The Jason Bourne fever has died down a lot over the past few years, but it wasn’t too long ago when Matt Damon’s character—the revised version Robert Ludlum’s original—was all the rage. It was during those years that I tentatively picked up the original novel, fully in spy-mode yet doubtful that the book could be as enthralling as the movie franchise. After all, the movies enjoyed 30 important years of technological advances that the books did not. They couldn’t have anything in common! Boy was I right.
Beyond the amnesia plot, the fact that Jason’s name really is David Webb, and the chance involvement of a female character, this books shared almost nothing in common. I was pleased. Originally, The Bourne Identity grew out of the Vietnam era with heavy Soviet ties, a lot more like John Le’Carre’s plotlines than those that would be written today. Nevertheless, the requisite action and suspense shined like stars. My spy-mode itch was scratched. In the book, Jason Bourne was created and used to draw out Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Treadstone exists, as do some other familiar names from the films. Yet because his hunters have so many other motives than the basics in the movie, the reader feels like he’s involved in a much larger saga than could fit into three 90-minute films.
Suspenseful and well-written, The Bourne Identity was Just what I needed at the time, yet with one giant flaw. Ludlum’s greatest fault is his relentless blasphemy, whether in this book or any other. I’ve never in my life heard a real human being take the Lord’s name in vain so often as every character ever in Ludlum’s writings. While I probably should have put the book down right away, I do have the habit of crossing out objectionable words as I come across them, which helps me feel in a way like I’m fighting against those attacks directed towards the Lord. My copy of this book, of course, is now quite blotchy, with all of those names crossed out—virtually every single page, and then some. While I might recommend this book to others for entertainment purposes, I would only do so if they were able to use my copy: the now-edited version.