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The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
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The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum
Date: 18/08/11, updated on 04/11/13 (112 review reads)
Advantages: Fast - paced, exciting and thrilling with an interesting plot
Disadvantages: Poor interaction between Bourne and St Jacques
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?
Summary: The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum