Friday, August 19, 2011

Feeding the Monster

Here's the problem, old girl.  How do you follow the footsteps of  keeping a character alive after the author who created the character has check out?  Left for the Big One In The Sky.  You know . . . keeled over and Bought The Farm.

Huh.  See the predicament?

The creator is dead.  But the character is, like a Frankenstein, demanding to live on.  A monster has been created who refuses to fade into the sunset.  So someone still breathing has to be found to follow the master's footsteps and keep the monster at bay.

This is the scenario for the continuation of the Jason Bourne series.
Robert Ludlum, that prolific writer to action-adventure-conspiracy novels, created Jason Bourne.  And the character became an instant hit. Maybe a gazillion books were sold featuring Bourne--and then, by god!--the movies came out.

And a legend was created.

Don't count me as a cynic in this discussion.  I admit it freely; I am a died-in-the-wool fan of Jason Bourne.  Slap his name somewhere on a book cover and the odds are I'm going to buy the damn thing and read it.  And keep it in my library.  For me, Jason Bourne makes James Bone look like an over-sexed choir boy.  Put the two in the same room and force them to fight--and I suspect Bourne will walk out of the room bloodied, but the only one capable of walking and still in one piece.

But the question remains.  When the creator dies, who takes over?  And how does the character change in style and context when the new writer spins his web of intrigues and lies?  Ah . . . that problem!

This has happened to both Bourne and Bond.  Robert Ludlum, the creator of Bourne, dies and Eric Van Lustbader takes over.  Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, dies--and a plethora of authors step in and fill the void over the years.  I will step out on a shaky limb here and make the categorical statement that Lustbader's version of Jason Bourne is pretty damn close to the real-deal.  Those who have tried to capture Fleming's magic he created in James Bond haven't faired so well.

But Lustbader's version of Bourne, or the style and pacing of his novels in mimicking Ludlum, isn't quite as satisfying to read.  He comes close in a few of the ersatz Bourne novels (I think he's written four or five Bourne novels by now).  But several miss the mark.

Maybe that's to be expected.  One can hope our favorite fictional character will remain the same (or--Christ!--maybe even improve and become more three-dimensional!) but we really shouldn't expect it.  We have to accept the reality that the magic probably is gone from the original creation.  The only question remaining is; is the current offering of our favorite close enough, and interesting enough, to remain a fan?

That's a decision each of us has to make.

I've made mine. Yeah, (sighing)  I'll stick with Lustbader's Bourne.  He's still better than a wimpy Bond any day.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I think I need to be careful of what I say, because I'm more of a James Bond sorta guy!

    However, I agree with you. I've read both the Bourne novels and the Bond novels and generally, Bourne seems to pull it off better. I can even go as far as saying I read one of the bond novels from about, oh, late 80's or so, and asking myself partway through the book, Who am I reading about? The Bourne novels I've read? It felt like Bourne all the way through, even though I knew that Mr. Ludlam was not writing them.

    What happens to the Monster when his creator pops off? Well, much like Frankenstein and his monster, if the creation is built well enough, it will endure as long as it's soul endures...