Sunday, November 13, 2016

Book Review: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

After watching all five of the movies spawned from the series, I decided to check out the book that began the series back in 1980. Robert Ludlum's spy thriller starts in a very similar way to the movie with a man discovered in the ocean floating with bullets holes and a bank account number in his skin. The recovery process takes a lot longer in the novel as Ludlum has time to space out the injuries and is obligated to move directly towards the action. The mystery is interesting enough as the doctor who cares for the mysterious stranger discovers all sorts oddities like facial changes  and a lack of history.

The stranger eventually does recover and heads towards Zurich where the account numbers lead him. He discovers that he is hunted but also has a fortune that he can utilize to disappear. As he ventures through these European cities, he also realizes that his senses and instincts are beyond anything expected and allow him to avoid capture as professionals seek to murder him. The tension is steady as Bourne stays on the run and eventually he runs into Marie.

The encounter with the love interest was much simpler in the movie, Bourne simply paid Marie to borrow her car. In the novel, this meeting was a major source of action and Marie is actually a more intelligent woman as she is an economist attending a convention. There is trauma from the rapid inclusion into a violent lifestyle and Ludlum has time to develop the relationship a lot more though it still feels strange.

The biggest plot point that I'm surprised was left out of the movies was the battle against a deadly hitman named Carlos who leads a large network of individuals to hunt and kill large targets. Bourne was created as Delta, Cain, Charlie, or other names to work on a project to intimidate and destroy this deadly assassin. As Bourne recovers from his amnesia, not only does he have to escape and contend with the government agencies trying to cover up and a deadly assassin hellbent on murdering Bourne for revenge. I can only guess the script writers took out this plot point to avoid convolution. 

The book expanded and enlightened me on how this Bourne series began and why it achieved popularity. It was published in 1980 and the spy thriller was tied strongly to the Vietnam war and the cold war espionage thrillers. The movie took an updated technological approach that dealt with our fear of 9/11 and spying on the citizenry. The theme that translate from words to screen is the concept of guilt asking a question of identity and if one can't remember then are they truly guilty of their past. I enjoy seeing how these books are adapted and the choices that creative writers take in making a book. I enjoyed Ludlum's writing in this novel as well, especially the quick actions scenes that are written with short, clipped sentences but still clearly described. I will have to pick up some of the sequels. 

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