Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Bourne Identity (1980) by Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Identity is an extremely famous novel (although it never was made into a good movie - even the movie of the same name starring Matt Damon changed the story and somehow did not appeal to Ludlum fans). The Bourne Identity has been acknowledged as one of the better spy novels of all time (published in 1980). The concept of a man, who does not know who he is, but knows for sure that he was somebody whom people are hunting in a very determined manner, and who keeps on running and running in order to find out who he is (at the same time, running away from his pursuers) makes for a very fascinating story. Throw in the US Government agencies, throw in Carlos the Jackal, and throw in a romance, and you get a very gripping book.

The Bourne Identity (1980) by Robert Ludlum
The first in a series of 3 written by Robert Ludlum (the others being The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) and 2 more books in the same series written by Eric Van Lustbader written after Ludlum's death, you should ideally read the whole series and then you will admire the way that Robert Ludlum spins a fast-paced thriller.
The book starts with a man picked up from the Mediterranean Sea by a fishing boat and brought to a local doctor, a former good doctor, but now mostly a drunk. His body has many bullets in it, and in order to save him, the doctor gives up his drink for some time, and then saves him. It takes some time to recover, but the patient finally recovers. He soon discovers that he has amnesia, does not remember who he is, but there are some interesting circumstances around him - he has had signs of plastic surgery, and also surgically implanted in his body is a microfilm with the details of a Swiss account with 4 million dollars. Soon the patient also discovers that he has the instinct of a skilled fighter, when he has a fight with a local; as a result of this fight, he needs to leave fight.
He eventually gets to the Swiss Bank in Zurich, and soon discovers a name, Jason Bourne. This may or may not be his name, but he has to struggle when people at the bank know who he is, when he himself does not know who he his. And from this time, he is now a marked men when people get to know that he is alive. He struggles to stay away from them, and soon he takes a woman hostage, Marie St Jacques. He is now thoroughly enmeshed in a struggle with people (who may be from the famous Carlos the Jackal); he also has to face the possibility that he may be himself an assassin. The circumstances seem to point out that. But he also shows a very positive side to his character when he saves Marie after she is abducted and marked for killing.
As the plot progresses, you get to know more facts. He is / was an agent of the US Government, but then suddenly disappears, and then his prints appear at a location where some US agents are killed. Based on medical advice, the US now believes that he has turned hostile and needs to be hunted down. How can he stay one step ahead of his pursuers and make his former controllers believe that he did not turn, but instead lost his memory ? Read the novel to find out.

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