Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity is a book I never knew existed. I’ve watched the Bourne films as they’ve come out (with the exception of Jason Bourne). He’s a likeable hero, played by a talented actor. I only discovered there was a book first when I found it on my dad’s bookshelf.
Not surprisingly, the book tells a different story in far greater detail. Ludlum begins the story on a boat in a stormy night with an unknown man who is shot, then knocked off the boat into the sea. So, when the man is found in the next scene and brought to the doctor who nurses him back to life, the reader already knows more than he does about what caused amnesia. After this, though, we are led along quite closely as he discovers clues about his identity and his life before.
Quite quickly, the man without a name learns that he not simply a businessman. He’s haunted by incriminating knowledge that he can’t explain, by instincts the average person doesn’t have – but he has no idea why. Along the way he finds an unexpected ally and many enemies. He must think on his feet and trust his instincts without knowing why he has them. He has to face flashbacks that make no sense and piece together details from his past that he starts to wish he didn’t need to know.
Ludlum gets points for somehow writing action scenes – fight scenes – that the reader can follow along with. And his book is smart, full of small strategic details that pull you to the edge of your seat. Keeping up with the cast of characters, though, is a bit of a challenge. A meeting comprising of four or more men would be described once, followed by paragraphs of dialogue. Despite this, the story remains compelling, and as it hurtles to the end you are desperate to find out: Is he who he thinks he is? Will his unknown enemies get what they want? Who, really, is Jason Bourne?
Definitely worth the 500+ pages. Yes, even if you’ve seen the movie.