Summer Reading Project #2: The Bourne Identity

This is the second book on my list of the summer. I wanted to expand my normal reading to stuff and quite frankly – book reading is one of those things that gets crammed out of my life when things get busy. It shouldn’t be but that is another post for another day.

My list for the summer:
The Great Gatsby (done)
The Bourne Identity (done)
The Bourne Supremacy (done)
The Bourne Ultimatum
Les Misérables
Ender’s Game Books – more on this later.

I LOVE the Bourne movies. (Well, Legacy was a bit of a letdown…) I honestly think they are some of the best spy movies ever made. So I had high expectations on the books – even though I had heard and read that they books were very different than the movies.

“Very different” doesn’t even come close to describing it. Let me tell what is the same for both of them:

A man is found floating in the Med Sea by fisherman and he doesn’t know who he is or how he got there. In the book, Bourne is nursed back to health by an alcoholic doctor in a fishing village and then goes to Zurich.

From there on – pretty much everything else is different. The movie uses some of the same names – Marie, Conklin, one of Bourne’s identity is Michael Caine – but they are two completely different story lines. And I think that was incredibly smart of the movie folks. Both book and movie deal with the larger theme of a man discovering who he really is and NOT liking what he finds then trying to change that when the whole world around him is working against him.

The basic story of Identity is while Bourne/Webb figures out who he is, he also is being hunted by the assassin Carlos, The Jackal – and he doesn’t know why. The action is intense and fast, moving from location to location. Marie is a very different character in the book but is Bourne’s ‘love interest’ – I use that term loosely.

I liked the book – it was a good “Spy” read. If you like James Bond and the like – you’ll love this book. It needs a PG-13 rating. There are a few spots of language and some sensuality in the book. Not explicit by any stretch of the imagination.

Couple of things that hit me comparing the book and the movie.

I think the book let’s Jason Bourne/David Webb off the hook for his “choices” than the movie did. In the book – we are given a backstory for Bourne/Webb that justifies his decision to become an assassin. So in the end, Bourne/Webb is still a ‘hero’ of sorts – albeit a conflicted one. As Bourne discovers who he is, it plays out like a journey in self-justification.

I like that the movies didn’t do that with the Bourne character. The movies were harsh – Bourne/Webb chose to be an assassin. So while he has hated what the government is doing to him – the bottom line is that he has some responsibility. At one point in time – he signed up for it. Willingly. So in the movie – Bourne has to ‘repent’ and ‘choose’ again a different path. In the book – he doesn’t have to wrestle with this. (At least, not yet.)

I like that the book and movie are so different. I can’t imagine how the book would translate into a movie given the details and political context and different characters that Ludlum deals with. There is little chance that any of that would transfer to a modern movie.

I’ve read other Ludlum’s books and while this one may be his most famous – I don’t think it was his best written. I enjoyed The Bancroft Strategy the most but Ludlum’s trademark details in the environment are here as well. You can see Zurich and Paris. He is/was so good at setting the scene.

One more minor complaint – the romance between Marie and Bourne…well. Let me just say – the movie handles this better than the book. It stressed me out trying to figure out how Bourne was going to eventually fall in love with a woman he holds at gunpoint for the first half of the book.

All in all – I am enjoying the books. Not as much as the movies – yet.


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