Book review of The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Jason Bourne is one of the most famous action stars you can find in books. Ludlum was one of the first to do it (despite Fleming of course) and has gone on to write a very successful trilogy and then have many other books written under the Bourne name as a result. The Bourne Identity is the first in the series – but is it my sort of action thriller?

The Bourne Identity book review
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The Bourne Identity introduces us to Jason Bourne who wakes up without much memory of his previous life. He doesn’t know where he has come from, why he’s ended up where he has and these talents he has are unknown to him. It’s a great premise for a story: a man doesn’t know why he’s a killing machine so spends the next 450 pages or so finding out all of the secrets of his past. But is the way that Ludlum writes it engaging or not? Read on to find out.

The Bourne Identity plot – 3.5/5

The premise for the plot of The Bourne Identity is stated above: the book starts with Bourne waking up with no memory and he spends the rest of the book trying to work out where he’s come from with it all being much larger than he could ever have imagined.

Now this sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? And everything you’d want from this sort of storyline is there, however, unfortunately, the way that Ludlum delivers it can really drag on at times. It’s a book where you will very often find yourself reading a couple of pages and realise those pages could have been digested down into a much shorter sentence. There’s so much dialogue in this book, at times, it can really drag.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great action scenes in this book and most of the dialogue is potentially useful for character building and such. However, it really felt just a tad too much to keep me gripped throughout.

I knew the outcome of this book before due to the famousness of the story and also having seen the films, so the surprises along the way were merely me remembering that that thing was a thing. If you’ve never heard of the story of Bourne before, it is a great journey. I must say this book doesn’t do as good a job as the film of simplifying what you’re actually supposed to be finding out but if you stick with it, it’s still a rewarding discovery.

The Bourne Identity characters – 3/5

I must say characters aren’t Ludulm’s best aspect. Everybody in this book could be the same character and I’m not sure you’d notice the difference. Everyone has a fairly short temper, everybody is over-emotional and everybody over talks about everything they want to discuss. They all ask questions upon questions without rarely needing an answer to any of them.

Despite everything I’ve said, the love interest in this story is the only person who has any sort of different personality. She’s the only one in the book that I was really that interested in and wanted to succeed throughout. She keeps Bourne grounded throughout, she supports him throughout and she is also ready to kick butt which is a nice change from all of the other characters who are simply “military” type people.

The Bourne Identity summary – 3/5

The Bourne Identity is a book that had so much potential. It’s the beginning of a book trilogy that is hugely successful and has gone on to become one of the most successful film trilogies of all time too. It’s a book that I felt, as a fan of the action genre, I had to read. However, it’s also a book that I felt was very convoluted and unnecessarily long.

Read The Bourne Identity if you have the patience and love reading deep dialogue that explores every single possible angle but avoid The Bourne Identity if you want an easy, light read that focuses more on the action and plot.

2 thoughts on “Book review of The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

  • David Metcalf

    Has nobody ever noted (publicly, at least) that Ludlum “borrowed” rather heavily from Ernest Lehman’s book “North by Northwest” (and Hitchcock’s film) and, even more obviously, from Grady’s “Six Days of the Condor” (and the Pollack/Redford screen adaptation, “Three Days of.,,)? Each of Ludlum’s “inspirations” was a better read (and more gripping watch): lighter, more clever, more intense and (arguably) more approachable. Of course, the Greenglass/Damon interpretations left a more lasting impression in the public mind—deserved or not. Just sayin’.

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