The Bourne Identity—Book Review

Posted on by marvazon

I first saw the 2002 theatrical version of the Bourne Identity a year after it was released, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It moved at a relentless pace and introduced a new kind of hero to the general movie-going public—one who got the job done with grit and sweat, rather than cool weapons and gadgets. The plot seemed current and relevant to our times—I believe it actually still does today—which was a very good thing.

Up until a few months ago, I never considered reading the book. I assumed it would be just like the movie, but then I read the synopsis. I immediately got intrigued and ordered it that same evening. After I finished the book, I kicked myself for not reading it sooner, for I might as well have been witnessing a completely different story.

The plot from the get-go centres on a man called Jason Bourne. We learn quite early on that he’s an amnesic, who doesn’t quite know who he is, following his shooting in Marseille, France. What is apparent, however, is that he has a number of unexplained skills, like being able to completely dismantle a gun in no time at all.

As the story moves on, he slowly pieces bits of his life together with help from unlikely sources. At the same time, he is pursued by a number of people who seem intent on seeing him dead at all costs. He ends up running for his life across Europe, while trying to gather clues as to who he actually is.

As with the film, the story moves at breakneck speed, but includes more intricate schemes and plots. This novel is very much in the same mould of John le Carré’s spy thrillers, with huge emphasis on the KGB/CIA spy activities during the 70s and 80s. The movie, however, modified it to suit the times, which helps to explain the vast differences.

The antagonists seem to come from everywhere, but the beauty of this novel is that Jason genuinely doesn’t know who they are, or why they’re hell bent on killing him. This also leaves us—the readers—in a state of confusion, adding to the mystery. The author, Robert Ludlum, keeps things from us for much of the novel, relying instead on a slow revealing process.

 The story does start to drag around the middle, and the entire concept is quite implausible at times. Also, as we witness Jason recollecting fragments of his life at random moments, Deus ex Machina sometimes springs to mind in a few of these scenes. But all in all, it’s a thoroughly engaging read, especially if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief from time to time. Eight out of ten stars.

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