XIII – thrillers don’t come any more thrilling than this….
By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
A little while ago at the tail end of a review of Jean Van Hamme’s Lady S I lamented the fact that it really wasn’t up to the sort of high octane, ridiculous thrills I’d come to expect from Van Hamme since discovering Largo Winch and hoped that the forthcoming XIII series would deliver what I was after.
They did. And then some.
A proviso; XIII is not something to read if you’re after original, or innovative, or deep thinking. It’s unashamedly out and out thrills and I’m still grinning from ear to ear with childish joy after reading it, swept along by the sheer exuberance of van Hamme’s writing as he puts his protagonist through every brilliant thriller hoop he can think of. Two volumes down, 17 more to go. Wonderful.
There’s an immediate familiarity to XIII; a man washes ashore, badly wounded, suffering from complete amnesia yet phenomenally gifted in martial arts, weapons proficient, and has only a couple of small clues to his identity; the XIII tattooed on his shoulder and a key sewn into his shirt collar. It’s immediately obvious that he’s not going to be left alone for long and his peaceful existence will be shattered by violence.
Yes, that’s the plot to The Bourne Identity isn’t it?
(Amnesiac he may be but Jason Bourne XIII still remembers all that training. From XIII Volume 1; The Day Of The Black Sun, by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
But Jean Van Hamme has acknowledged his debt to Ludlum and gone on to create 19 volumes about his nameless hero. And if they’re anywhere near as good as these first two volumes I’m going to be boring you all silly with my praise for at least the next couple of years.
I absolutely burned through these two volumes, a look of absolute joy on my face as each page seemed to give me new and increasingly ridiculous situations for XIII to get himself out of.
There’s almost no point in even discussing the plot, essentially it’s XIII trying to trace his fractured memory back through every little clue Van Hamme drops in his path. Is he some hired killer, presidential assassin, military specialist, a son, a husband? Each new clue leads him to some new conflict. The resolution to each conflict to a new identity, a new clue and even more violence. The body count rises, the stakes grow higher. The silliness of the situations is immaterial, since the fun and the enjoyment is in the sheer thrills to be had along the way.
(XIII discovers he may have been the most famous assassin of modern times, as one tiny fragment of his past comes back. From XIII Volume 1; The Day Of The Black Sun, by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
Cinebook plan on releasing the complete 19 volume XIII series, 1 volume every couple of months. Volume 1 & 2 are out now, volume 3 is with us in September with XIII in a high security prison and looking to break out to continue his quest for the truth.
I really can’t wait.