The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum

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I was pretty blown away by The Bourne Supremacy on the big screen a few weeks ago — thought the story was terrific, the acting was fun, and the direction was really great. I knew that the filmmakers had taken some (a lot of) license with the story, really just keeping the character of Jason Bourne. But I had such a great time at the movie that I thought I’d pick up The Bourne Identity from the bookstore and do a re-read.

Now, the first thing you should know is that I read most of this while I was on the tarmac at Chicago-Midway airport with nothing else to do during a very very long delay. So I was a captive audience, so to speak. They were playing some very bad Jennifer Aniston movie in an attempt to placate us, so I just tried to escape into the book.

And I’ll tell you that it pretty much worked. What a great character, what a great beginning to a story. There’s a bunch of detail that I don’t want to give away, of course, but very near to the beginning of the book, there’s a scene where the main character, Jason Bourne, who’s suffering
from amnesia, goes into a bank in Geneva to open up a safety deposit box and try to remember a little bit of his former life — and as you might imagine, things don’t go extremely well for him. The book starts running at this very early point and doesn’t really slow down until the end. Jason
Bourne is one of the very best espionage-era characters that I can remember, and this early scene is one of the best (it’s reproduced in a terrific way in the movie, too, although a little different).

Anyway, I’m very happy to have read the book again — it was really entertaining. One thing that was interesting is that it was written in the late seventies — so fairly close on the heels of the Vietnam War. For me, born in 1971, the Vietnam War is more historical than anything else, and I’ve never really known anything different than a pretty cynical view of this particular war — but it was interesting to read a book that was written close in time to the actual event.

The other thing that always strikes me when I read books like this that are 20-30 years old is the massive difference in information technology. These stories would be so different with Google and cell phones, and e-mail in your pocket. And yet the human story basically still works.

Only downside to the book is that it tends to drag a little bit in the middle — there’s a lot of running around Paris that probably doesn’t need to happen for quite so long. If I hadn’t been on a plane, I might have gotten stuck.

But a fun read, all in all.

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