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Jason Bourne #1

The Bourne Identity

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Who is Jason Bourne? Is he an assassin, a terrorist, a thief? Why has he got four million dollars in a Swiss bank account? Why has someone tried to murder him?...

Jason Bourne does not know the answer to any of these questions. Suffering from amnesia, he does not even know that he is Jason Bourne. What manner of man is he? What are his secrets? Who has he killed?

566 pages, Paperback

First published February 4, 1980

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About the author

Robert Ludlum

479 books4,558 followers
Robert Ludlum was the author of twenty-seven novels, each one a New York Times bestseller. There are more than 210 million of his books in print, and they have been translated into thirty-two languages. He is the author of The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Chancellor Manuscript, and the Jason Bourne series--The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum--among others. Mr. Ludlum passed away in March, 2001. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

Some of Ludlum's novels have been made into films and mini-series, including The Osterman Weekend, The Holcroft Covenant, The Apocalypse Watch, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. A non-Ludlum book supposedly inspired by his unused notes, Covert One: The Hades Factor, has also been made into a mini-series. The Bourne movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, have been commercially and critically successful (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,233 reviews
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,820 followers
July 11, 2012
First of all let me say...the recent movie with Matt Damon, I hated it. They butchered the story. I understand shortening for time (as in The Lord of the Rings) I understand combining characters...but why take a book's title then completely rewrite the story?

I like this book and its sequels. I hate the movie and its sequels.

Please try reading the books and finding out what the plot actually is. The book is well plotted, thought out, with complex characters. I believe you'll like it.

A man wakes up with amnesia...not a unique plot even then...and has to put together who he is and what's going on from few clues. This can be difficult in the best of times. If people are trying to kill you that can sometimes add to the...stress.

Microfilm, competing assassins, double and triple identities and of course a love story. As noted, this is a great read and it's much better than the movie by the same name in my opinion. (Although back in 1988 there was a miniseries staring Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith that stayed very close to the book. The special effects are dated and so on, but it's better story-wise if you care to look it up.)

If all you know about the The Bourne Identity is the Matt Damon movie you don't know the story. Really, do yourself a favor and read the novel.
Profile Image for Duckie.
101 reviews63 followers
July 18, 2012
I don't remember how this ended because I had to buy myself a Jack-and-Coke to get through the last chapter. Ludlum belongs in a very small, elite group of authors who don't know what words mean. To illustrate this, here are some passages from the book followed by the first image that came to mind when I read them:

"'If I scream, Monsieur?' The powdered mask was cracked with lines of venom now, the bright red lipstick defining the snarl of an aging, cornered rodent."

"Himself. The chameleon. The charade had worked...He had done such things before, experienced the feeling of a similar accomplishment before. He was a man running through an unfamiliar jungle, yet somehow instinctively knowing his way, sure of where the traps were and how to avoid them. The chameleon was an expert."

Aaaand this last one was basically my face the whole time I was reading this:

Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 5 books865 followers
September 17, 2009
I loved the movie and heard that I the book was comparatively awesome. And it was.

The thing is: I haven't the faintest idea how the movie came out of the book. Beyond the premise of a man fished from the sea with no memory but incredible ingrained abilities and talents that make it look like he's really probably and assassin with no amnesia, and the fact that the first act after the prologue occurs in Zürich and deals with a Swiss bank, nothing is the same.

Sure, there's a girl named Marie, but she's an entirely different character. Sure, there are people trying to kill the man named Jason Bourne, but they're entirely different men. Sure, there's an American government-run company called Treadstone Seventy-One that is looking for Bourne, but for entirely different reasons. But are all these differences a bad thing?

No. They are not.

I really think the first Bourne movie is among the best action films ever created. That said, for most of its running time, Ludlum's 1980 novel is better than the movie. The premise is so much more intriguing and Bourne's turmoil better perceived. Instead of an enemy as doughy and effeminate as cloak and dagger U.S. senators and secret servicemen, the novel pits Bourne against the unbeatable assassin, Carlos the Jackal (though Ludlum refrains from the colourful animamorphism), and his vast array of human resources. The book is action-packed, one of those thrillaminnut rides that refuses, for the most part, to let up. I don't read cheap thrillers often, but The Bourne Identity was worth my time.

And I like to think that my time is valuable.

This is not to say that Ludlum's thriller is not without fault. The book's requisite romance is rushed and artificial. We know that Bourne and his interest are in love solely because Ludlum tells us that this is the case, not because we see any evidence that this should be the case. And, actually, there is a far greater problem. The climax is poorly wrought and much more difficult to follow than anything previous encountered in the book. The ending is not satisfying in that by the time it comes, emotional resonance has long-since evaporated.

But still. I was in love with the book until the last forty pages or so.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
972 reviews17.6k followers
April 23, 2023
Jason Bourne’s amnesia is identical in so many ways to my own.

For one thing, I’ve forgotten the salient points of most of the Ludlum oeuvre, though I filled my idle commuting and travelling moments with most of them, between 1977 and 1984.

And why then can I nevertheless remember highlights of the Dickens, Shakespeare and Bronte works I read more than 10 years earlier?

Duh. Great writers don’t pull their punches!

You always remember a real Wallop.

Ludlum, on the other hand, thrives on shadow boxing. And filling his books with shadow characters.

You know, when a friend and I attended the opening night of the Matt Damon flick they made of this book, the stereotypically leftist intellectual couple in front of us INSTINCTIVELY connected the dots in Ludlum’s shadow dance.

Guess you’ve gotta be a TV fan. I couldn’t do that.

TV fans catch every one of those outré aperçus that the spotless onscreen hero mumbles in a breathless undertone.

Unlike me, they’re au fait.

I’m quite the opposite: my meds shroud my brain in a pea soup fog.

So I SLEEP at night - rather than staying awake wondering what my boss REALLY meant when muttering at me.

So there’s a benefit there.

Anyway, as one who misses the hidden connections between Jason’s incoherent mumblings and the latest covert weaponry - and thank heaven I do! - Ludlum is at least as good as warm milk to put me to sleep.

The best thing Ludlum and other writers of his ilk have done for me is to tell me there’s more substantially satisfying writing out there than mindless paranoiacs like him can produce.

And again, thank heaven, Mr Bourne, that the closest I come to paranoid amnesia in my oh-so-pedestrian days is in my many dumb seniors’ moments!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
February 23, 2022
The Bourne Identity (Jason Bourne, #1), Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum (May 25, 1927, New York, - March 12, 2001, Naples, Florida) was an American author of 27 thriller novels, best known as the creator of Jason Bourne from the original The Bourne Trilogy series.

Jason Bourne has no past, and maybe has no future. His memory is empty. He only knows this: when he was thrown out of the Mediterranean, his body was full of bullets. There are a few clues as well. A microfilm frame has been surgically implanted under her pelvis, and there is evidence that plastic surgery has also changed her face. He says strange things in his delirium, there are J.B. passwords and a number on the film negative, which refers to a bank account in Switzerland, and a fortune of four million dollars, named Jason Bourne, and ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دهم ماه فوریه سال2022میلادی

عنوان: هویت بورن؛ نویسنده: رابرت لادلوم؛ مترجم: هادی امینی؛ تهران، رایا کتاب، سال1400؛ در541ص؛ شابک9786229847312؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

کتاب «هویت بورن» با روایت از یک کرجی در بین امواج خشمگین و سیاه دریا آغاز می‌شود؛ مردی روی یک کشتی ایستاده و کسی به او شلیک می‌کند؛ او «جیسون بورن» است؛ جاسوسی موفق و حرفه‌ای، که قرار است تا چند ساعت آینده اتفاق بدی برایش بیفتد؛ «جیسون بورن» کم‌کم به سراغ گذشته‌اش می‌رود، اما در این مسیر نیز رویدادهای شومی در انتظارش هستند؛ او باید مبارزه کند؛ او بگذشته ای ندارد، شاید آینده ای هم نداشته باشد؛ حافظه اش خالی شده؛ تنها این را میداند: او را که از دریای مدیترانه بیرون انداختند، بدنش پر از گلوله بود؛ چند سرنخ هم وجود دارد؛ یک فریم از یک میکروفیلم که با جراحی در زیر گو��ت لگن او کاشته شده، و شواهدی مبنی بر اینکه جراحی پلاستیک نیز چهره اش را تغییر داده است؛ چیزهای عجیبی در هذیان خود میگوید، کلمات رمزی، حروف «جی.بی»، و یک عدد نیز روی نگاتیو فیلم وجود دارد، که به یک حساب بانکی در «سوئیس»، و ثروتی بالغ بر چهار میلیون دلار، به نام «جیسون بورن» اشاره میکند، و ...؛

نقل از کتاب «هویت بورن»: (موج غلتان هیولاواری برخاست؛ او روی تاج موج بود و کف و تاریکی او را احاطه کرده بودند؛ هیچ چیز؛ برگرد! برگرد! اتفاق افتاد؛ انفجار مهیبی بود، او می‌توانست صدای آن را از بین امواج کوبنده و باد بشنود، منظره و صدایی که به نحوی برایش دریچه‌ای به سوی آرامش بود، آسمان با تاجی آتشین روشن شد و از میان این تاج، اشیایی با هر شکل و اندازه از دل روشنایی به سمت تاریکیِ بیرون پرتاب شد؛ او پیروز شده بود؛ هر چیزی که بود، پیروز شده بود؛ ناگهان دوباره به سمت پایین رفت؛ دوباره درون پرتگاهی شد؛ می‌توانست هجوم آب‌های مواج و خروشان روی شانه‌هایش را حس کند که گرمای روی شقیقه‌اش را خنک می‌کرد، سرمای درون شکمش و پاهایش را هم گرم می‌کرد؛ سینه‌اش؛ سینه‌اش درد می‌کرد! او ضربه خورده بود؛ ضربه‌ای کوبنده، ضربه‌ای ناگهانی و تحمل‌ناپذیر. دوباره اتفاق افتاد! ولم کنید؛ بذارید آروم بگیرم؛ او دوباره چنگ انداخت و دوباره دست و پا زد...؛ تا اینکه حس کرد؛ چیز کلفت و چربی که تنها با حرکات دریا تکان می‌خورد؛ نمی‌دانست چه چیزی است، ولی آنجا بود و می‌توانست آن را حس کند و می‌توانست آن را بگیرد؛ بگیرش! می‌بردت به سمت آرامش؛ به سکوت تاریکی...؛ و آرامش؛ اولین پرتوهای خورشید صبحگاهی آسمان مه‌گرفته شرق را شکافتند، و به آب‌های آرام مدیترانه تابیدند؛ ناخدای کشتی ماهیگیری کوچک، با چشمان قرمز و دستانی پر از آثار سوختگی طناب روی دیواره پشتی کشتی نشسته، و با لذت از منظره دریای آرام، یک نخ گولواز می‌کشید؛ نگاه کوتاهی به اتاقک هدایت بدون دیوار انداخت؛ برادر کوچک‌ترش داشت گاز می‌داد، تا زمان کوتاه‌تری در راه باشند، و تنها ملوان کشتی هم چند قدم آن‌طرف‌تر مشغول بررسی تور بود؛ آن‌ها به چیزی می‌خندیدند، و این خوب بود؛ چون دیشب چیز خنده‌داری نداشت؛ توفان از کجا آمده بود؟ گزارش هواشناسی مارسی چیزی نشان نداده بود؛ در این صورت او در پناهگاه ساحلی می‌ماند)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Bagtree.
66 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2010
This book caused me pain. Intense boredom, odd moments of indignation, and pain. It's poorly-paced. The prose is a clunky, redundant, pointlessly vague affront to all that is good in the English language. The dialogue is stilted and horrid. The characters are so robotic I begin to question whether Ludlum ever met a human being, and the "romance" is not only horribly oversold BUT PREDICATED ON BOURNE USING HIS LOVE INTEREST AS A HUMAN SHIELD. I don't care how many rapists a man rescues you from; if he introduces himself by slapping, shaking, and threatening to shoot you, HE IS NOT BOYFRIEND MATERIAL and that relationship SHOULD NOT BE SHOWN AS LOVING AND WONDERFUL.

And seriously, the prose is awful. Get Carlos! Trap Carlos! False! Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain! Find a man! Some nonsense about traps! Maybe if I repeat the same meaningless statements over and over and italicize everything and sprinkle liberally with exclamation marks, people will - - people will what? I can't even begin to think of a rationale for that.

And I want my afternoon back.
Profile Image for woody.
509 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2012
Sorry if you loved this book, I HATED it. Maybe it was above my reading level. There were just too many "alpha, bravo,cain, delta...Cain is for Charlie, Delta is for Cain!" This book put me to sleep so many nights it is surprising that I finished it. I just kept hoping that jason bourne would die...Good thing I shop at Goodwill and it only cost me 50 cents! Everyone tells me that I should give the movie a chance and that it is better than the book, but I ask, won't it remind me of the book and bring all those bad memories back?
Profile Image for Janete on hiatus due health issues.
655 reviews264 followers
December 5, 2019
I saw the first movie and didn't understand anything. Too much action for me! But this retold version is quite different from the movies, because the story takes place after the Vietnam War. Then now I completely understood this abridged version from the original book (with MP3). I studied German at the university 30 years ago and I thought this language was very difficult, but learning English is also very difficult, but I'll succeed.
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 16 books1,517 followers
August 16, 2019
Read it a long time ago, but still rate this one as a five. Couldn't put this one down and for it's time it was a breakout concept the set the stage for many other great authors.

David Putnam author of the Bruno Johnson series.
Profile Image for LaFleurBleue.
841 reviews37 followers
June 4, 2012
The scenario is absolutely excellent and probably one of the best I ever read in terms of complexity and continuous action and/or new discoveries. What an imagination ! The story and the characters are slightly different from the movie; I should say the storyline is way much more complex in the book; the characters could do with a bit more substance.
The major drawback which explains my rather poor quotation of this book is indeed the writing quality, or lack thereof. Some sentences simply do not make any sense (even when read 3 or 4 times, on their own and within the paragraph); some images are not relevant;wording is usually poor and quite inadequate; there are mistakes in grammar and conjugation. So much actually of all of this that I really had trouble to open the book again, even though I knew the story was so compelling I would not put it down so easily.
Ludlum, to my opinion, is the worst writer I've ever read, but with one of the best story-lining and imagination. Indeed I believe Ludlum should not have worked on his own but teamed with a skilled writer who would have put that into right words and made this book into the 5-star winner it really should be.
This has been my first and probably my last book from this author.
Profile Image for Benjamin Stahl.
1,823 reviews44 followers
March 9, 2022

The Bourne Identity? More like the Bored Identity. Am I right?



Oh, well that’s just fine then. Don’t all fucking laugh at once. But I’ll stand my ground. This shit was unbelievably boring.
Let’s go back to 2002. The cool kids in school dressed like Simple Plan – long shorts and high, black socks; a perpetual look of middleclass melancholy haunting their feminine faces. Who the hell ever heard of Facebook? You wanna chat, damn it, you call me mate. The going trend was jeans that looked like you had tussled with a dog. Long sleeves under short sleeves. Burnt CD’s with the band’s name written in texter. Running with a discman in your pocket. Your deepest secret was that you had a crush on Hermione Granger. Flip-screen mobiles. Weekly television guides. Jacking off over Jessica Simpson. Playing Eminem in the family car, desperately convinced your mother would eventually get him because of those cringey songs about his daughter. That poor, poor child. Working school holidays was just a myth – a fucked up one. Instead of fantasising blowjobs, you went to Games Wizard and and fantasised playing PS2 games you would one day find for $3.00 in C.E.X.
Childhood did not evoke a sense of loss and yearning, but instead was present and beautiful.

Am I done reminiscing? Well, shit, I guess I have to be.

I just want to stress how great the early 2000’s were for me. I’m sure I view that period of my life with saturated nostalgia glasses though. There was also the fear and shock of High School. Old friends fade, new friends replace them ... but you’re never sure you’ll ever want to be much like them. Atheism is the new black. Teachers swear in class. Being polite and nice to people warrants suspicion you’re a “fag”.

But to get to the point already.

I remember seeing The Bourne Identity the first time. My dad showed me the trailer – “oh look, it Ryan from Saving Private Ryan".
Damn, it blew me away. Especially after Die Another Day - the absolute worst of the James Bond films - The Bourne Identity, with its realistic action, vulnerable though efficient hero and intriguingly believable villains was ground-breakingly refreshing. And, despite many saying Paul Greengrass carried the trilogy to its critical peak, I disagree and say the first one remains the best. It just gets everything right. And among other things it was one of the earlier inspirations I had for going to Europe. I loved the film right from the start. And though I read nothing other than Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket back then …


Well, umm … those and Ron/Hermione fan-fiction …

I was well aware there existed a novel. My younger brother tried to read it after the film came out. He was like ten. I think he made it to about the fourth page before giving up. So, yeah, since I actually got into reading I always thought I would try this book eventually.

But what a total disappointment it is.


You see, I just couldn’t help but find this so incredibly boring. Nothing close to what I expected. Firstly, the film is nearly completely different. A moot statement by necessity, I hasten to add. The film not being a perfect adaptation of the novel isn’t the novel’s fault. Judging from a good many reviewers here on Shitreads, I take it the novel is appreciated. But man, I would say without hesitation I preferred the film. Matt Damon brought charisma to Jason Bourne. He and the actress who played Marie had such good chemistry. Every action sequence mounted the tension flawlessly.
I will not say I hated this book because it wasn’t the film. But I will point out .... if I can lift my brain above the choking cloud of Kiwi polish fumes ... how I was led to expect more having seen the film.

The film has Jason climbing from the top window of an embassy, guards hot on his tail. Jason leading the cops on a high-speed chase through gridlocked Paris. Evading a deadly assassin outside a farmhouse. Riding a dead body down a stairwell, shooting his attackers at he falls towards the ground. Meanwhile, the book mostly revolves around this highly trained assassin making withdrawals at the bank, phoning people, catching taxis, sitting in restaurants and talking, shopping for clothes and shit. Damned thing should have been called The Bourne Transaction. I won’t lie: I was on the edge of my seat when Jason forgot the pin-number for his MasterCard and he was already holding up the line at the Aldi checkout.

I have included an excerpt from another spellbinding moment ...

"Jason enters a high-end clothes store. He picks his clothes discreetly; a trained consumer, cold and ruthless. Heading to the counter he smiles at the cashier. An attractive girl, name badge: Cynthia.
“Guten morgen, I would like to purchase this criminally overpriced shirt, if you please”.

“Certainly,” says Cynthia. “Do you have a membership card, Mr? –

“The name doesn’t matter,” says Jason, waiting patiently. And it doesn’t. Not at all. However -

“I’m sorry,” the girl apologises. “But the system seems to be rejecting your card. It says you don’t have a cheque account. Maybe you would like to use pay-pass instead?”

“Is there a surcharge with that?” Jason asks, habitually tapping his card.

The girl’s face drops. She dreads to give the answer.

“Um. Yes, sir. The surcharge is ten percent of the total transaction”.

On the window to Jason’s heart there now hangs a sign:
"Gone to the stomach. Be back in ten”.

His skin breaks out in goosebumps. His lips tremble.

“But I tapped my card as you were
telling me. By God," he groaned, "it’s already going through. Whatever, oh whatever - Oh, sweet Jesus!!! - shall I do?”


No wonder Goodreads idiots gobbled this shit up.

Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain. Find Carloss - trap Carloss. Kill Carloss. Bastard. Get used to me saying things like that for no damned reason. Get used to it so it won’t be so irritating when you finally read this novel. Don’t nobody take my word that it’s shit.

So the book actually starts off good. Two thumbs up and all that. I was surprised when I learned it was written in 1980. I had just assumed it came out nearer the film. I also didn’t know my foreskin could be pulled back until I lost my virginity. Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain. Stop it. ANIMAL!!! Find Carloss. I don’t know … there was just something I enjoyed about the start. It had a … classic kind of feel to it. I’m not sure what I mean by that. It just did. Like how Harry’s name appeared in the Goblet of Fire. "It just did, Ron. Stop being such a moping git".

So this stranger wakes up on a small coastal town on the Mediterranean. For months he works at rebuilding himself with the help of a curious alcoholic doctor. Dr Washburn sends this unnamed man on a fishing trip for a jolly good time. Turns out somewhat differently. And what a name for a doctor, by the way. I was waiting for him to say to Jason: “Your symptoms are most confounding to me. I will refer you to an old colleague of mine - Dr Healcut. We go back a long way. He’s an old friend. And if Dr Healcut isn’t taking calls, then perhaps Dr Bonemend".

Everything that happens in the first fifty pages could well have taken place between the scenes in the movie. It was good. But then Jason goes to Zurich, and EVERYTHING falls apart ... kind of like my life did after I graduated high school and had to actually do something with my life. I liked how Jason sent the doctor a million bucks in gratitude for his help. But as soon as Jason Caine is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain goes into the bank, gets held up in the lift, then starts a shootout in the lobby, the writing gets way too messy and ugly to read.

Generally I’m not into action novels for this very reason. I find it boring, wading through detailed descriptions of physical combat. That shit pulls me out of the story. When something that lasts five seconds on film takes up an entire paragraph on paper, I can’t help getting bored. In this kind of book there's a ton of that stuff. And yet there are similar writers to Ludlum, guys Lee Child and Dan Brown, that manage to be entertaining with their action, simply because they exercise a certain, umm …
Fuck it: they exercise a certain exercise in simplicity. Whereas Brown and Child write swift, choppy action, Ludlum has a tendency to become garrulous, and since my brain-cells were destroyed by an excess inhalation of chemical substances …


… fucking I struggle to visualise anything more vividly coherent than two guys tussling; grunts and punching sound-effects layered over the top. Please save me from myself. Please, if anyone reads this. So yeah, I guess that gets the writing out of the way. That was not the worst thing about the book, but it certainly didn’t help much either.

Ludlum’s craft is by no means awful. It’s just rarely noticeable. The only time I re-read sentences was to make better goddamned sense of them. But enough on the writing. It was the story and the characters that really ruined things for me.

At first, when Jason took Marie hostage, I genuinely felt sorry for her. I mean, Jesus, our supposed hero is a real asshole to her. Pressing his pistol to her face and even punching her, for God’s sake. The protagonist suddenly turns into a fucking monster. Ludlum wanted to evoke anger and suspense when Marie gets away and leads the police to Jason. But screw that. I remember actually thinking to myself: “Good!! I hope they shoot the prick”.

But then shit gets even worse. Marie ends up in the hands of gangsters - or assassins, I don’t know - and they take her away, likely to kill her. Jason fucking Bonehead decides then to act the hero, so away he goes to save this woman he hadn’t given a shit about before. He saves her from being raped.

And guess who falls in love?


Maybe I’m just a miserable asshole cause I ain’t never had a girlfriend. But my teeth were clenched as I forced myself through their grating conversations. In between every supposedly exciting scene, there’s the respite of Jason and Marie talking like 1950s newlyweds on their honeymoon. Shit that makes your toes curl. The sweet-talk … my God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “darling” so overused, nor so out of place. Fucking, jeez, call each other babe or something once in a while at least. And I’m not nit-picking here. I’m not saying I just didn’t like the way he wrote his dialogue cause it didn’t suit me. You try reading this shit in a hard-nosed thriller fifty fucking times and tell me it isn’t insufferable. Oh my darling, oh sweetness, oh the key to mine heart, could you close the toilet lid when you're done? What the hell did you eat last night, anyway?

And I’m sorry, but I just thought the entire situation leading to their romance was ridiculous.

So he saves her from being raped by that “Animal … that monstrous brute man!! Oh, my darling, I have never been so frightened. Oh, I feel so violated, my beautiful darling. Kiss me, darling. Make the shame go away, my darling. Oh, my lover, my darling, my truest and most kindred spirit!!" ...

I shit you not, their romantic dialogues are that cringey.


And in case you didn’t gather from my picture and my name, I am not female. I'm not even that new twenty-first century in-between phenomenon the mainstream media thinks J.K. Rowling wants to round up and put into death camps.
Despite my endless charms and prepossessing countenance, I have not a good track record with the opposite sex. Doctor, I haven’t been close with any girl since my ex-girlfriend tore my heart out, microwaved it, mashed it up, forced me eat it, throw it up then eat it all over again. But I’m pretty sure there is something sexist in the fact that Jason forces this woman into her terrifying situation and then has to come back rescue her because she's so useless. I mean, talk about a damsel in distress.

And she was having a good day until Jason came along. But now, just because Mr Troubled Conscience plays the saviour, sweeping the girl away from those big scary men, she acts like she owes her life to him.

Delta is for Cain and Cain is for fuck you. So that's pretty much this book. Jason goes around making phone calls and using variations of “my darling” to his girlfriend. Asshole might as well come dancing through the door with a bouquet of flowers singing: “Honey, I’m home!!”

Of course I am exaggerating a little. There is some action as well ... occasionally. But, like I said, these irregular instances are clunky and awkward. Ultimately unsatisfying. While the film is full of awesome suspense moments, the third act of this book literally has Jason walking around Paris, following the employees from a clothing store - telling them to spread rumours, pretending to be an informant from a rival company. Just being a petty shit-stirrer. I cannot stress what a comedown this is for anyone who first saw the film.

How would you feel if, in the next Bond film, James finally deals with his arch-nemesis ... not by infiltrating his top-secret lair and overthrowing his plans of world domination, but instead waiting until he gets a parking fine on his car, then snatching it so he cops a heftier one for not paying the first? You'd be like, "James Bond used to shoot people and sleep with hot women. Now he's just a meddlesome little prick who does things like take the bad guy's coffee when the Starbucks girl calls their name out".

In a nutshell then, The Bourne Identity, while likely to entertain those who enjoy slower-paced thrillers or watching documentaries on corporate fiscal policy, is weighed down by unsympathetic characters, an uneven plot and a lack of authorial flair. Regrettably, it all culminates into one ponderous, confusing, mostly mediocre trudge that overstays its welcome.
Profile Image for Nina.
841 reviews218 followers
April 18, 2023
I’ve seen the movie ages ago, but luckily my memory is like Swiss cheese so I didn’t remember much. That made reading it a blast. There was tons of action and suspense, just my cup of tea!
Profile Image for Brett C(urrently overseas again).
784 reviews167 followers
March 26, 2022
This was great! The book differs majorly in that the Bourne character has more human qualities: he can get hurt, bleed, and has the ability to reason. I thought also he has a sense of premeditative, cognitive, thinking patterns that allowed him to create a more thrilling story than the movies.

The movies portray him as a programmed and unstoppable machine which is quite the contrary to the real Jason Bourne/David Webb. The backstory Ithought really added to the mystique of the character. Recommended for suspense and action readers. It may be a little dated because the Vietnam War was a focal point, but still a worthy read. Thanks!
Profile Image for Danaja.
14 reviews4 followers
August 28, 2020
This book was my introduction to spy novels and its still the best I've read in that area. Incredibly detailed and full of suspense. My favorite spy and one of my favorite villains rolled in to one in to exhilarating package with fast pace action.If you like an authentic touch in what you read you'll love this! Must note that the movie is completely different from the book. In my opinion the book is a much better experience.
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,967 reviews678 followers
August 7, 2020
Exciting start but eventually became very detailed and I felt was a distraction to the main story. The book makes me want to watch the movie again since it's been a while that I saw the first Bourne.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,030 followers
March 30, 2019
I FINALLY finished this! I just don't have time to read long books in print any more, but I've wanted to read this for a while & found it worthwhile. It's certainly not a perfect book. There's a lot of convenience, especially Marie's love & expertise. Several times there were silenced revolvers, too. I hate them, but the plot was twisty & the psychology was good - better done than the way amnesia & all is typically done. Well, for me, anyway. My knowledge of psychology & amnesia are practically nonexistent, at best. Still, it worked well in the story & retained its logic.

It was nice to finally see what the movie was based on. As usual, there isn't much in common beyond the names of the characters & the non-stop action. It read pretty well & was a nice change in pace from my normal reading. I don't think I'll run out & read another of Ludlum's novels any time soon, if ever. I certainly won't read further in the series since Eric Van Lustbader took them over. I liked The Sunset Warrior trilogy many years ago, but he's into writing bricks now. I read one of his ninja books a couple of decades ago & I'm not into bricks of that sort.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,165 reviews1,323 followers
January 4, 2023
It doesn't seem quite right that the first Bourne movie was released over 20 years ago.
What's even more surprising is that it's taken that long to finally read the book.

We all know the basic premise, a man is found floating in the sea with no memory. The only clue is a microchip implanted beneath his skin.

What also really surprised me was how different the book really is when compared to the movie, though on reflection with the novel being written during the height of the Cold War - I guess that was to be expected.

I found the story to be highly entertaining, though I did find it to drag slightly in the middle.
It was certainly much more brutal than the screen adaptation, though I liked the intensity of the protagonist Bourne trying to discover his identity whilst constantly having people trying to kill him.

I'm definitely curious to see how the other two in Ludum's trilogy compare.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,864 reviews370 followers
June 22, 2018
***2018 Summer of Spies***

Perhaps I came into this novel expecting a bit too much—I’ve never seen the movies, only advertising for them, so I didn’t go in completely blind to the story, but about as close as you can get in our society. I can certainly see that this would make a great shoot-‘em-up, car-chase intense movie. I really can’t say that I cared whether Bourne got his memory back or who he actually was. I would have been much more interested in more exploration of nature of the memory loss rather than all the frantic chasing around!

Kudos to him for his good taste in women, however. I was amused to find out that she was Canadian, from my city. It was also revealing that, although she is a very capable, knowledgeable economist in her own right, she is still often referred to as a ‘girl.’ Oh, I do not miss the 1980s!

I did very much like the book’s ending, but for me it is the perfect ending. I won’t ruin it by continuing on with the rest of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,182 reviews73 followers
August 11, 2021
4 Stars for The Bourne Identity: Bourne Series , Book 1 (audiobook) by Robert Ludlum read by Scott Brick.
I think this would be a 5 star book for me if I hadn’t seen the movie. Especially if I had read it in the 80’s. I really enjoyed the beginning of the story but then it seemed to get bogged down. I’m expecting the pacing of the movie and Jason Bourne just isn’t fighting bad guys enough. It’s hard to not compare it to the story that I know so much better.
Profile Image for Phoenix.
59 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2009
Robert Ludlum is a terrible terrible writer of dialogue and had a terrible style.

The man can, however, tell a story. That is why his books are translated very well into great action movies.

but if i have to read one more line of the "oh john! oh marsha' bullcrap in his novels, i swear i will stab my eyes out with a fork. man on man, if that woman goes on anymore in her inner monologue about "that poor man! he couldn't stand it! not knowing who he was! and now he was . . . . blah blah bippity bladdy blah" i'd burn a book for the first time.

Good fireplace material if you were trapped in a cabin in a blizzard.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
September 11, 2012

I decided to finally jump on the Robert Ludlum train and read this. I'd recently also jumped on the Mat Damon train and watched the film trilogy. Yes, where had I been the past few years? Well being a teenager of course and living in places where these trains didn't run. Humour aside I'm going to use the next few paragraphs to convince you of why I enjoyed this novel so much and to assure you why you should read this book (or re-read or re-re-read it or re-re-re-read it... or re-re-re-re-re-read...or...).

Many people know the premise of this story but for those who don't spoiler alert right about........now. The Bourne Identity begins with the discovery of a man shot and left floating in the water. He gets rescued and nursed back to health. But he's lost his memory. (collective gasp from the audience) Well head trauma is not meant to be good for your memories. The only thing he knows is that he has had facial surgery, he has deadly fighting skills and...oh yeah there's a bank account number for a bank in Zurich.

That's the basic plot synopsis. What happens next is much more complicated. It involves a man discovering his identity, losing his identity and getting caught up in the hunt for a terrorist which happens to coincide with his past. The plot is clever - brilliant in fact - and worthy of its renown. I found myself drawn into a shadowy world with multiple twists and turns. In fact I would go so far as to label this a psychologically laced thriller of epic proportions. Yes that is what The Bourne Identity is. It is a smart, thriller, a kind of entertaining book that is intelligent at the same time.

I must however sadly announce that the end of this book was unfulfilling. It tasted sour, as if the author was simply setting me up to go and read the second book. Which I cannot obtain with ease from my library. So I'm simply left thinking to myself: what happens next? I hate cliff-hangers of this kind which force me to read on. In fact I think I can hear Ludlum laughing at me from the grave.

However I do recommend this as a fine example of thriller writing. Amongst the best I've read. Although for classic thrilling writing I still cannot go past Edgar Allan Poe the man who really started it all off with his tales... Well they were thrillers in some aspects. But yes compared to some of the very few other 'thriller' thrillers I've read this is a very fine example (much better than the few snippets I've seen of Lee Child and plot-wise better than Matthew Reilly - although he has good plots nonetheless and his writing style is more accessible). Still read this if you like clever plots, quality writing (well apart from some coarse language I considered inappropriate - with religious connotations) and are gritty. This may be your train to jump on.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julie.
144 reviews3 followers
December 30, 2013
I tried, I really did; I kept reading even as my impatience for this book increased. I got 3/4 of the way through and I finally couldn't take it anymore (that's saying a lot, given that this book is well over 500 pages). My gripe list:

1. It's so long. For no good reason. The plot isn't that complicated. The characters aren't that interesting. The writing isn't that gripping (original, lyrical, stark, poetic, etc). Nothing justifies the length of this book.

2. Nothing justifies the enduring relationship between Jason Bourne and Marie. Eventually Marie is forced to stick it out with Jason because she's implicated as his partner in crime, but until that point, there's no good reason for her to stay with him: despite their (and the narrator's) frequent assertions that they love each other deeply, there's nothing about their actions or interactions that would suggest they actually care about each other one way or the other, and there's nothing to suggest that Marie is such a good person that she'd give up her entire life to try to help a dangerous man of questionable origins who violently kidnapped her just because it's "the right thing to do." It's like Stockholm Syndrome, except that Bourne tries to get rid of her! He insists repeatedly that he's dangerous and she should leave him because to stay with him is to ruin her life. Plus, Stockholm Syndrome would require emotional and psychological complexity on the part of Marie, which we know she's lacking (see gripe (3)).

3. In the early stages of the novel, Marie is brutally gang raped. Pretty traumatic, right? Nope. A few pages later she doesn't seem to care, it's not really addressed again, and she easily falls into a (spectacular, apparently) sexual relationship with Bourne. No evidence of trauma! No flashbacks! And it's not like she's so emotionally damaged that she's buried it because she doesn't want to deal with it, or that she has amnesia surrounding the event -- nope, she acknowledges it happened but just doesn't care. She doesn't forget -- the novel forgets, because her brutal gang rape is not an emotionally charged event but rather just a plot device to get Marie and Bourne together again. So that they can have life alteringly spectacular sex and profess to love each other. (See gripe (2)).

3. Dialogue is atrocious. I don't care whether it's so stilted that it's unrealistic. Sometimes I really like stilted dialogue -- if I wanted authentic dialogue, I'd have a conversation with a real person instead of reading a book. Rather, my objection is that conversations can be pages long without any evidence of who said what. Apparently a well-placed "Bourne said" would detract from the flow? Readers can't even assume that the person asking the questions is Bourne -- you know, the guy with amnesia, who you might think would be the one asking questions -- because (a) Bourne has some sort of superhuman ability to accurately guess what other people know and what's going on and (b) there are no stylistic differences between characters' speech. So why bother with dialogue at all? Its sole purpose here is to explicate for the reader. Exactly like explicative narration. The only difference is the presence of quote marks.

4. This book is littered with gems like this one: "The old man nodded the way old men do when repeating words that have stunned them to the point of disbelief." Is this supposed to be something that old men do on a regular basis? Is this a normal reaction we are supposed to recognize as familiar? I am fairly confident it is supposed to sound profound, but it's just profoundly stupid.

5. The action sequences are fairly engaging. Which just makes it sad, really, that there are so few action sequences compared to the fantastically dull explicative non-action sequences.

6. Up until Bourne leaves the alcoholic doctor, this is a tight, interesting little mystery. It really is unfortunate that the rest of it is so... not tight, not interesting, and not mysterious.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Warren Watts.
93 reviews6 followers
April 15, 2009
While perusing the library shelves for something new to read, I came across The Bourne Identity, a 1980’s era Cold War espionage novel by Robert Ludlum. I'm not usually a reader of this genre of fiction, but based on what I felt had been an excellent film, I borrowed the book.

The 1980 novel (which spawned the 2002 film) opens with a man barely clinging to life being discovered by fishermen, nearly frozen to death in the cold French Mediterranean sea. He has sustained several gunshot wounds including a quite serious one to his head. As he begins to recover, he realizes that he doesn't know who he is; he has lost his identity. With only one clue to his identity, he sets out to determine who he is.

He soon discovers his name is Jason Bourne, and along with that discovery comes the realization that a number of unpleasant parties want to see him dead. He discovers he has skills in many areas he didn't know he had; he speaks several languages, he is proficient at armed and unarmed combat, and can easily slip into roles that allow him to gain information or disappear in a crowd. Using these skills along with bits and pieces of his slowly recovering memory, he slowly pieces his identity back together.

The plot was well paced from first page to last, but never rushed. The book was a real "page turner" for me; I was drawn in right from the first page, and I ended up reading the book straight through, staying up all night!

Ludlum is an excellent storyteller. His vibrant descriptions of people and places really helped bring the story to life. As Bourne discovered or reacted to each development, I felt as if I were there with him, or perhaps watching from across the street.

It's my opinion that novels lose a lot of character development when adapted to the "silver screen", and for that reason I feel that novels are always far more entertaining than their Hollywood screenplay adaptations. The Bourne Identity is no exception.

All the characters (even the lesser and peripheral ones) are well developed; as the story progresses, each has their own unique perspective on the matters at hand. Because the characters were so well developed, most of the complex concepts the novel explored were explained entirely through dialogue between the characters. Through his characters, Ludlum exposes his readers to the complex world of world banking, international diplomacy, as well as the roles of the NSA, CIA, and the Office of the President (past and present) in shaping world events.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and would happily recommend it to anyone, with a caveat: The book can be a vocabulary builder. I had to look a number of words up in the dictionary while reading the book. However, it was well worth my time to do so; I'm sure I absorbed a few of those "fancy" words, and maybe I'll remember what they mean next time I see them again! So don’t let a few “big words” stand in your way of enjoying a truly entertaining read!

There are two more "Bourne" series books; The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. If the other two are as fun to read as this book was, I'm sure I'll probably be pulling another all-nighter!

Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews332 followers
November 4, 2011
Wow, by the end of chapter one I was already thinking this was one of the most ludicrous novels I've ever read. And given that I've been reading through a suspense novel recommendation list, with such doozies as Vince Flynn's Term Limits, Brad Thor's The Lions of Lucerne and Matthew Reilly's Ice Station that means Ludlum is setting a really low, low.

OK, there weren't any giant mutant seals at least, but right in the first pages our hero, later to be known as Jason Bourne, is shot multiple times. With one of those shots his "skull is ripped open." Not merely cracked, mind you, but ripped open. Bourne falls into the sea...and survives. But wait, it gets better! The fishermen who pick him up take him to this alcoholic doctor. Taking lots of liquids and starches to sober up, this doctor does brain surgery on Bourne! At his home! (Oh, and btw, if my use of italics and exclamation points irritate you--you're not going to last long with Ludlum--he uses them as if he's paid for each use.)

And then? Bourne wakes up with amnesia. But wait! Somehow in the midst of his solo brain surgery, the good doctor noticed the microchip in Bourne's hip with clues to his identity!

All I can say is, if after a first chapter like that one you continued reading, you got what you deserved. Several hours of your life you're going to wish you could get back.
Profile Image for AB.
537 reviews121 followers
December 31, 2017
My Rating: 2.4/5

This could have been better. I am huge fan of the Bourne movies but this one is not what I expected!
There are chapters that are fantastic but overall the novel is dull. The author spends two much time in explaining Bourne's thought process that you just want to scream. The characters are also not that interesting. I expected more but....
I don't really recommend this one. Thank you for reading the review!

P.S: I couldn't even finish the whole book. I read like half of it.
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,065 followers
October 26, 2012
This novel was published in 1980, and the primary antagonist (who just happens to be a real life person) was left out of the 2002 film, no doubt because he was apprehended and, to some extent, demystified, in the 1990s. The fact that this person is central to the plot of the novel, but does not appear in the film, inevitably drives a contextual wedge between the two mediums, even though the central amnesia theme remains the same. There is also a 1988 TV-film, which I haven’t seen.

All in all, it’s a very good novel. Robert Ludlum had a unique voice, and The Bourne Identity is the grand-daddy of the modern espionage story, with its high tech (for the time) thrills and spills. If I had any complaints about the novel it would probably have something to do with the relationship between Jason Bourne and Marie St Jacques (she is a French-Canadian here, who holds a doctorate in economics). Stockholm syndrome to the max, which in itself isn’t anything new, but I didn’t find the progression entirely convincing.

If you’re looking for an espionage thriller with more than a little intrigue and a hefty dose of high octane action, this is one of the best places to start.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,563 reviews863 followers
May 12, 2020
Ludlum's well known and now Hollywood franchised, first book in the Bourne series, first published in 1980(!), and still a gripping conspiracy - espionage - thriller. Centred around the idea of a deep cover agent getting amnesia whilst in the field and his journey back to finding out who he is and completing his mission, to thwart the notorious international terrorist, Carlos. Good read, which I genuinely was gripped with. 7 out of 12.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,032 reviews23 followers
January 24, 2015
Terrific pulse-pounding thriller that has its fair share of twists and turns. Who is Jason Bourne? Who can you trust? Ludlum does a fabulous job of creating a mystery that weaves it's way through various points in time and in several locales. The characters are also top notch. This is action and intrigue at its finest
Profile Image for Dyuti.
72 reviews255 followers
January 3, 2013
After finishing the book, I can totally understand why The Bourne Identity has attained such a cult-status among it's readers. In fact out of my 32 friends who have the book in their shelves in GR, 18 have given it a 4/5 star rating. To begin with, it is a pretty decent thriller. It has an amazing start, a couple of interesting characters, a protagonist you can root for, fast twists and turns and some powerful action sequences.

The premise really impressed me. A nameless man with highly unusual skills to kill, defend and protect wakes up without a memory in a strange island off the French coast, soon to realize that there are many who want him dead. To know how to save himself, he must first rediscover his identity. Thus begins a frantic race against time to understand, cope and deal with every startling clue that he uncovers, while fighting against his untraceable enemies.

However, there were a few things in the novel which so totally did not work for me, and compelled me to knock off two stars. Firstly, would a girl really fall in love with a man who held her hostage, and manhandled her just because he later saved her life? I mean of course it can happen, and is even highly probable, but it just seemed a bit too contrived, a little too sudden. The build up could've been better. Also the fact that the hero had to find a girlfriend who was a financial whiz-kid, when he was in desperate need of one, just seemed a little too easy. Too convenient. Am I nitpicking? Maybe. But, when I read a thriller, too many coincidences just makes the story lame. Another fact which I noticed was that the standard of writing was inconsistent. At parts they were patchy, incoherent, and had to be skimmed through/re-read(depends on your patience) to be comprehended.

And so I draw my conclusions that Robert Ludlum has a pretty good imagination and knows how to hold the reader's attention, but is not much gifted as a writer. Still, just because of the story line I will definitely continue with the trilogy. Lets see how it turns out. As for now, I would strongly ask you to give this book a try, for at the end of the day, I cant deny that it is a pretty entertaining read!
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