Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Report: The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum

This was a big book, and a difficult read. Maybe it's the times I find myself in, maybe it's just a product of its own time (written in the late 1970's) and doesn't fit well with new-millenium taste. Regardless, I found the language to be a trifle melodramatic especially when the book tries to convey the protagonist's disorientation, panic, passion and other emotions. I didn't think it was done well. I found the characters to be a little shallow and a few times had to make the effort to recall which names belonged to which dramatis personae and what their role was in the overall scheme.

However, the plot... oh my goodness, the plot! Complex, layered, tense, twisty! The characters fit into it like beautiful puzzle-pieces, their individual prejudices leading them to make logical mistakes that end up increasing the protagonist's jeopardy. That the book is about a person who is pretending to be another person who is pretending to be a third person is only the simplest part of things. That this person develops amnesia complicates the whole thing and places the reader in the mind of a man who does not know who he is, or who he is supposed to be pretending to be, or who that person is pretending to be. Although unraveling the mystery was occasionally drudge work, the mystery itself was engaging enough to keep me reading.
That the book revolves around Carlos the Jackal, a real-life terrorist whose legend far outstripped his reality, adds an interesting touch of historical realism I hadn't expected. Unfortunately, this reliance on realism forces the book to let its Carlos escape at the end, providing an unsatisfactory conclusion to the action.

I've seen the Matt Damon movie. I enjoyed it. As often happens in Hollywood, though, the movie has drifted so far from the source material that the two bear only a tangential relationship. The book is far more complex and forces the reader to do far more work to truly understand the events.

Ulysses Rating: 3 - I enjoyed this.

1 comment:

David Stock said...

Isn't that always the case? If you're a book reader you'll know the difference but for normal movie-goers waiting for some action, its definitely a catch. :)