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As an avid reader of absolutely nothing!! I was surprised to find this book thoroughly gripping from start to finish when I went on holiday for Tenerife for a week and managed to complete it in this time! Which for me is certainly a testament to the twists and turns in this more indepth version of the Robert Ludlum classic compared to the Paul Greengrass & Matt Damon outing on the big screen.
The key things to mention is probably that the book isn't different to the film the same way that the Harry Potter series is different due to time constraints in movie format but probably more to do with the difference in setting and current affairs of the world at the time of the story been written and it making it to the cinema's.
Be prepared to have alot more information about both main characters Jason Bourne / David Webb and Marie St Jacques and especially how she comes into the story in much more brutal fashion.
Will not say anymore other than if you are thinking of reading it think no more and immerse yourself into a different adventure to what you expect!
A man is fished out of the Mediterranean, suffering from gunshot wounds and amnesia. As he slowly recovers, certain clues emerge: he has had plastic surgery to 'soften' his appearance, random memories come to him in flashbacks, and implanted under his skin is a frame of microfilm with the number of a bank account in Switzerland - a bank account containing four million dollars in the name of Jason Bourne.
He goes to Zurich in search of answers, but only finds more questions. Why does he have access to all that money? Why is Zurich familiar to him? Who is Jason Bourne?
Suddenly, he is the target of assassins - he doesn't know who, he doesn't know why. But he knows he must do anything he can to survive and solve the puzzle.
There then follows 560-odd pages of fast-paced, non-stop, thrill-a-minute action.
Robert Ludlum's book plunges almost immediately into a life-or-death chase with unknown gunmen appearing from seemingly every corner. Bad enough if you know who and why, but when you don't even remember who you were and what you did, let alone why anyone would want to kill you, I'd imagine it could be ever-so-slightly frustrating.
All the while though, Bourne seems to somehow know what to do and how to react in any given situation. He seems to instinctively know which button to push, and how hard. This only serves to confuse him further. Why does he know these things? Things like: how to handle a gun...being able to speak several languages...lethal unarmed combat...the art of disguise.
At various points, and usually at the most disadvantageous moments, flashes of a half-remembered past come back to haunt him. Memories of a person he'd rather not be...a hired killer? A spy? A...what? Just who is Jason Bourne?
The plot involves terrorists, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, covert operations in SE Asia, and a plethora of other sub-plots including a love interest. Basically, as we go further into the book, Bourne discovers more and more of his past life - but never quite the full story. Sometimes the facts he uncovers are really only half-truths...or downright falsehoods. Is he one of the good guys? Or his he a cold-blooded assassin? Who is Jason Bourne?
I'm afraid you'll have to find that out for yourself.
The plot is far too complicated and long-winded to go into any further here - not without giving too much away. Besides, you've probably already seen the movie, and while I haven't, I imagine the basic premise doesn't vary significantly from the book.
This is the first Robert Ludlum book I've read. I don't know why, it just is. I had a vague idea what to expect - mystery, intrigue, suspense, thrills and spills - but I was under the misapprehension that his work was rather convoluted and complicated...dull, almost.
Complicated perhaps. Dull? Not for one gripping, fascinating, edge-of-your-seat second.
I was hooked almost instantly and found it hard to put the book down. The trouble is that at 566 pages, it's not exactly conducive to reading at a single sitting. I read it over 5 nights quite easily though, and I dare say could've read it quicker than that. In fact, towards the end, I deliberately slowed down in order to make it last!
It's one of those stories that just doesn't stand still. With fast-paced action from almost the very first page, it hardly pauses for breath from then on.
I liked the urgency of the writing. Everything seemed to happen at breakneck speed with no time to analyse what had just taken place before the next adventure was in full swing. I thought Ludlum portrayed Bourne's character well - confused, puzzled, angry and frightened, but all the time gripped by a ferocious, single-minded drive to resolve his own personal torment.
On the other hand, I still think it could've been a little shorter. It seemed to me that the story would have been just as valid with a few less armed henchmen popping up and a few less shoot-outs in busy public places. That's another thing. There was enough hot lead flying about the streets of Zurich and Paris to roof every church in France and Switzerland, but curiously, there was a distinct paucity of injured bystanders!
I also thought that the love interest was a bit dodgy. She was a Canadian economist with government connections who Bourne used as a hostage near the start of the book. They then fell in love (as you do). I found this part a little implausible, and I found Ludlum's description of their interaction too flowery and overblown.
Still, that could just be my unromantic tendencies, and it didn't really detract too much from the overall experience.
I also thought the ending was a little obscure - ambiguous even.
I don't know if Ludlum intended this to be the first part of a trilogy when he penned it, but I get the impression he did. However, I think when the reader is committing him/herself to almost 600 pages, they deserve more than an ending that leaves everything somewhat up-in-the-air.
But these are minor quibbles.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and I intend to read more of Robert Ludlum's work. It was exciting, entertaining and un-put-down-able. What more can you ask for from a novel?
It's always risky to read a book of something when you have seen the film based on it. It can be a very interesting experience to note the similarities and differences, but it can also be a bit of a disappointment. Too often, the images from the film are firmly imprinted on the brain and the reader can experience frustration when the two diverge.
It's certainly true that The Bourne Identity and book diverge considerable. They may share a common ancestry, feature the same characters and lead to similar situations, but they are also markedly different. For once, though, this is a good thing. The film is good; the book is even better.
The essential plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen the film. A man riddled with bullets is rescued from drowning, but loses his memory. As he sets off to find out who he is, he discovers some disturbing truths about himself and the people who are after him.
So far, so familiar. Where The Bourne Identity book scores over the film is in the level of detail of the plot. It takes the book and creates something far more detailed, far more nuanced. Shorn of the need to come in at a multiplex friendly time, the plot can be far more intricate and complex. On reading the book, it's obvious that the producers of the film simply cherry picked the key sequences to provide a strong action element, whilst dropping some of the more complex aspects. The book, on the other hand, can take its time, building layer upon layer of story all of which intertwine and overlap, creating a complicated (but always understandable) plot which makes the film seem overly simplistic by comparison.
The book has the best of both worlds. There are lots of action set pieces and dangerous situations which must be overcome to unravel the next bit of the conspiracy. Yet this sense of action and excitement is carefully married to a strong narrative and sense of reality. The book provides so much detailed information that all the locations feel very real and all the situations genuine and dangerous. The book is grounded in realist and, whilst some of the actions of the characters might seem superhuman to us, they are still governed by the laws of physics, not the laws of cinema.
There is a timeless element to the plot which serves it well. Although it was originally published in 1980 and makes constant references to Vietnam (a now very distant conflict for some) it never feels dated. The world Robert Ludlum creates is thoroughly convincing, yet by avoiding in-depth descriptions of specific governments, ideas or technologies, he doesn't really root his book in a particular period. A few minor references aside, these events could take place in the 70s, 90s or now. The refusal to rely on the Red Menace as the enemy (unlike many other books from this period) means it still feels fresh and reads well.
Aiding the plot is the fact that Ludlum has a very readable style and knows how to construct a suspense-ful tale. Although the book is very long (over 560 pages), it never felt like a chore to read. Quite the opposite: it will grip you from start to finish and you won't be able to put it down.
Ludlum carefully crafts his tale so that action sequences, plot developments and characters are all carefully woven together. He does not rely on stupid co-incidences or unlikely events to drive the plot forward; everything that happens is the logical result of something else you have already read about. Characters act in a logical manner and, based on the information at their disposal, make sensible (if sometimes wrong and misguided) decisions. You never feel as though the author is trying to trick you; he is just telling a damn good story and telling it well. You may not always understand exactly where the plot is heading, but you do always know exactly how you arrived at this point in the story. Unlike other, lazier authors, Ludlum never relies on jargon or futuristic technology to get his characters out of tricky situations or bamboozle the reader. Even the most complex situations are clearly laid out and explained and, whilst various technologies do have a part to play in the plot, they are always an essential part of it, rather than an unnecessary add-on designed to show how tech-savvy the author is.
It's with the characters that Ludlum is most successful, though, and it's also here that the parallels with the film are most obvious. Whichever way you look at it, Bourne is not a nice man. He has no compunction about severely injuring or killing people he views as a threat and will use people if there is some advantage to himself, even if that results in their death. Yet right from the off, Ludlum has us rooting for Bourne. We're immediately gripped by his mysterious origins and shrouded past. Each new clue may reveal dark truths and deadly secrets, but Ludlum takes care to paint Bourne as a scared man, fighting for his life against unknown assailants. The more we follow his journey, the more we root for him and want to see him survive, regardless of the body count he leaves in his wake.
Importantly, Ludlum's world is not filled with black and white stereotype good guys and bad guys. Everyone has a motive for doing what they do and all are capable of both great acts of kindness, cruelty and selfishness - often within the same page. In other words, like the book's setting, they are real and familiar. You and I may not many international hit men or CIA agents, but we all know people who can be incredibly cruel and cutting one moment, and very supportive the next. This human angle is much stronger in the book than the film. With far more time to develop them, Ludlum's original characters are much more rounded, and stronger than their celluloid counterparts.
The only downsides are that it may disappoint an audience built up from seeing the film first. This is a far more layered and complex experience. Indeed, this first book essentially covers the key plot of all three Bourne films to date and adds in more besides. Anyone just looking for the film in book form will be severely disappointed. The length of the book may also put some people off - particularly when coupled with the fact that is might be so different from what they expect.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and would heartily recommend it. Offering a far more layered plot than the film and far more complex and better developed characters, this is a very different beast from the film, but a very enjoyable one nevertheless.
The Bourne Identity
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Like many great book to film productions, I always say I should read the book before watching the film. Sadly, when given the choice of spending a few hours watching Matt Damon reclaim his memory in Paris or indulging in a fortnight's worth of bedtime reading, I chose the film first in this instance. I can say that neither the book or film is better than the other, they are both very good in different ways and this review will focus solely on the book.
A man is fished out of the Mediterranean by the crew of a small fishing boat, bullet ridden and unconscious. We know him to be Jason Bourne, but as yet he doesn't know who or what he is. The following 500+ pages follows Jason on a journey of discovery peppered with intrigue, betrayal, assasinations and chase in an effort to piece together the broken jigsaw of his forgotten identity and understand how his past has shaped his present circumstances.
He is aided by Marie St Jacques, of French Canadian descent in his deadly quest. She is at first forced into being with Jason as he uses her as a human shield in an attempt to escape pursuers in a hotel conference room, but soon an understanding develops between the two after an act of compassion from Jason when rescuing her from the clutches of one of his pursuers, and they become close.
Marie then helps him to stay one step ahead of unknown hunters and together, as Jason's memory returns piece by piece, using her analytical skills as a government employed economist, they uncover the meaning of Treadstone 71, the organisation that created Jason and identify the link between the organisation and Carlos, an internationally wanted assassin who it turns out is responsible for Jason's pursuers with a deadly intent. Carlos is also the aim of Jason's mission from Treadstone - trap Carlos, kill Carlos.
Who catches who? Does Carlos find Jason? Does Jason trap Carlos and complete his mission? Do Treadstone find Jason and bring him in safely? I couldn't possibly spoil the ending of the story by giving those answers away. All I will say is that the ending is fantastic and the Bourne Identity is the first part of a trilogy - so somebody must survive to continue the plot into books two and three, nudge nudge wink wink in an espionagesque manner.
A man (who we eventually get to know as Jason Bourne) is found unconscious at sea with bullet wounds. He is nursed back to physical health by an alcoholic washed out doctor at the local port. When he wakes he has no memory of who he is or anything from his past. The only clue is a series of numbers which are a bank account in Zurich. As he recovers he also discovers a few things about himself with the assistance of the doctor. He seems to be familiar with Asian cultures, has considerable knowledge of martial arts and weaponry, and he has had cosmetic work done to make him appear more ordinary.
From here Bourne journeys to Zurich to find the bank account and hopefully discover who he is. Along the way he makes more discoveries about himself and finds out that he is wanted by amongst others the American government. The book then follows his efforts to find out who he is, what he is being hunted for and whether he did it.
The plot is very interesting - it's a who dun it where the supposed perpetrator doesn't know if he's guilt. The challenges facing Bourne are huge, as are the decisions - if he is guilty how much does he want to find out? Is he accountable for the actions of the person he no longer is. The action rattles along at a good pace, and there are a glut of interesting and complex characters involved in the hunt for Bourne. I would very strongly recommend this for those that have seen the film as although the premise and main characters are the same the plot takes a more involving route here and the development and torment of Bourne as he learn more about his previous self is fascinating.
If you're a Ludlam fan you've probably read something very similar in setting before, as most of his books are about an agent supposedly gone rogue who needs to prove his innocence, but in my opinion Jason Bourne is his finest creation.
I have literally just reviewed the film of the same name, but I couldnt do that without reviewing the book. As an avid reader I read the book first before seeing the film as I have always enjoyed reading anything by Robert Ludlum and this book was no exception.
The Bourne Identity is a terrific read, the charachter of Jason Bourne is fantastic and the story is incredibly believable. I promise that you will pick this book up and struggle to put it down again, as proved by the fact that one night it got to 3AM before I even realised the time.
If you have seen the film and are expecting this to read like it was taken from the script you will be sadly mistaken, however I dont think that this detracts from either the book or the film. Robert Ludlum can write a book with more twists and turns and action than anyone else I have read. Tom Clancy used to be my favorite author but Robert Ludlum has taken his place.
The Bourne Identity is one of the late Robert Ludlum's best books. In fact, Jason Bourne is one of his best creations, and this is the first of three outings for him. The book starts off with an almost dead body being fished out of the water. The man is brought back to health by the kindness of strangers... but there is one twist. He has no memory of who he is. As he tries to put the pieces together he finds out he is being pursued by some people who wanted him dead and thought they had already succeeded. So starts an adrenaline pumping game of cat and mouse with Jason Bourne trying to fit the pieces together of just who he is before he is taken out of the game for good. Made into a film a few years ago, which almost manages to captivate as much as the book, but with a lot of plot differences, the Bourne Identity is a fine novel of deception on so many levels. Probably the best of the three books, but the others are still very readable too.
Robert Ludlum was a thriller writer with an enormous skill and breadth of knowledge. I have read many of his books, but only recently, having watched the films, did I decide to read the Bourne trilogy. The first of these is also the shortest, entitled The Bourne Identity.
It is important to note that only the briefest plot outline has any kind of relevance to the film. A man is fished out of the Mediterranean is full of bullet holes and has complete amnesia. Only a small chip imbedded in his body with the serial number of a Swiss bank account and the name Jason Bourne gives him and his rescuer, a doctor who is also a recovering alcoholic, a clue as to who he is.
Here is where the similarity between the book and the film virtually terminates. There are details which corrolate between the two, but not plotlines as such.
The plot continues at pace as the man, who can only assume his name is Jason Bourne finds a small fortune in the bank account, and enlists the aid of a Canadian economist named Marie in order to find out who he is, and, more importantly, why anyone would want to fill him with bullets and leave him for dead in the Med! Bourne finds himself a target of assassins for an unknown reason, but, as he gets closer and closer to the truth, his travels take him far and wide, ever pursued by someone desperate for him to cease to exist.
Robert Ludlum has a very unique style of writing. I found myself reading very fast, and then very slowly, as the language and pace of the book changed on a regular basis. At first, I was annoyed by this, but soon I became used to it and found that it was essential to my enjoyment. I found myself embedded in the story and as anxious as I ever have been reading a book before.
There are places where the book does drag, and there are deep and descriptive pages leading up to internsely quick dialogue and sudden actions and events. It is a testament to the knowledge and research of the author that he is able to describe in such geographical, technical and operational accuracy throughout the book.
There are many occasions where unfeasible situations occurred, with conclusions being drawn by the characters that seem only to make sense for the story to continue along its plotlines. However, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, and as soon as I finished the 566 page novel, I turned immediately to the second in the trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy, an even longer book, with anticipation of another good read.
A very well researched novel from a master of thriller writing. Drags in places, but very enjoyable.
The book is available from amazon.co.uk for £5.99.
As a big fan of both the films starring Matt Damon,I thought I'd pick up the three novels in the series when I saw them in a book club together-wish I hadn't bothered now,stick with the film I say.....
From the beginning,the book grips you with a mystery-a young man is found near-drowned in the ocean,his body as riddled with bullets as his mind is with holes.With no knowledge of who he is or where he has come from,the fishermen who rescued him drop him off at a local port;home to an alcoholic,washed up doctor who,over the next six months,treats him and aids this mysterious stranger in his recovery.
Upon discovering a strip of projection film implanted under the skin of his patient,the doctors interest is pricked and he soon discovers that not only is his patient able to converse in more than one language but also that his memory appears to have been completely wiped out by whatever happened to him at sea.As the young man recovers,he too becomes obsessed with discovering the truth and,after a near fatal(for them)confrontation with some locals,decides to head towards Zurich-a clue picked up from the film previously implanted in his skin.
Once at Zurich,he is pointed towards a swiss bank account containing a small fortune in dollars but it is not until he tries to collect that he faces the first attempt on his life and discovers his name is Jason Bourne and that he is a wanted man.Grabbing a hostage during an incident in his hotel,Bourne goes on the run in a series of exciting set-pieces-planning to discover who he is or was,why he is wanted dead so badly and what his connections may be to an infamous asassin named Carlos(yes-the Jackal!!)
It is sometime after this that I began to lose interest-the next chunk of the book deals with crosses and double-crosses amongst the central (un)intelligence agency and its counterparts and tries to explain who Bourne is and how he came to this pass but none of it is easy reading and at times becomes quite complicated.Too much for me -no stranger to complicated plot twists and turns in many a novel.
Maybe it is the same problem I find with much of Tom Clancy's work in that these kind of espionage books are just too much like hard work and too heavy for me but I have read spy novels by Len Deighton and other spy writers and really quite enjoyed them in the past and was really looking forward to these after the movies-though it has been said that both these have been highly edited from the original material for the screen.
The premise is good,I just found it starting to go on for way to long and it got to bout two thirds of the book when I realised I just didn't care how the novel or the series was going to end!!Normally I have to feel empathy with a character to continue reading but with this I began to not care if Bourne or his girl lived or died andjust wanted the book to end so I could begin something more enjoyable.
Its not often I stop a book before the end but this was one of them.
As for the other books in the series,I really could not be bothered after reading this and have listed them on my swap pile at Readitswapit if anyone wants to make up their own mind.
My advice-stick to the far superior films,even if you don't like Matt Damon normally.....
"The Bourne Identity" by Robert Ludlum was a book that my dad had recommended to me a few years ago but I never got round to reading it. It wasn't until I saw the movie that I remembered him saying about the book so I dug it out and was very impressed.
The story begins with a body floating in the Ocean off the coast of Marseille. A trawler boat rescues the man but does not hold much hope for his life as he has been shot a couple of times and is showing the effects of 12 hours in the freezing water. They make it to the coast and the man is left with the local doctor. When he regains consciousness he is suffering from amnesia to the extent that he doesn't know who he is. All he does have is a fiche implanted in his hip which has the name and number of a Swiss bank account. Beyond that he could be anyone. The doctor continues with his recovery but begins to see that the man is a highly trained professional and he suspects that he may be an assassin. What follows is a deadly chase where the unknown man is trying to establish his identity. Everywhere he goes people seem to want to kill him but he quickly establishes that he is more than capable with dealing with things most men would find impossible. Once he discovers his identity in the bank in Switzerland he must discover who he actually is. Can he do this before the American authorities or Carlos, Europe's most lethal killer, dispose of him.
This is the first Robert Ludlum novel I have read. He is an author that can paint a very vivid picture of whatever part of the world he takes you to (and there are plenty in this story!). His writing is exceptional and there is an attention to detail that I have never experienced before. When I read I tend to have music or the radio on in the background but I couldn't do that with this novel. Anytime my attention drifted slightly throughout the story then I had to go back and re-read the previous couple of pages. There is that much information packed into every page. Because of this it is not an easy read but one that is definitely rewarding if you stick with it.
The character of Bourne is very interesting. It is a clever concept where you are discovering things at the same time he is! There is no guarantee all the details are as they appear and it is worthwhile comparing your assumptions with that of Bourne! Although he is a trained killer who has been responsible for numerous deaths but you cannot help but be on his side. Admittedly you only ever meet the post amnesia Bourne so he could be an entirely different character. Once I finished the book I found myself wanting to know more about his previous life. Unfortunately, I don't think Ludlum wrote a book on this.
There are two sequels the Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum which may dip more into the past. I am waiting on these two novels being delivered as I enjoyed the first one so much. There is also the Bourne Legacy which has been written by Eric van Lustbader as Robert Ludlum.
One of the real strength's of the character is that the things are does are plausible. He doesn't get involved in fights with ten other men and win. He occasionally comes off second best in some exchanges and this adds a lot of realism into a world few of the readers will have experienced.
As I mentioned at the top there is also the movie and although it is enjoyable it is a pale shadow of the book. The main parts of the story have been ripped out and it is really just an action spy film. The book offers so much more in terms of story, character development and background that the film could never touch it.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes this genre.
After finishing The Bourne Supremacy last week I decided that it was probably best to go back and start at the beginning of the series. So I bought myself a copy of The Bourne Identity and sat down on Tuesday night and started reading. Almost a week later and Ive just out the book onto my shelf having finished it. Im a big fan of the films and that in part was the reason I was drawn to the books. I noticed during Supremacy that the story of the books to the films was quite different and Identity is similar to the film, but still massively different.
When a fishing trawler pull a man from the Mediterranean sea to find it riddled with bullets the crew need to drop him off to a doctor ASAP. He spent six months living on the Ile de Port Noir after Dr Washburn had saved his life and together they try to solve his amnesia. The only clue to his identity however is found on a small role of film surgically implanted above his hip. The film had only a couple of items noted on it, an account number and the name of a bank in Zurich. It was clear where he had to go.
Once in Zurich we discover his name is Jason Bourne through someone remembering him and the details of the account. Having visited the bank and discovered he has 4 million dollars in an account in his name he gets a nasty shock as he leaves. For some reason he picks up on two men acting suspiciously and using skills he didnt realise he possessed manage to escape. These skills were again called upon back at his hotel as he kidnapped a Canadian economist to help him escape these men but who were they? And who was he?
As events start to unfold Bourne starts to remember certain details about the past and more importantly about the present where numerous people are trying to kill him. His less than willing travel companion Marie St Jacques is won over when Bourne safes her from a rapist and now she wants to help him. He only has a few details however a man named Carlos and he knows the answer is in Paris.
After reading the Bourne Supremacy first I thought it was a superb book and was probably Ludlums best work. Since then I have found that The Bourne Identity is an even better book than the second. It is a much better idea to read the books in order as the story is quite compelling. I found it impossible to put Identity down and found that if I had a spare 5 minutes, Id end up picking up the book. I think this is where Ludlums talent lies. He seems to be able to capture your imagination and really draw you into the story.
He seems to describe locations in such away that you can actually imagine yourself stood there in places youve never been before. I noticed it in his second book as well as this that his descriptions are quite powerful and draw a nice sense of realism to the story. There were odd occasions where this seemed to be overkill at the time but when he used the location to its full potential you realised just why he described it so well. Throughout the book I found that he gave a good mental image and like a movie events were played out in your head.
I found that the character development was his real talent however. As the main character has lost his memory Ludlum writes the book in a very clever way. As Bourne learns small snippets of information along the way so do we the reader. It helps to really develop his character rather than give you everything all at once in the beginning. This makes you feel for him as you read the book and I also felt it really drew me further into the story.
The remaining characters in the story all play there part, although we learn small snippets about Marie St Jacques as the book carries on. She is quite important to the story and really seems to keep Bourne on the straight and narrow just as you think hes going to lose it. This is Ludlums talent and the reason why I think these books have received the attention they have although the plot is massively different to the films. The relationship with the film seems to vary massively in places. It keeps in line with the start of the film and although it sticks to the principles of the story the two plots veer off in different directions.
The introduction to series is certainly the better book of the two I have read with Ultimatum next on my list to read. The book is just under 570 pages and although not quite as long as the two follow ups it seems to have a lot more detail condensed into it. You can pick it up for £5.59 from amazon.co.uk. If you enjoyed the film or love spy/crime/thrillers then this is a book I would certainly recommend. The plots are similar between the books and the films but reading this wouldnt ruin your enjoyment of the film and vice versa. A superb introduction to a great series of books.