Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Identity
Robert Ludlum

Published in 1980, The Bourne Identity tells part of the story of Jason Bourne, a man who, well... this gets a bit complicated.

First of all, the book and the movie of the same name, while related, tell very different stories. I have a fascination with the conversions of novels into movies, and it was only after I watched the movie (9 years after it was released) that I bothered to track down and read the book, mostly to see how it had been converted into a movie.

Both the movie and the book center around an individual suffering severe amnesia who gradually discovers his past. Some of the other characters share names between the book and the movie, but the story arcs are very different.

In the book we learn that Jason Bourne is part of a plot to remove a master assassin named Carlos. He has to figure that out of course, thanks to the amnesia. As in the movie there is a woman, Marie, who helps him, though in the book she's an expert in international finance instead of a student.

Oddly - and rarely, in my experience - the movie may actually be better than the book, though it's a close thing. In the book I didn't buy the relationship between Bourne and Marie. She fell for him too easily given their "introduction" and nothing in his character made me think he loved her, even though those words were used. Early chapters bogs down in needless detail about certain financial transactions. Later chapters moved along better, but the details of some of Bourne's history got hazy, so things weren't perfect there either. And, frankly, Carlos seemed too good - and too powerful - to be true.

That being said, Bourne himself has a less nasty past in the book than he does in the movie. He feels a bit cleaner here, and possibly a bit more likable. The movie, while being more up to date in many ways, gives Bourne an uglier background, one where his motivations and origin are a lot more gray than white. It then promptly sugar coats it, though, leaving the audience happy and probably not thinking about it too much.

I guess the book is worth reading. Ludlum did get some things right, but it's not perfect.