Who can forget the image of Matt Damon's swift hand-to-hand combat as the assassin, Jason Bourne, in the 2002 movie, The Bourne Identity. The film was a blockbuster hit, and spawned three sequels. It was a thrill-a-minute ride with almost non-stop action from beginning to end. A few weeks ago, I decided to give the book, which the movie was loosely based on, a read.
When I say "loosely based on", I really mean VERY loosely, as in there were only two characters from the book that actually made it to the film, one being Jason Bourne, and the other being Alexander Conklin. Robert Ludlum's book, The Bourne Identity is almost completely different from the movie. Considering Hollywood's tradition of not basing a book adaptation on the book itself, this should come as no surprise.
Released in 1980, The Bourne Identity tells the story of Jason Bourne, a man who possesses remarkable survival and combat skills who suffers from amnesia, and must seek to discover his true identity. His task is made more difficult by several shadowy groups, a professional assassin, and the CIA, who all want him dead.
Let me start by saying that Ludlum's book is not the in-your-face action-packed thrill ride that the movie was. That's not to say it isn't filled with action, but the book adds an element of suspense and ambiguity into the character of Jason Bourne that is lacking in Hollywood's version. Ludlum brings the reader deep into the psyche of a man with no memory, and gives insight into the internal turmoil suffered by Bourne as pieces of the puzzle come together to reveal a dark past that repulses him.
The book is in not only a suspenseful thriller, but I also found it to be an interesting study on how, when taken out of context, information drawn from fragments of memories can take on absolutely erroneous meanings. As he struggles to recover his lost memory, Jason Bourne draws conclusions about who he is based on bits of information he gathers, and finds it difficult to live with what he believes to be the truth. But in the end some of his conclusions are proven wrong. The mental rollercoaster on which Jason Bourne rides through this book really adds to the characterization of the main protagonist.
Some books become very dated very quickly because of their references to specific technology or events. The Bourne Identity is not one of these books. Even though it was released in 1980, it does a fairly good job of standing the test of time. There were only a few moments which I felt were a bit archaic. Otherwise, it was easy to visualize the story happening in present day as much as in 1980.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Bourne Identity. It is far more psychological than its Hollywood counterpart. However, don't plan on reading it over a weekend. It's a long book, but well worth the time.