THE BOURNE IDENTITY
This was another book I casually tossed into a box at an auction/barn sale. $5 to fill a box with books makes you prone to grabbing anything that looks the least bit interesting or a book you may have heard of at some point in your life. The Bourne Identity was one of those titles I had heard of, from the blockbuster movie...apparently they were based on these books? I have not seen the movie yet, but I've always wanted to. So, what better way to experience the movie than to read the book. As anyone who reads a lot knows - the book is always better than the movie! Anyway, this name recognition was what made me pick up this book; I'm so glad I did.
I try and give a book 100 pages or so before I give up on it. I'll say, I had no problem reaching 100 on this one. It has taken me a bit longer than usual to reach page 100 for a couple of reasons. One, it is almost Xmas so my reading time has drastically decreased due to the demands of the season, and B) I find I have to really concentrate; read every word. No skimming in this book. I found in a few places the action was so fast paced, things changed in the blink of an eye, if I speed read a paragraph (even a sentence in some cases), I'm was lost. I had to backtrack to find how we got to this brand new place. It really showed how lazy I reader I must be, how often I glaze over words...what else have I been missing?
I have read a couple of similar action packed 'spy' novels, but, this one has far exceeded them all (which racks up to at least a dozen or so). There were countless surprises and shocks, but, intermixed was the logic that made it all believable. Ludlum throws a few small nuggets of information in brief conversations that later come back to explain otherwise unbelievable situations. A small example would be Bourne making the mistake of casually mentioning to his trustworthy banker that his stay in Zurich was nice, especially the view from his room overlooking a lake. Later on the when the goons, who are out to kill him, show up at his hotel Ludlum brings back that conversation about the hotel overlooking the lake. Since there are only a couple of hotels overlooking a lake it seems plausible that he could have been found. The small details like this keep me the reader engaged in the story. Furthermore, making me keep tabs myself on what's being said and who's saying it. I find I get deeper and deeper into the deception and mystery the more I read, the more I thought about it. The book was full of twists and turns, big and small, that made me want to keep chugging through the pages.
The story is centred around Jason Bourne. He takes a bullet in the head and it injures his brain, leading to amnesia. Are you thinking, haha that amnesia story line is used so often in sitcoms for cheap laughs? Not a laughing matter in this book. I found instead of making me laugh it took me in, took me on the journey with Bourne as he tried to find himself...it really added to the plot of deception and lies because you really had no idea what should happen. As in, who are the 'good' guys, who are the 'bad' guys. It really worked with this type of thriller plot. Back to the story, Bourne goes from knowing nothing about himself to finding out he has some hidden talents and instincts that seem to be of a darker nature - crime, fighting, manipulation...even killing! He has a wild journey through Europe (aren't the best thriller novels set in Europe?) finding out about hidden Swiss bank accounts, assassination plots, and his talent for getting out of near death situations. For a good chunk of the first section of the book he is being chased by mysterious thugs out to kill him. This goes on for pages and pages, at around page 100 he has been shot 8 or 10 times and is on the verge of death. Luckily for him there is a kind hearted Canadian there to save him!
Yes, I said Canadian! You have to love it when an international spy novel has a Canuck playing a major role. In reality though, this character was used as a convenient hostage and human shield by Bourne and put in many dangerous situations. This character should be traumatized for life after this, BUT, bless her heart this caring Canadian rescues Bourne from certain death as he lay bleeding out on the street. She helps even though she was beaten, abused, and on the verge of being executed herself all because Bourne kidnapped her. Ah, good ol' Canadian. If you are sensing a love story forming you may be right...which is the part of the book I find completely ridiculous! But, I'm willing to overlook this for a couple of reasons. One, the rest of the book is mind blowing, and B) Ludlum picked a Canadian over every other nationality in the world.
After the initial mad rush of page after page of action packed chasing and shooting the book slows down a little. The middle section of the book is where Bourne starts piecing together his true identity. Although there is not as much heart pumping action, and Bourne does not get shot anymore, the page turning desire does not cease. Clue after clue leads Bourne towards finding out who he is, where he is from, and why it seem the entire underworld is out to get him. This is where the amnesia plot plays a key role. As Bourne gathers all of these clues we, the reader, are piecing everything together with him...in one way, it's almost like we are Bourne. Then we are given a shocker, a clue that Bourne does not know. This information changes our whole perspective on the story - on who Bourne is and why it seems everyone is trying to kill him.
The last section of the book is the climax, which means lots of suspense and action. All of the loose ends are tied up and we are all led to the same conclusion as to who Jason Bourne really is. Then in the last dozen pages the hero (Bourne) and the villain (Carlos) square off. Bourne is shot again and Carlos gets away. This is the ideal ending because it leaves everything open...I'm left wanting, desiring, craving the next book! Thank you very much Ludlum, I didn't get the Bourne Supremacy - the next installment of this series - in my $5 box of books.
I mentioned earlier that I thought reading the book would be better than watching the movie. I'm sure there are many out there that argue maybe in this case watching the movie, with all it's special effects, might add to the action. But, I find I've taken so much time reading this book that I've gotten so much out of it. Instead of all the small details of the plot and mystery being condensed into a couple of hours I've managed to stretch this out for weeks. I've spent hours and hours reading and thinking about the book...which I think makes for a better overall experience.
Book Club Questions:
- If you had amnesia what instincts would show up for you?
- Swiss banks. Ever been to one? You think they are really that cold and secretive?
- Is the action believable to you? For eg, getting shot 10 times in many different occasions in one night and living to tell about it! Is the writing so strong that this doubt never crosses your mind.
- This book was written 30 years ago. Other than the lack of internet and cell phones, does the plot and story seem relevant in today's world?