of the novels: The epilogue of The Bourne Identity closes at least "nearly two weeks" (beginning of the epilogue) after the execution date, but probably even later. Yet The Bourne Supremacy, which is set almost a year after the execution date, is set in autumn (e.g., "autumn sun" in chapter 3; "yet another autumn deluge" in chapter 19).
The novels do not give a reason for the changes of these dates or other facts, nor did Ludlum. The plot of the 2004 film adaptation is so different from the novel that the issue of these dates etc. does not arise.
- 1986, US, Random House ISBN 0-394-54396-3, Pub date February 11, 1986, Hardback.
- 1987, US, Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-26322-6, Pub date February 1, 1987, Paperback.
- 1986, UK, Grafton ISBN 0-246-12572-1 Pub date April 10, 1986, Hardback.
- 1987, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-553-17299-9, Pub date March 5, 1987, Paperback.