ROBERT LUDLUM – The Janson Directive. St. Martin’s, hardcover, October 2002; paperback, October 2003.

ROBERT LUDLUM The Janson Directive

   I don’t know about you, but the few of Robert Ludlum’s books I’ve read have always kept me reading. And with this particular one checking in at 680 pages in paperback, reading and reading and reading. I can’t do that in one night any longer, no matter what, and I don’t think anybody can.

   Plot: An ex-Vietnamese War prisoner named Alex Janson, now a super-whiz corporate security consultant, is hired to free a wealthy philanthropist Peter Novak from a group of terrorists. Novak’s billions of dollars have been used many times over to promote democracy and peace around the world, and Janson is the only one who can save him.

   Which, after several nerve-shattering incidents, including a free-fall parachute drop from four miles up, he does. This is on page 140. With 540 pages to go. What next? You should only ask.

   Janson finds that he only a pawn, if you’ll forgive the cliché, in an even greater conspiracy, one designed to simply knock your socks off. Ludlum demonstrates such a worldliness in his characters, and leans so heavily on a world of esoteric knowledge that seemingly comes natural to him, that an everyday, ordinary sort of person such as you and I can only sit back in awe.

   Well, I can vouch for me.

   There are flaws, though. Janson is all but perfect, but his shield of invincibility only goes so far. It just isn’t large enough to include all of the people who give him aid and assistance, to put it mildly. They’re on their own. Given a chance to second guess themselves, they might well opt out of this book, given the opportunity. Nor is Ludlum averse to dragging out the clichés himself, as the occasion arises.

   All in all, at $7.99 list price for the paperback, you certainly get your money’s worth. If in the end you start to reflect on the fact that the tale that’s told is no deeper than your standard super-hero comic book, that’s the only drawback that might trigger some regret, and it will quickly pass.

— October 2003

[UPDATE] 10-13-12.   According to at least one online source, following the success of the Bourne movie, The Janson Directive is also being converted to the big screen. It ought to be a good one.

       The Paul Janson series —

The Janson Directive (2002)
The Janson Command (2011) (with Paul Garrison)
The Janson Dilemma (2014)