The Paris Option is a standard spy thriller, outlined before his death by Robert Ludlum, but actually written by Gayle Lynds, a lesser-known author. It's full of stunt and actions, bullets and explosions, but the most interesting part of it is the bad guys. We'll get back to them in a minute.
The central item in this story is a super-computer, a fabled invention which uses DNA molecules instead of silicon to transfer data. Such a computer will be faster than any other, and therefore a great asset for the US military (the good guys) - and a terrible weapon for everybody else. Jon Smith, our hero, is busily working in a research group racing to first make the computer when the American team is beaten. By the French. Dommage! Even worse is the fact that the first prototype is stolen by unknown evildoers, who bomb the Pasteur Institute where it was made in order to hide their tracks. Jon's friend, Marty Zellerbach, was there at the unfortunate moment, and is now in a coma.
So Jon goes to Paris to find out who hurt his friend. And, if he just happens to find any clues, to retrieve the DNA computer. Amazingly, he does find out a good bit, and after a couple of adventures he finds himself in Toledo, chasing and fleeing from a group of Basque terrorists. It was them who did it. Or was it?
Digging a bit more, Jon finds the Basque separatists
are but a cover for the real culprit - a Pan-Islamic
terrorist group called the Crescent Shield
. It is run by the sinister Monsieur Mauritania
, whose soft and pudgy exterior hides a fanatical, anti-American
Yawn, yawn, you say. Muslim terrorists are so last-year, or even the year before that. Don't you have anything new?
But this is the twist: Robert Ludlum did have something new. Despite dying in 2001, he predicted the international tension between the United States and France. The Crescent Shield is yet another cover for a group of French nationalists who dream about their past glory. Now they want to weaken America in order to create a stong united Europe.
What is really funny is to see who is friend and who is foe here. At a secret meeting between several European generals, Italy, Spain, and Germany are intrigued by the idea, while the British representative promptly sides with his American allies.
"Well," the Briton snapped, all lightness abruptly gone, "my own nation's views on the matter are clear. No totally integrated European army. No European cap badges. No European flag. None. Any British contribution to the Rapid Reaction Force, or a self-contained army, must remain firmly under British control, deployed at the bidding of the British prime minister." Sir Arnold took an angry breath and asked, "And exactly where would the money come from for the transport planes such a 'no U.S. involvement' military would need? Also for the cargo ships and aircraft, the communications systems, the laser-guided munitions, the electronic jamming units, the military planning system, the fully modernized command structure? Certainly not from Britain!"
Having delivered this rousing piece of propaganda, the Englishman leaves the meeting tainted by a final insult from the French general, who says George Orwell's 1984 vision has already occurred: Britain is no more than the Air Strip One of Oceania. Furthermore, to keep the Lord from reporting home, the evil Frogs have his plane explode in midair. Quelle horreur!
Against such a formidable enemy, one man is not enough: Jon Smith is joined by two other agents, one from the CIA, one from MI6. Together they work against time, for with the molecular monster, an operator can shut down communications and fire off missiles as he pleases. And naturally, we all know that anyone who is not American and got control over such a machine would eagerly fire missiles straight towards the US.
Indeed, that is what the French conspirator is doing. His scientist has locked the target for a Russian missile when he realizes that it is not going to be a small, cozy explosion after all. It is a NUCULEAR bomb. Eek! The scientist turns towards his master and makes another great speech.
"That's it! You intended this all along. That's why you picked Omaha. It's not just because it's the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command and a more important military target than even the Pentagon. Or because it's a hub of information services and telecommunications industries. It's because it's the Heartland, as they call it, where people think of themselves as safe because they're buried in the middle of the continent. The whole United States thinks of the Midwest as safe. With one blow, you show that the safest people in the safest place are unsafe by turning their 'heartland' into a wasteland, while you cripple America's military. So many deaths just to make a point. You're a monster, La Porte! A monster."
Soon after this, our three heroes, a group of avenging Muslims, and the reawakened Zellerbach arrive at the scene. The three do some advanced slashing while Marty performs molecular hacking. In the end, all is well - the bad guys are dead, the Midwest is still safe, and all is ready for Jon to fall in love with the CIA chick.
Of course, one of the terrorists got away. The mysterious Mauritania cleverly elopes to a place where he knows he'll be safe... Iraq.