This week I’m back with the second round of Book Cage Fight. The old referee uniform has still got some bloodstains that my favourite brand of cleaner just can’t quite purge. Anyway, now that I’ve figured out which two books I’m going to make fight to the death, let’s get the pleasantries out of the way and introduce our new fighters.
Our first fighter hails from 2015 thanks to the Estate of Ian Fleming in conjunction with Anthony Horowitz. As you can probably guess from Ian Fleming’s mention this is the legendary spy, James Bond. It’s not your modern Daniel Craig era James Bond, it’s your grandfather’s James Bond. Yes, we’re winding the clock all the way back to the Sean Connery era, with all the attitudes and implications that statement entails. Please welcome Trigger Mortis!
Their opponent is part of another well-known spy series in the realm of the silver screen. It’s the series that helped make Matt Damon a household name and launched the trope of the amnesiac spy for the general film audience. While the films have been based on various books in the series (Robert Ludlum penned the first three novels with Erik Van Lustbader given the reins until 2020) the specific novel we’re picking is the fifteenth in the series The Bourne Evolution penned by newcomer Brian Freeman.
So, we’ve got a battle between two stalwarts of the spy thriller genre, coming out to show the younger fighters what a real book cage fight is. Now, let’s get the announcers out of there, padlock the cage shut and ring that bell.
Round 1: Plot
The seasoned veteran of Trigger Mortis gets things underway with its 1957 cold war era spy thriller set against the backdrop of the Space Race. Anthony Horowitz used original unpublished material from Ian Fleming’s unfilmed television series Murder on Wheels to write the first chapter. Set two weeks after the events of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger novel with SMERSH and the debutant Pussy Galore who returns for this novel.
In the novel, James Bond is tasked with infiltrating a race at the infamous Nürburgring to protect the life of a young English racer from the SMERSH assassin sent after him. Why would SMERSH target a race car driver? Well, there’s a Russian driver in the race and this is during the Cold War so I’m guessing they want to show how good Russian engineering is?
Anyway, in typical James Bond fashion, this is only the beginning as he discovers there’s more at play and is pulled into a web of allegiances and intrigue culminating with an explosive train ride into the centre of New York.
The Bourne Evolution counters with a more modern spy thriller. Set in the modern-day, Jason Bourne’s wife is dead, killed in a mass shooting in Las Vegas (based on the real world shooting from 2019) and Bourne suspects Treadstone’s involvement because it’s a Jason Bourne story and eventually Treadstone is bound to show up, must be one of their annual Key Performance Indicators.
However, a congresswoman in New York has just been assassinated and, surprising no one that’s seen or read anything in the Bourne series or the spy thriller genre in general, everyone suspects Jason Bourne. Bourne recruits journalist, and this novel’s love interest, Abbey Laurent, and dives into investigating the situation which reveals that there’s a new player in the game – Medusa.
With both these fighters, the plots are evenly matched. Both series you know going into it what you’re going to get and they’re both dependable and fun reads. This round for you will come down to whether you would rather spend time with a guy from the Cold War Era or a guy that has a dodgy memory.
Round 2: Characters
In this round, the winner is going to come down to your affinity for the main character of each respective series. Jason Bourne debuted in the nineties with The Bourne Identity, and he immediately felt like a departure from the typical spy that James Bond was synonymous with at that time.
He’s more or less stayed as the one constant in an ever-changing and ever-evolving world. His enemies prefer to be hidden in the shadows and fly under the radar instead of being known to the world. Indeed, Bourne himself doesn’t even know who the real enemy is until they reveal themselves halfway through the book.
James Bond has had a more adaptive journey as a film character, going from Cold War super spy in the sixties to a more modernish Cold War era spy in the nineties and finally pulled violently into the modern-day when Daniel Craig took over the role. However, the literary version of James Bond has not really moved on from that first mindset and certainly not in this book. Throughout the story, we get an insight into everything and if you imagine your typical man from the fifties and you’ve got a really good idea of what this character’s like.
The other supporting cast in both novels are just there purely to service the plot and or be the love interest and they aren’t given much development for themselves. The villains for Bond are typical James Bond and for Bourne… I can’t even remember the main villain so take that for what you will.
Like I said at the top, this round will come down to the main characters but to be honest I feel like this is a dud round.
Round 3: Setting
Again, this round comes down to your personal taste. If you enjoy more of a Cold War spy escapade like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold or a more modern political technological thriller like anything James Patterson has ever written, then you’re going to have different answers.
In terms of the setting, James Bond’s is probably not as scary because everything in that time was nice and clear cut. Yeah, there was the threat of war and mutually assured destruction hanging over everyone’s heads but at least there wasn’t the dystopian hellscape that is today.
Bourne’s world compared to Bond’s fifties is a lot more insidious. Technology infiltrates every facet of everyday life, blurring the line between friend and foe making it harder for everyone to try and figure out where people’s true alliances lie.
This fight’s been more balanced than our last one. So, I guess it’s up to you, the reader, to figure that out.
Which fighter won this round? The Bourne Evolution or Trigger Mortis. Let me know down below and let me know who you want to see fight next.
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