Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Written Word Wed. - What? The Movie's Different From the Book? That's Crazy Talk!

Well, I was going to talk about Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy, but my head is killing me, so an in-depth review will have to wait 'til later; for now, suffice it to say that I devoured all three of them, and made a special trip to Barnes & Noble as soon as I got back to Denton so I could use the gift-card my co-workers gave me for graduation so I could pick up the semi-sequel trilogy The Liveship Traders. So, instead of a brand new review, I'll leave you with another of my left-over reviews from my Genre Fiction class. This week's entry was my Thriller selection, The Bourne Identity

Ludlum, Robert. The Bourne Identity. New York: Richard Marek Publishers, 1980. ISBN: 0-399-90070-5

The Bourne Identity follows the adventures of an amnesiac man who is found drifting, half-dead, in the Mediterranean Sea. After being nursed back to health by a local doctor, the man follows the only clue he has to his true identity, which leads him to a Swiss bank account, and a name: Jason Bourne. But his quest to rediscover his past soon results in several attempts on his life. Bourne kidnaps a Canadian government worker, Dr. Marie St. Jacques, to help him escape from one such attempt. Although initially terrified of Bourne, Marie soon discovers that Bourne’s actions are born out of desperation and confusion, and after he risks his own life to save hers, she becomes determined to help him get to the bottom of the mystery that is his life. However, the closer they get to the truth, the more Bourne pushes her away, as all the clues seem to point to one conclusion: Bourne is really the ruthless international assassin known as Cain. Marie refuses to believe that the man she has begun to fall in love with could be the conscienceless killer known as Cain, and the two struggle to sift through all the lies and deceptions surrounding Bourne’s history while also avoiding the forces of Cain’s rival, the assassin known as Carlos, as well as U.S. government agents who are hunting Bourne for reasons of their own . . . reasons that hold the key to unlocking Bourne’s past.

The Bourne Identity is an example of as Espionage Thriller. Bourne is constantly struggling with the question of who he can trust and, thanks to his amnesia, that question even applies to himself to some degree. As his memories start to gradually resurface, Bourne begins to reacquire the specialized skills of a spy, and since the book is viewed primarily through his eyes, as he rediscovers these skills so does the reader, thus fulfilling the Thriller’s dependence on exploring the minutiae of a given profession or field. The question of Bourne’s identity serves as the puzzle to be solved, and the conflict with international assassins and government agencies gives the story a larger scope. Bourne is isolated from help through his ignorance of his true past, but through his struggles and the help of Marie (the veritable romantic interest/sidekick) he is eventually able to reinvent himself and begin to find peace. Ludlum increases the tension by occasionally switching the point of view of the narration, allowing the reader to learn things about Bourne’s past that he himself is unaware of.

Overall, I enjoyed The Bourne Identity. I think it could quite easily be described as a “page-turner,” especially towards the later half of the book when the reader has all the information about Bourne’s situation, but every other character is working under some sort of false assumption. Although, this did lead to some annoyance on my part when one of the US agents allows his assumptions to override all common sense and completely ignore Bourne’s claims of amnesia without considering them at all. I also felt that the expository sections of the novel were often constructed in a clunky fashion, with the dialogue coming across as forced and unnatural. I also felt that the relationship between Bourne and Marie was a tad unrealistic, with her placing such enormous trust in a man who, only days before had kidnapped her and killed several men in front of her. Their relationship felt more like an excuse to give Bourne someone to rely on, rather than a natural outgrowth of the characters themselves.

I would definitely recommend The Bourne Identity to a fan of Thrillers. There is a fair amount of violence in the book, but nothing too terribly graphic. The book might also appeal to mystery fans, as Bourne puzzles through the various clues to his true identity. While it felt a little off to me, the relationship of Bourne and Marie could conceivably make this book of interest to Romance fans looking to branch out to other genres, since it is Marie’s love and trust in Bourne’ inherent goodness that pushes them dig past the initial conclusions of his assassin past.