The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

I give up.  Halfway through this book and I’m throwing in the towel.  I can’t do it anymore.  Listen to me when I say this- I feel asleep reading this book.  No joke and I wish it was.

I tried to not let my bias in seeing the movie taint my picture of the book.  After all, I’d read books and seen the movie before.  A good example of a movie and book only having minor differences would be Stephen King’s Misery.  I saw the movie before the reading the book only because I had read Pet Cemetery (King again) and saw the movie.  It made me feel like my childhood had been wedgied and strung up the flagpole.

I’ll go over what I noticed, good and bad, in this novel.

If you saw the movie, Bourne is fished out of the ocean and treated on the boat where he stays until they reached Marseilles (it’s in France… we’re supposed to know that).  It’s short and sweet with more action than words.  In the book, the boat brings Bourne into the city where a drunken English doctor works on him.  Bourne doesn’t remember his name so the doctor gives him one- Jean-Pierre, the equivalent of ‘John’ in French.  Though they give him that name (and he later acknowledges it somewhat later in the book), the author is insistent on calling Bourne ‘man’.  They go through pages and pages of picking the brain for clues.

I just couldn’t muster any sympathy for the MC being pulled out of the water half-dead and not knowing who he is when he woke.  The writing at this point is disorientating which I assume might be to get the reader in the same frame of mind as the MC.  Assume. We know the meaning behind that, right?  If that’s the intent (can’t ask the author, he’s dead), it’s too cutesy and like walking into an inside joke you’re not a part of in the office.

While I found the writing of a higher grade than the last book I read, I found it lengthy and the description too detailed.  The overabundance of detail to the surroundings had no bearing at all to the story.  Bourne wasn’t going through details of his life, it was all prose.  Blech.

Ludlum’s an educated man and he uses a semi-colon a bit.  It’s used correctly but for me it makes the book seem like I’m reading some college term paper instead of an engaging story to suck me in.  His use of italics for the MC thinking (or any character) made me believe he loved digging the scenery but couldn’t be bothered to draw out the thought process.  Dialogue is the worst of this book.  Some of the characters drone on and on and never make you care about it no matter how many exclamation points are used.  He makes a point to do he said/she said when anyone could follow the conversation (however dull) between two characters.  As in only two characters in the scene…. Unless a mouse scampered across the floor and started singing “La Bamba” and I missed it watching an eyelid movie.  The conversations are wooden and often full on stupid but at least he doesn’t take a trip to cliché land.

I mentioned the use of ‘man’ while Bourne is with the doctor.  After he leaves, still for some reason not using Jean-Pierre, he’s referred to as ‘the patient’.  Good grief!  The doctor isn’t treating him anymore and he’s for removed from Marseilles.  Even if we humor the fact he might still be a patient considering he goes back to the things the doctor instructed him to do to get his memory back, Bourne rebukes them as he voices them in his head.  Uh wait….. fifty-three pages in the MC admits he doesn’t like the name given to him.  It’s almost like the author tried to explain his fetish for ‘patient’ and ‘man’.  BINGO! We get to page sixty-two and he knows his name.  Good grief.  FINALLY!!!!

Remember Marie in the movie?  Some homeless chick trying to get a Visa at the embassy?  In the book she’s some educated person who works for the financial section in Canada.  She also gets abused (smacked across the face a couple of times) by Bourne and kidnapped.  He does everything he can to keep her from escaping.  That’s okay, Bourne will say he’s sorry (she believes him), save her life and she’ll fall in love just like that.  Oh boy… Stockholm Syndrome anyone?

Treadstone is mentioned but so is this other assassin called Carlos who never shows up in the movie.  I think they took the idea of Jason Bourne and refashioned the story into something marketable.  The scenes switching in the book weave some big conspiracy theory only the author giggles about in a candle lit room.

Author’s favorite phrase? STOP IT! I agreed and stopped reading this book.  It pains me to say this but just watch the movie.  Its pace is better and the story is more believable.  Matt Damon gives Jason Bourne more emotion blinking an eye than Ludlum managed in this 600 page monstrosity.


2 responses

  1. Spy thrillers are a special breed, and you have to wired to read them and enjoy them, I think. I loved all of Ludlum’s books, but I attribute that to me also being heavy into spy games, conspiracies, and other nonsense like that.

  2. The whole premise of the book is well conceived, I just thought the execution not to my liking. Too much is spoon feed to me and to be halfway through it and still feel as if the pace is a light jog frustrates me.

    I’ve bookmarked my place in the book and when I have more patience- very lacking these days- I’ll finish it. I haven’t finished the last Drizzt Drow Salvatore book either not because the writing is terrible- far from it- I just got sick of feeling like I’m reading some fatbeard’s wankfest.

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