How to read…Robert Ludlum (and Eric Van Lustbader)’s Jason Bourne series

With the recent news that Eric van Lustbader will not be writing any more Bournes, it’s time to take a look at how to read all the Bourne books. As far as I can tell, the decision not to continue writing the books, was Eric’s own, so that maybe (maybe) leaves it open for another writer to be commissioned. I know there were a lot of fans of the Robert Ludlum Bourne’s that didn’t like what van Lustbader did with the character, most especially with the later books, so there would probably be a market. How that would happen – would any new novels pick up where the last Van Lustbader finished? Or would it go back to where Ludlum left off and re-imagine Bourne’s life after that? I can’t imagine every writer would just think all that could be done with the character has been done, so I’d guess there could be plenty interested. What it really would need, is another film….

The films, if you’ve seen them, had Bourne as a continuation of Ludlum’s first two (at any rate) books, where Bourne was outside the law, and fighting against and running from the American authorities – and their allies. In Van Lustbader books, he is not always on the USA’s side, but is more or less. The longer the series continued, the more Bourne worked in America’s interests, the less believable it was that they should automatically suspect him for every crime they came up against. Even in a paranoid US system, you’d have thought he’d have earned enough Brownie points. And the reason the films work, is that they are close in, on Bourne and his flight, not world-spanning gotta save the President/free world, unrealistic/unbelievable, James Bond nonsense.

They’re still all very readable and enjoyable. And the new paperback covers – I think they’re starting at the beginning and working their way through – are superb. The last several hardback releases have quite excellent covers as well. A couple were so good, I had to buy the US and the UK version! Hey! It got me a re-Tweet from EvL himself.

Anyway, here are the 15 books in the series as of 19.02.19

Should you wish to by any of the books below, clicking on the image will take you to the book’s page at The Book Depository or Amazon. Where possible, with the same cover as shown here.

The Bourne Identity Robert Ludlum1. The Bourne Identity (1980)
Jason Bourne. He has no past. And he may have no future. His memory is blank. He only knows that he was flushed out of the Mediterranean Sea, his body riddled with bullets. There are a few clues. A frame of microfilm surgically implanted beneath the flesh of his hip. Evidence that plastic surgery has altered his face. Strange things that he says in his delirium — maybe code words. Initial: “J.B.” And a number on the film negative that leads to a Swiss bank account, a fortune of four million dollars, and, at last, a name: Jason Bourne. But now he is marked for death, caught in a maddening puzzle, racing for survival through the deep layers of his buried past into a bizarre world of murderous conspirators — led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin.
And no one can help Jason Bourne but the woman who once wanted to escape him.

The Bourne Supremacy Robert Ludlum2. The Bourne Supremacy (1986)
Someone has stolen Jason Bourne’s identity. Now he wants it back.
Terror is sweeping the globe. Washington, Hong Kong and Peking – terror sweeps the globe. The Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic has been brutally murdered by a legendary assassin, and everyone is asking the same fearful questions: why has Bourne come back? But was Jason Bourne really the killer?
Who is using Bourne’s name? Who is paying him? And who will be his next target?
But US officials know the shocking truth: there is no Jason Bourne. There never was. But someone has resurrected the name, and if he is not stopped, the world will pay a devastating price. Bourne must take back his identity and utilise all his skills as he is plunged into a dangerous world once more. Survival is not enough. Bourne has to stop the imposter – or the world will pay a devastating price.

The Bourne Ultimatum Robert Ludlum3. The Bourne Ultimatum (1990)
Carlos the Jackal is calling Jason Bourne’s cards. He has to show.
Two men are summoned by telegram to a small-town funfair. There they witness a bizarre killing. Carlos the Jackal, Jason Bourne’s long-time antagonist, is back.
Bourne is forced from his idyllic retirement with his wife and children to confront his enemy. – and confront the secret society of Medusa, a relic of war, now seeking ultimate power in peacetime.
Bourne’s plan is simple: to use himself as bait to lure the cunning Jackal into a deadly trap – a trap from which only one of them will escape
Jason Bourne has been the assassin before: now he longs for peace with his family, but the threat of the Jackal puts in jeopardy all possibility of peace…

4. The Bourne Legacy (2004)The Bourne Legacy Robert Ludlum
Once, Jason Bourne was notorious in the clandestine world of covert-ops as one of the CIA’s most expert international killers for hire. Out of the ashes of his violent past he’s emerged today as a Georgetown professor, living a quiet life, retired from danger–until he narrowly escapes the bullet of a faceless assassin. And when two of Bourne’s closest associates are murdered, Bourne knows that his legacy has followed him–and set him up as the prime suspect for the brutal crimes.
The quicksand of lies and betrayals is deeper than Bourne ever imagined. Hunted by the CIA as a dangerous rogue agent, he has only one option to stay alive–and one last chance to stay one step ahead of an unseen assailant whose vengeance is personal. Pursued across the globe, Bourne’s on the run, and on the edge of discovering the truth–that he’s become the expendable pawn in an international terrorist plot. One that’s taking every living witness with it and plunging Bourne one step closer to the world-shattering consequences of…the Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Betrayal Robert Ludlum Eric Van Lustbader5. The Bourne Betrayal (2007)
Already devastated by loss, Bourne is shattered by a report that his last friend in the world, Martin Lindros, has gone missing. A CI deputy director, Lindros was in Ethiopia tracking suspicious shipments of yellowcake uranium and atomic bomb weaponry. His last lifeline to humanity, Bourne will not let Lindros go. Despite his hatred for CI, Bourne sets out to rescue his friend and finish the job: dismantling a terrorist network determined to build nuclear armaments by cutting off their source of money. But Bourne doesn’t realize that these men, Islamic supremacists, are leaders of an incredibly dangerous, technologically savvy group with ties from Africa, across the Middle East, and into Eastern Europe and Russia. They have predicted Bourne’s every move, and are counting on his unwitting help in their plans to destroy America. 

The Bourne Sanction Robert Ludlum Eric Van Lustbader6. The Bourne Sanction (2008)
After so many adrenaline-soaked years risking his life, Jason Bourne is chafing under the quiet life of a linguistics professor. Aware of his frustrations, his academic mentor asks for help investigating the murder of a former student by a previously unknown Muslim extremist sect called the Black Legion.
The young man died carrying information about the group’s terrorist activities, including an immediate plan to attack the United States.
In Europe, Bourne’s investigation of the Black Legion turns into one of the deadliest and most tangled operations of his double life-the pursuit of the leader of a murderous terrorist group with roots in the darkest days of World War II.

The Bourne Deception Eric Van Lustbader7. The Bourne Deception (2009)
Jason Bourne’s nemesis Arkadin is still hot on his trail and the two continue their struggle, reversing roles of hunter and hunted. When Bourne is ambushed and badly wounded, he fakes his death and goes into hiding. In safety, he takes on a new identity, and begins a mission to find out who tried to assassinate him.
Meanwhile, an American passenger airliner is shot down. Bourne’s search for the man who shot him intersects with the search for the people that brought down the airliner, leading him into one of the most deadly and challenging situations he has ever encountered. 
With the threat of a new world war brewing, Bourne finds himself in a race against time to uncover the truth and find the person behind his assault, all the while being stalked by his unknown nemesis…

The Bourne Objective Eric Van Lustbader8. The Bourne Objective (2010)
Readers were first introduced to Jason Bourne’s nemesis Leonid Arkadin, a brilliant Russian assassin and fearless international mercenary, in The Bourne Sanction. His girlfriend was killed during a fight for which an enraged Arkadin blames Bourne. In The Bourne Deception, Arkadin hunted Bourne to take revenge and kill him. Bourne, in a fight for his life, learned that Arkadin’s skills mirror Jason’s because he received the same original CIA Treadstone training.
Now, in The Bourne Objective, Jason turns the tables and targets Arkadin. Hunter will become hunted.
But revenge can cause great psychological devastation. Has this become too personal for Bourne? Will this hunt be Bourne’s downfall?

The Bourne Dominion Robert Ludlum Eric Van Lustbader9. The Bourne Dominion (2011)
Jason Bourne is searching for an elusive cadre of terrorists planning to destroy America’s most strategic natural resources.
He needs the help of his long-time friend, General Boris Karpov, the newly appointed head of Russia’s most feared spy agency, FSB-2. Karpov is one of the most determined, honourable, and justice-hungry men that Bourne knows. But Karpov has made a deal with the devil. In order to remain the head of FSB-2, he must hunt down and kill Bourne.
Now, these two trusted friends are on a deadly collision course. From the Colombian highlands to Munich, Cadiz, and Damascus, the clock is counting down to a disaster that will cripple America’s economic and military future. Only Bourne and Karpov have a chance to avert the catastrophe-but if they destroy each other first, that chance will be gone forever. 

The Bourne Imperative Eric Van Lustbader10. The Bourne Imperative (2012)
Jason Bourne pulls a drowning man from a lake .
A man not only freezing, but bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound.
He wakes as an amnesiac, with no memory of who he is or why he was shot…an eerie reminder of Bourne’s own past.

Meanwhile, Mossad agent Rebekah is so determined to find this man that she’s gone off the grid, cut her ties to her agency, and risks a summary execution if caught by her former colleagues.
And back in the US, a new agent has been recruited – but does he have a secret mission of his own?

Everything turns on the mysterious amnesiac. Will Bourne learn his identity or will other, powerful forces get to him first?

The Bourne Retribution Eric Van Lustbader11. The Bourne Retribution (2013)
Bourne’s friend Eli Yadin, head of Mossad, learns that Ouyang Jidan, a senior member of China’s Politburo, and a major Mexican drug lord may have been trafficking in something far more deadly than drugs. Yadin needs Bourne to investigate. Bourne agrees, but only because he has a personal agenda: Ouyang Jidan is the man who ordered Rebeka – one of the only people Bourne has ever truly cared about – murdered. Bourne is determined to avenge her death, but in the process he becomes enmeshed in a monstrous world-wide scheme involving the Chinese, Mexicans and Russians.
Bourne’s increasingly desperate search for Ouyang takes him from Tel Aviv to Shanghai, Mexico City and ultimately, a village on China’s coast where a clever trap has been laid for him. Bourne finds himself pursued on all sides and unsure whom he can trust. As he moves closer to Ouyang, closer to avenging the woman he loved, he also moves ever closer to his own death…

The Bourne Ascendancy Robert Ludlum Eric Van Lustbader12. The Bourne Ascendancy (2014)
In this thrilling and absorbing new novel, Jason Bourne is faced with an impossible mission. He has been hired to impersonate a high-level government minister at a political summit meeting in Qatar, shielding the minister from any assassination attempts. Suddenly, armed gunmen storm the room, killing everyone but Bourne. Their target, however, isn’t the minister Bourne impersonates…it is Bourne himself.
Kidnapped and transported to an underground bunker, Bourne finds himself face-to-face with an infamous terrorist named El Ghadan (“Tomorrow”). El Ghadan hold as his captive Soraya Moore, former co-director Of Treadstone and a close friend to Bourne, along with her two-year-old daughter.
Meanwhile, the President of the United States is in the midst of brokering a historic peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians – an event that El Ghadan is desperate to prevent He demands that Bourne carry out a special mission: kill the President. If Bourne refuses, Soraya and her daughter will die.
Bourne must make a monstrous choice: save Soraya and her daughter, or save the President.

The Bourne Enigma Eric Van Lustbader13. The Bourne Enigma (2016)
Jason Bourne is in Moscow to attend the wedding of his old friend and fellow spymaster General Boris Karpov. But amid the celebrations, the General has an important message to deliver to Bourne – ‘a lifeline’ he says, ‘for the end of the world.’
Before Bourne can decipher this enigmatic warning, Karpov’s wedding ends in chaos and bloodshed. Bourne discovers that the Russian has betrayed to forewarn him of the crippling disaster about to engulf the world. Bourne has just four days to discover the nature of the catastrophe and halt it.
To get to the truth, Bourne must first track down an infamous and elusive arms dealer – a man both he and Karpov have been hunting for years. With the clock ticking, Bourne follows a labyrinthine path that weaves from the underbelly of Moscow to the pyramids of Egypt and the war-torn border between Syria and Turkey, as he races to stop a world-threatening conspiracy in its tracks.

The Bourne Initiative14. The Bourne Initiative (2017)
Jason Bourne is on the run. His old friend, General Boris Karpov, once head of the feared Russian FSB, lives on in the cyber weapon he devised before his death, capable of penetrating the heart of America’s final defence: nuclear launch codes.
Both the NSA and Meme LLC, a black off-site cyber operation, believe Bourne has taken over the enterprise, and a kill team is sent to terminate him for committing treason against the US.
Flushed from cover, hunted by assassins, wounded and nearly killed, Bourne is forced to join forces with his bitterest enemy, a Somali magus named Keyre, whose terrorist organisation Bourne once decimated. Now Keyre is more powerful than ever and he might help Bourne, but to what end?
From the Greek island of Skyros to Somalia and the underbelly of Moscow, Bourne must unravel the mystery of Karpov’s last legacy, a weaponised code that could incite the unthinkable: a violent end to America.

The Bourne Nemesis Eric Van Lustbader Robert Ludlum15. The Bourne Nemesis (2020)
Jason Bourne returns. He’s fought against the NSA, black off-site cyber operations, a Somali terrorist organisation and been accused of treason against the US. 
Now the Russians have planted a mole to uncover Bourne’s secrets and launch cyber-warfare against the United States. 
Meanwhile, Bourne’s former colleague, Soroya Moore, needs his help. Six highly skilled field agents have disappeared, the body parts of three found in a national park in Georgia. Facing death and destruction in the shadows of civilisation, Bourne will battle his deadliest nemesis yet. 

UPDATE: 09.06.19: This one may well actually have been cancelled. The Book Depository still have a landing page for it (click on cover), but Amazon sent me a message saying it wasn’t being released. Seems a shame as it’s a half-way decent cover-