Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg
Who doesn’t love a good thriller novel? Intense action, conspiracies, and shadowy organisations pulling strings from behind the scenes that the protagonist is sure to topple by the end of the story.
For me, the Bourne series is the iconic go-to series when I think of thrillers. Having read the original books and watched the films multiple times, I hadn’t heard anything about a new book in the series in a while.
Now imagine my surprise when I stumble across not only The Bourne Evolution but also the spin-off set in the Bourne universe The Treadstone Exile by series newcomer Joshua Hood.
The plot opens up with ex Treadstone agent Adam Hayes in Spain but he’s not out to kill anyone. After being moulded into a killing machine like Jason Bourne, Hayes left that life behind him and is now working as a pilot delivering medical supplies to impoverished communities in Africa. However, Treadstone isn’t an organisation to just let assets walk away unless they’re in a body bag.
Like Bourne, Hayes’ past comes back to haunt him when his latest mission dropping supplies takes a turn and upends his peaceful life. With his co-pilot dead and his plane falling apart at the seams, he’s forced to land on a Russian airbase being taken over by Russian separatists.
In order to get out of the situation with his freedom and his life, Hayes is forced to transport extremely precious cargo for the powerful tech baron Andre Cabot. Seeing no way out, Hayes agrees, and with his plane repaired he’s ready to go. However, it turns out that the cargo isn’t medical supplies or weapons… it’s Cabot’s daughter Zoe.
The flight goes off without a hitch and once they land it seems like Hayes’ luck is starting to turn around. It turns out this was a false hope as Zoe is kidnapped in an ambush that kills her entire security detail leaving only Hayes to rescue her.
With Treadstone agents being called in to hunt him down and put him in the ground, Hayes’ training is put to good use as he navigates the shadowy world of espionage he’s dumped back into as he tracks down the kidnappers. With the shadows from his past resurfacing the question remains… is he trying to save Zoe or himself?
So, this being a spin-off and all, Jason Bourne is out and Adam Hayes is the king of the hill. This is always going to draw comparisons to Bourne, which I feel is a little undeserved considering how much of an admirable job Joshua Hood did to differentiate Hayes from Bourne.
Hayes is a lot more focused on the wider world and his impact on it than the narrow self-focused outlook that I feel more encapsulated Bourne. He’s more interested in helping others and separating himself from his past instead of chasing it for answers. This is likely from Hayes having a family he cares about instead of lone wolfing it like Bourne.
However, having read quite a few books in the series, I like to think I know my Jason Bournes, and Adam Hayes is pretty much Jason Bourne 1.5. The fact Hood doesn’t give Hayes amnesia was a breath of fresh air for the series and the interplay between himself and his inner ‘Treadstone’ voice helped to develop his character somewhat.
Unfortunately like with Bourne, Hayes overall character is pretty one-dimensional and less nuanced than I would have hoped. This lack of depth also applies to the antagonists whose motivations were threadbare and disappointingly one-note.
With the focus solely on Hayes for the entire novel, we aren’t given a lot of time to spend with other characters. I know it’s a staple of the genre but I would have liked to see a bit more character depth across the board.
Coming straight off the back of reading The Bourne Evolution by Brian Freeman, I was expecting a novel in the same wheelhouse with a breakneck pace and tonnes of action, intrigue, and a burgeoning relationship between Hayes and the paper-thin romantic interest.
However, I was surprised by the stylistic choices Hood has implemented in his first foray into the Bourne universe. His pace throughout the story is still fast as any thriller on the market but he also uses the downtime to develop Hayes as much as he could.
It didn’t feel particularly forced while I was reading but that was probably because he was a new character that hasn’t had his backstory regurgitated as much as Bourne’s has.
Overall, Joshua Hood's introduction to the Bourne series is an enjoyable romp filled with all the hallmarks of a great thriller with enough character in its fresh protagonist to keep the story from becoming stale. Pick it up if you need more Bourne in your life and enjoyed The Bourne Legacy.
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