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The Bourne Identity book had relatively little in common with the Matt Damon film; The Bourne Supremacy has even less, sharing only the title. I enjoyed The Bourne Identity immensely, but at least part of that was due to the fact that I was already familiar with some of the events, thanks to the film. The Bourne Supremacy was the acid test: would I enjoy a Bourne book in which every aspect was new and unknown?
Sometimes, reading a book when you have already seen the film (or vice versa) can be anti-climactic. Since you know the key plot revelations and set pieces, you spend the whole book anticipating certain developments, rather than concentrating on the bit you are actually on. With The Bourne Supremacy, I didn't know what to expect and so began every chapter with a sense of interest and curiosity, wondering what was about to unfold.
The essential plotline can be simply told. A lethal assassin, calling himself Jason Bourne, commits a series of murders in Hong Kong. Meanwhile the real Jason Bourne (now working as a college lecturer) returns home to find his wife kidnapped and is told the only way to get her back is to track down and capture the imposter.
It might be possible to summarise the overarching plot quickly, but the fine details of how events unfold are incredibly complex. Author Robert Ludlum unleashes a labyrinthine plot involving all sorts of shady government agencies, double-crossings, former allies turned enemies and former enemies turned ally. The plot twists and turns like an eel caught on a fishing line and, just when you think you have worked out where everything is heading, Ludlum pitches in another curve ball to throw you off-balance.
Yet, despite the many convoluted twists, you always have at least a general idea of what is going on, who is on which side and why characters are behaving in the way that they are. Ludlum marshals his characters and plotlines very skilfully, weaving them all together to blend a deep, satisfying and, yes, at times, mildly baffling plot. Where there is confusion and bewilderment, this is actually a positive thing, not a negative. It's not the bad type of confusion you get with poorly written or badly plotted book; it's that positive confusion where you don't know what is going on because Bourne hasn't unravelled the mystery yet. Any confusion is tinged with the sense of anticipation that eventually everything will become clear, and that the more pieces of the jigsaw are uncovered, the clearer the picture will become.
This gives the book a constant momentum which sees it rarely pause for breath. As with all the best thrillers, it races from one crisis or plot development to the next, allowing the reader enough time to understand what is going on and how events slot together, but never pausing for so long that the reader gets bored.
It also helps that there is a strong sense of continuity between the first and second books. The Bourne Supremacy feels like a genuine sequel, rather than just a second book featuring the same characters. Based on what you already know abut them, characters act as you would expect when faced with particular situations. Each of the returning characters has been changed as a result of their experiences in The Bourne Identity and those changes feel genuine and realistic. Marie, for example, has learned some of Bourne's basic survival skills so that she can now run and hide from pursuers; Bourne has learned to trust at least some people and not view everything in terms of mission objectives or targets. It's this progression of characters which helps them to feel very human, which in turn, helps the reader to identify with them. Each individual is shaped by the events they witness, even as they try to shape the events.
In book form, Ludlum obviously has far more time to develop characters, explore the often complex and contradictory relationships between them and make the fractured nature of Bourne's psyche far more obvious to the reader. This has a significant emotional impact as you invest a great deal more in the characters, wanting to see them survive or die, depending on how you feel about them.
Hand in hand with the strong plot and character development is an excellent sense of atmosphere and tension. I know very little about the book's setting, nor about the situations he describe, but they all feel utterly plausible. Within the context of the book, he creates a very real and very believable universe which both supports and drives forward the main plot.
Ludlum uses setting and atmosphere to good effect, building in regular set pieces to keep the excitement levels high, whilst balancing these with plot developments. Barely a chapter goes by without someone trying to kill Bourne, or him having to try and escape from a particularly nasty situation; yet this never becomes tiresome because each escape reveals another vital clue which takes him one step closer to his objective. Ludlum's careful balancing of plot with action makes the Bourne books just as much fun as their celluloid counterparts, albeit for different reasons.
There are plenty of people who will not get on with The Bourne Supremacy. There will be those who are put off by the book's monstrous size (almost 700 pages in the paperback version) and will never as far as starting to read it. There will be those who do start reading but will be dismayed to find that the book is not simply the film written down. Finally, there will be those simply find the complexities of the plot too much of a struggle. There will be many readers who fall by the wayside with this one for all sorts of reasons.
If you can overcome these three hurdles, you will find a gripping, well-written and convoluted tale that has a real sense of both plot and character development. Get to grips with those and you will soon find yourself immersed in Jason Bourne's shady and deadly world and devour this book eagerly, despite its humongous size.
The Bourne Supremacy
Orion, New Edition, 2004
© Copyright SWSt 2010
I read the Bourne Identity several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when i had the chance to pick up The Bourne Supremacy at a good price I took it. I had already seen all three films in the Bourne troliogy and thoroughly enjoyed each of them (despite the glaring differences between the first novel and film).
Before I begin to outline the plot and review this book i feel it's necessary to point out to potential buyers that this book was written in 1986 and therefore the political landscape is much different to today - as is the level of technology available. Therefore the films which are set in the present were forced to differ significantly from the novels on which they are based.
This book bares little-to-no resemblance to it's on screen counter-part. We begin the book with Bourne (aka David Webb) settled with his wife Marie in Canada, working as a teacher at a university. Bourne has settled his differences (to an extent) with his governement and with the help of his wife and phsychiatrist is rebuilding his life.....
However, in the perilous and fragile political landscape of China, the legend of Jason Bourne has been rekindled. A copycat is assissinating high ranking officals and threatening to plunge the far east - and potentially the world - into anarchy.
Marie is kidnapped and taken to Hong Kong. Bourne follows and is told by an underworld boss that she will be killed unless he delivers the imposter.
As David Webb slowly becomes Jason Bourne once more he frantically races through the far east searching for the killer, using his considerable and deadly skills to obtain clues that lead him ever closer to the one thing that can save Marie.
As he closes in on the killer he begins to unravel a shocking conspiracy that could destroy the far east.
This is an excellent follw-up to the Bourne Identity. I thoroughly enjoyed the depth and detail within this book - illustrating the political climate of China in the 1980's. As I was born in 1981 I found that as well as being an enjoyable read, I also learned a lot from this book.
Ludlum's capacity for attention to detail and suspense are amazing. The further I read the more engrossed I was and by the end I couldn't put this book down.
The second book in the trilogy adds a whole new level to the plot and storyline so well laid out in the first book. I have never before been a fan of trilogys in book form, or in film form. I dont mind a recurring character, however, this book has changed my opinion on that all together!
Robert Ludlum picks up right where he left off with the Bourne Identity, except now we get to see a whole new level to the Jason Bourne character and unlike many other authors who seem afraid to let a character age, Robert Ludlum allows Jason Bourne to mature and that is something very refreshing to see.
I once again thoroughly enjoyed this book as much as the first. If anything I felt that some plots in this book were slightly more comnplicated than they needed to be, however, ultimately Robert Ludlum was able to tie everything together and leave us with another thoroughly inspiring read
This time if you have seen the film first you will not be expecting what you find in the book as the film franchise seems to have gone off on its own direction, so I think to compare this book to the film of the same name would be unfair. This book is excellent in its own right and in some ways I would like to see a film taken from this book in its entirety.
For those of you who have watched the Bourne trilogy on film, there is no need to be put off reading the books because you already know the plot. This is not the case. If anything, the sequence of events in the films cover those loosely only in the first book, The Bourne Identity. This second book in the trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy, bears no real resemblance to the second film in the trilogy.
A warning to start with - if you have not read the first book and are planning to, this review will contain details that will spoil it for you. There are plot details from the first book intrinsic to the plot of the second, and need to be mentioned, however loosely, so read on but be warned.
Robert Ludlum's reputation as a master thriller writer is only enhanced by this, the second book in his Bourne trilogy. In the first book, The Bourne Identity, the amnesiac Jason Bourne discovered his true identity of David Webb, and that he was recruited by Medusa in Saigon to oust a terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, by a company known as Treadstone.
In The Bourne Supremacy, Bourne's allies, Alex Conklin and Mo Panov have ensured protection for Webb and his now wife, Marie, and they are living in peace and quiet when they are visited by a senior member of the US forces and informed that someone has been murdering high political figures in the Orient using the name of David's alias: Jason Bourne. Webb finds himself once again becoming Jason Bourne, cold and calculating, in order to protect himself and his family.
Ludlum takes us on a detailed sightseeing tour in this book. The Bourne Supremacy is set mainly in the Orient, quite handy with David Webb being a part-time lecturer in Oriental Studies. As Bourne, he travels around the Orient, particularly Phnom-Penh, as he hunts out the killer parading as himself, and seeks to unearth a larger conspiracy to launch the modern world into war.
Again, the author's description and research is of a very high standard. It is almost as if he is proving to the reader that he does know the areas he is setting the story in, and is not just writing out of fantasy. In Bourne, he has created a brilliant character, and the connection the 'assassin' has with the other characters is exploited to the full. The tale has the same intensity as the first book, but to this second is added the importance and very real feeling of personal involvement. Not only is someone using Bourne's name, his family and friends are now under threat.
Unfortunately, as the levels of intensity and clever plot increase from the first book, so do the dragging parts. Long, stuttering paragraphs that are hard to fathom are interwoven with beautifully flowing dialogue and action. It is very hard to follow in places and is not a book to read a couple of pages at a time. I felt I needed to sit down for long periods at a time to get through this.
Having said this, I was as engrossed in this book as I was in The Bourne Identity. It bears no resemblance to the film of the same name, and I believe this to be a good thing. I was not too impressed with the film, and was looking forward to a disappointing read. What I got was an intense 679 pages of master thriller writing, very descriptive and high in action and cleverly thought out plotlines, despite some hard to follow passages.
A brilliant sequel book to The Bourne Identity, this is a wonderfully crafted tale.
The book is available from amazon.co.uk for £5.99.
This review may also be posted on ciao.co.uk.
Thanks for reading.
I seem to have redeveloped the reading bug just recently. It had been a while since I sat down and actually concentrated on reading something. After seeing the Bourne Supremacy in the cinema a few weeks ago I decided to buy the book as it was only £3.73 in my local Tesco. I havent read the Bourne Identity and having seen the films didnt think that was an overly important matter. Of course not far into the book I realised that the films and the books were rather different. Infact there were only a few similarities that could be drawn between the two.
Following the mystery slaying of the Chinese Vice President in the back room of a Honk Kong club the US government is bewildered by the name claiming responsibility. The mark of Jason Bourne was left near to the murdered victims but theres one thing troubling the government, there never was a Jason Bourne. The name was a myth in the far east, used as a cover for an agent working in Europe. This new Bourne must be stopped before he succeeds in eliminating any more high ranking Chinese officials.
Meanwhile in Maine David Webb is finally beginning to get his life back on track. Hes slowly managing to put his live as Delta/Bourne behind him. That is until his wife, Marie, is kidnapped and David has no choice but to go to Hong Kong and try and rescue his wife. When he gets there though a different scenario is forthcoming and he must become Delta/Bourne once again and capture the impostor to get his wife back.
This is the first book of Ludlums Ive actually read and I have to say it certainly wont be the last. He seems to have a real talent for describing locations to actually make you feel like you are there. Its not that he goes into the details of each street, its more that if the characters are in a room hell give a description of the room to make you feel like you are also in it. I found this to be one of the most impressive aspects of his writing as it really immersed me into the book.
The other aspect of his writing I found as a real advantage was his character development. Rather than just follow on from the last book he made a lot of references back, with details, to events in the first book. As I hadnt read the first this made the book a lot more accessible to me than I actually thought it would have been. I thought at time he repeated a few of the historical events once to often but I really felt this opened the book up to a lot of people who just want a one off read.
Its this character development that really draws you into the book. As I read on I felt myself really getting into it and at times finding myself unable to put the book down. His descriptions of each character really makes you feel a whole range of emotion. Whether this is feeling compassion for David Webb at the loss of his wife or hoping that Delta gets his target there is a real range while you are reading.
Another aspect of Ludlums writing that really appealed to me was the way he developed each situation. Rather than jumping from one character to another mid-paragraph, he instead dedicated one paragraph at a time to each character in each location. Again although he was a little over descriptive in places, I did think that a lot of it was needed and helped to develop the story.
The book is perfect for anyone who would class the crime/adventure/spy genre as their types of book. At 679 pages it is quite a long one but its certainly worth every penny of the £3.73 that I paid for it. Its not even close to the plot of the film, so Id say if you were expecting it to be you would in one respect be disappointed. In the other respect though I think you would be pleasantly surprised and pleased as the book is certainly very impressive and in fact possibly better than the films plot.