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January 3, 2004

Book Review :: The Bourne Identity

Filed under: Books,Reviews @ 9:03:13 AM Tags:

This is a reprint of a previous post which appeared on another website. Edits were made to place the text into the First Person

Once upon a time, I had an internet alter-ego who went by the name of “Carlos”. There is a great story about this, and maybe I’ll tell it again. However, after watching the movie, The Bourne Identity, I was curious as to the details of the movie, and I went to Amazon-dot-com, to investigate and possibly purchase the novel. I found three, and unlike the movie, all three books were centered around, or had something to do with “Carlos”.

So I had to get it.
I’m currently reading the second book in the series now, but I thought that I would share my first review of the first book, before I reviewed the second:

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, and I found that Robert Ludlam, and his creative genius used the lore of the real Carlos to construct a work of fiction called, “The Bourne Identity”. It was made into a motion picture, with Matt Damon (who portrays Jason Bourne, very well, from his description in the book), however, the plot in the movie is almost completely unlike the book.



While the Book is essentially about a man trying to regain his memory in a fast paced world of espionage, terrorism and murder, its best to descrive the book Chronologically. (Remember, that this book was not written this linearly, but rather, backwards. As the main chracters learns about himself slowly, as he stumbles on clues in a fight for his own life.)

  • November 1963: JFK is Asassinated in Dallas Texas, Carlos is presumed to be
    the master assassin in the event.

  • Vietnam War: David Webb, a foreign service officer for the U.S., specializing in Far Eastern affairs, loses his wife and two children when a bombing raid strikes Phnom Penh. He later joins with “Medussa” as a Covert Operative. He’s an unofficial leader, and the most unpredictable of the bunch. He’s called “insane” by his compatriots, but manages to survive the most hellacious fire-fights behind enemy lines.
  • March 25, 1968: After a semi-successful attempt by “Medussa” to covertly go behind Enemy lines, David Webb (a.k.a. “Delta”) kills a traitor named Jason Bourne (codenamed “Cain”) (and not “Charlie” as the VietCong already had the term “Charlie” as slang.) in a Jungle called Tam Quan.
  • June 27, 1975: Carlos, starts his terrorism spree in Europe and strikes his first blow in the attempted murder of a Lebanese Informer and two French Counterintelligence agents in Paris.
  • After the war, David Webb lived a quiet (yet destructive) life in New England, teaching at a small college.
  • Treadstone Seventy-One is built in New York, to serve as an operations HQ for the capture of Carlos.
  • Treadstone recruits David Webb, and David takes on the identity of Jason Bourne a.k.a. “Cain”. His mission is to infilrate the Terorist Underground in Europe, and become competition for Carlos, flushing him into the open to trap him and bring Carlos to justice. To do so, Webb volunteers to become brainwashed. David Webb is no more, Jason Bourne, master asassin is all that remains. Bourne is drilled on tactics, Intelligence, Counterintelligence, Survival, Espionage, and everything else Treadstone can cram into his human skull. In the end, he knows more Intelligence information then 10 computers, and is a walking death machine. Additionally, he is surgically altered to blend in, become a nobody in a crowd, to continue his role from Medussa, be a Chameleon. Funding will come from Treadstone via a Swiss Bank in Zurich, the account number is encoded to Microfilm and surgically inserted into Jason’s hip. As of this point, Jason Bourne is on his own. No handlers, no drop points, just him vs. Carlos.
      “Cain is for Charlie, and Delta is for Cain”
      Carlos is translated as Charles, or Charlie.
      “Charlie” was replaced by “Cain”
      “Cain” was replaced by “Delta”

  • Jason Bourne, a.k.a. Cain, makes a name for himself in Europe as a master assassin, putting himself at odds with Carlos and his network of Terrorists. Cain makes the bold statement that he will eventually replace Carlos, as the terrorists leader in Europe. He sets up various residences in Zurich, Paris, Budapest, and often uses hostels for emercency shelter. He has several identities and can change is appearance at will. For three years, Cain disrupts Carlos’ organization, takes credit for Carlos’ kills, and slowly gets closer and closer to the most dangerous terrorist in the world.
  • Somewhere around this time, Jason Bourne is almost killed and loses all his memory surrounding his identity. He is a functional amnesiac. During this time, he is thrown overboard into the Medeteranian, and left for dead.
  • August 23, 1980: Bourne misses a meeting with Treadstone, and is presumed to be somehow compromised (this is not the first time.)
      THIS IS WHERE THE STORY BEGINS At this point the reader knows nothing, and all these facts have to be deduced.

  • August 24, 1980: An unknown man, (Jason Bourne) is hauled up by a French fishing boat and taken to Ile de Port Noir, a small Island off the coast of France, and put in the care of Dr. Geoffrey Washburn. The man had gunshot wounds to the back and head.
  • August 26, 1980: Howard Leland, U.S. Ambassador to Paris, is gunned down by a sniper. Treadstone, and the rest of the world, think its Cain. Carlos is angered that the world thinks it is Cain and not Carlos.
  • Circa January 1981 Five months later, after being patched up, the unknown man (moving under a passport of Geoffery Washburn of the U.K., makes his way to Zurich, to find this mysterious account and his name, “Jason Charles Bourne”. After he makes a withdrawel, he is found by Carlos’ network and the hunt begins.
  • Bourne takes a hostage Marie St. Jacques, a Candian Financial Officer, and their whirlwind begins. After thinking he is a monster, she sees he saves her life and falls in love with him.
  • Bourne is slowly learning about his identity, and is scared of the truth. As of right now, he appears to be a killer, in a bloody and violent competition with Carlos. Bourne slowly stumbles into his own network and finds people afraid of him, and fearful of their lives.
  • In Washington, the White House Intelligence Staff is briefed with a potential security issue with Treadstone and their project Cain. After months of silence, and missed contacts, all their money has been withdrawn from Zurich.
  • Bourne and Marie make their way to France, to learn more about Bourne’s connection with Carlos.
  • In New York, Agents for Carlos kill the primary agents for Treadstone (including David Webb’s brother Gordon), leaving evidence that Bourne was the killer. The remaining agents for Treadstone begin their manhunt for the turned agent. Bourne is officially cut off from his previous life.
  • Now with the US and Carlos’ forces after Bourne, he slowly infiltrates Carlos’ communication lines, disrupting Carlos’ information flow. Carlos is forced to kill 2 of his primary lieutentants, forcing him to show his hand, and giving Bourne more opportunities to strike. During which, Bourne learns of Carlos’ plan to kill “Cain” on 3/25
  • Carlos follows Bourne to New York, where “Cain” leaves clues for the remaining members of Treadstone to find him, and Carlos. Unknown to Bourne, Marie alerts the State Department and explains everything. The Secretary of State attempts to intervene in Treadstone’s attempt to slay their turned agent.
  • March 25, 1981: On the anniversary of the Original Jason Bourne’s death, Carlos’ plan to kill Cain as an example to the US Goverment and the Treadstone organization. Carlos and Cain collide and in the battle, both are wounded. Carlos escapes as Treadstone comes into clean up the mess.
  • Months later, now officially home from the field, Jason Bourne learns of his true identity, David Webb. Now living under guard, courtesy of the U.S. Goverment, Webb and Marie, attempt to live a normal life. However, because he is the only person alive to have seen Carlos, he knows that eventually he will have to meet Carlos again.

I loved this book, it was a great yarn of intrigue and second guessing (on the reader’s part).
As you can tell, after the Bank Scene in Zurich, the movie takes off on a different tangent. Probably because of the recent truth of Carlos the Jackal, and how he was not the master terrorist everyone thought he was.
Several times in the book, Ludlam pulls out a surprise which makes you change your mind about the REAL story behind Jason Bourne. Is he, or is he not a bad guy? Is he really an assassin, or is he a spy?
I flipflopped on the issue myself several times, as Bourne learned more and more about himself.
I recommend this book for fans of the movie who felt like there was something missing in the explaination. The book moves with the same fast pace of the movie, and ends with a bigger hit then the movie does. And unlike the film, the book leaves room for a sequel. (And Ludlam delivers with 2 more “Jason Bourne” books.)


  1. your summary about the book was great. it was really heplful for my english project that i have. i totally agrees with u that this book was really good and so was the movie

    Comment by bryan — December 6, 2004 @ 7:16:10 PM

  2. Thanks Brayn. Hopefully you will not plagerize Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com and properly cite the editors of Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com as a reference.

    And hopefully, you capitalize your Proper Nouns correctly as well, and you get the y and o keys fixed on your keyboard.

    Comment by Jeremy — December 6, 2004 @ 7:34:14 PM

  3. No room for a sequel eh? You should watch it, it’s pretty good.

    Comment by Chuck — December 8, 2004 @ 8:14:52 PM

  4. Chuck,
    Lots of room for a sequel: Lots

    Comment by Jeremy — December 8, 2004 @ 8:17:45 PM

  5. Geez… I read the book first (went mad for a while because I took to Jason too much) and was violently insulted when I watched the long-awaited movie. So, thank you for reviewing it so eloquently.

    How can Jason Bourne’s story be told without Carlos?!

    Comment by Nychus — February 26, 2005 @ 7:16:53 AM

  6. thks lotsa for ur review. the book is certainly confusing at the initial stage tt im at now. lucky there’s such webby to clear my doubts.

    Comment by theholidayfarm — April 12, 2005 @ 3:03:06 AM

  7. Lets just put it this way, im glad that i watched the movie first…

    Comment by Aaron — February 21, 2006 @ 7:02:18 AM

  8. This imformation on the book saved me a massive amont of time. Thank You so much. I love you.

    Comment by Jeremy — January 8, 2008 @ 10:11:53 AM

  9. Pretty shameless Jeremy. Thanking yourself for your own review.

    Comment by Cisco — January 8, 2008 @ 10:24:19 AM

  10. Nice post Cisco!

    Comment by Cisco — January 8, 2008 @ 10:24:35 AM

  11. Are you accusing me of Sock Puppetry?

    Comment by Jeremy — January 8, 2008 @ 11:33:26 AM

  12. This post is one of the more pleasant mysteries of Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com. It is perennially a sought out one, while never achieving the high numbers you see on Searchy Fun, but always a consistent, growing, traffic trend:

    And I imagine this is mostly High School students looking for Cheap as in Free Cliff’s Notes.
    I should get some compensation for this.

    Comment by Jeremy — January 8, 2008 @ 6:03:25 PM

  13. I suspect that the large peaks in the hit rate are just before book reports are due.

    Comment by Chan — January 8, 2008 @ 10:48:46 PM

  14. hi, I like your review. No mention of the General though and the fact that he was married to Carlos’ first cousin/lover. The fact that Carlos thinks that Bourne killed the only person he ever cared about is important. Also, in Tam Quan, they were trying to rescue Gordon Webb, David’s brother which I think is also significant since Gordon was killed later in the book and they actually believed that it was Bourne who killed him. Apparently they were close…I didn’t like the woman in the movie either…she was not Canadian, didn’t even speak french and she was not in love with him at all, she left him! In the book she is the one who convinces bourne he is good and helps him deal with everything.

    Comment by sheba — January 27, 2008 @ 12:34:40 AM

  15. Dude, ur book summary is great. Thanx a lot. It helped me with my book report. Good book huh.

    Comment by saj — February 25, 2008 @ 9:08:37 PM

  16. Yes, Saj, it is a good book.

    How much money do you have?

    Comment by Jeremy — February 25, 2008 @ 9:58:48 PM

  17. So Jer, can’t you put a language filter on your site so that people who use “ur” or “thanx” or “omg-rofl-lmao-wtf”… ARE IMMEDIATELY TAKEN OUT OF OUR GENE POOL??

    (and take their cell phone away from them too)

    Comment by Cisco — February 26, 2008 @ 11:43:46 AM

  18. I love Jason…it’s been a pleasure to read such a detailed review!!!
    The Bourne Identity is my favourite, favourite book!

    Comment by simplecoffee — April 3, 2008 @ 10:33:34 AM

  19. I have a question. I’m writing a piece of critical theory and I want to touch on the Bourne character. In the film, it is slowly revealed that the op on the boat was Bourne’s first assignment, and he basically chickens out. He’s disgusted and frightened by what he learns of himself, but there’s no real tension between his past life as an assassin and who he really is. Am I right in assuming there’s more tension in the book, because he really was an assassin who prior to the book’s opening carried out many, many assassinations?

    Comment by Jim — April 24, 2008 @ 5:56:43 AM

  20. Hey, i loved this book review, do you think you could send me qwerty in a bottle? FTW!!

    Comment by Patrick — May 13, 2008 @ 8:34:27 AM

  21. I too am thoroughly enjoying this book. I saw the films first which I thought were good, if not a ittle confusing (Ultimatum). The books, however, seem largely unrelated.
    Thanks for the review,
    Keep up the good work.

    p.s. Yes, ban people that don’t use y&o in you!

    Comment by Tobias — September 29, 2008 @ 12:03:26 AM

  22. As we approach midterms, here are the latest stats of hits on this post:

    Note: You can see the previous spikes from the first report above.

    Comment by Jeremy — October 10, 2008 @ 5:58:55 PM

  23. And it goes to show: As soon as I post this graph, the hits spike again. (Not from people clicking the comment, there were 24 hits yesterday, over half were from a single search string: bourne identity book summary. (16 to be exact)

    Comment by Jeremy — October 12, 2008 @ 5:17:23 PM

  24. Thank you for all of your help with this amazing plot summery. I chose this to be my book for a research paper (a whole 10 pages) in which i didn’t have time to read the book once through for the story and another time through for all the figuritve language. Now i only have to read the book one time through for the figurative language. Thank you again

    Comment by Scott — January 31, 2009 @ 8:32:36 PM

  25. Now, Soccerguy, it is time for that age old question:

    How much money do you have?

    Comment by Jeremy — January 31, 2009 @ 8:34:25 PM

  26. This would also beg the question, why don’t you just get the plot and the figurative language at the same time? I guess that is why I’m not an English teacher.

    Comment by Chan — January 31, 2009 @ 9:57:14 PM

  27. OMG!!! This is funny. I would hate to think smart high school kids would look up thier assignments on the internet from their peers. I am a teacher that is making sure my students are not doing this!!!!! I love your charts right before project are due. My assigned project is due on Tuesday. Hey do me a favor….Run another chart…..HAHAHAHAHHAH

    Comment by teacher — February 7, 2009 @ 3:40:35 PM

  28. As requested, though a little late:

    A little bit of a recent uptick, but no spike. That last BIG spike was mentioned above, last October.

    Comment by Jeremy — February 15, 2009 @ 5:13:48 PM

  29. I loved the book but I don’t understand the last section on the last page, about when hes skipping rocks,and then jumps and splashes in the water. Was he shot? Is he ok? Can anyone explain please?

    Comment by Darcy — February 22, 2009 @ 1:09:47 AM

  30. I’ve never read the book but I’m pretty sure it’s like Shane where we don’t really know if he lived or died.

    Comment by Chan — February 22, 2009 @ 7:51:57 PM

  31. No, he’s not shot; Bourne simply had a revelation. He broke through all the systematic brain washing, and re-discovered his real name, David Webb.

    Why he throws himself into the water, I’m not sure. Maybe it was in celebration, or something more symbolic. Lots of media from the Bible to M. Night Shyamalan movies have used water as a symbolic transition point.

    If you look to where this book started, it started in water; maybe Mr. Ludlum wanted the book to end in water.

    (And, to correct The-Evil-Doctor-Merlin-Channing-Lowe-Jr., its very clear that Bourne lives;There are two sequels.)

    Comment by Jeremy — February 22, 2009 @ 9:43:58 PM

  32. Evil twin.

    Comment by Cisco — February 23, 2009 @ 9:54:32 AM

  33. No, that would be James Bond in The Bourne Solace.

    Comment by Jeremy — February 23, 2009 @ 7:02:40 PM

  34. Lol not enough jeremy not enough…

    As for the whole “why don’t you do both at the same time?” question…

    there is so much detail and so many rhetorical devices that I cannot possibly do both… my book is filled with so many markings because of annotations its not even possible to read anymore lol

    Comment by Scott — March 1, 2009 @ 10:18:25 PM

  35. Maybe, the sequels are actually following the happenings of a robot look alike-actually three robots, one of which has cancer and one of which…

    Comment by Chan — March 3, 2009 @ 11:44:58 AM

  36. … one of which is an inhabitant of the Greek Island Lesbos?

    Comment by Jeremy — March 3, 2009 @ 11:47:54 AM

  37. At best, that would be a gross simplification of the truth.

    Comment by Chan — March 4, 2009 @ 11:39:43 AM

  38. wow this review was awesome. i actually took the time to read the book but now i regret it after reading this review because that’s all i needed to know for my english paper!

    Comment by bill — April 14, 2009 @ 2:51:27 PM

  39. I’m a [name] and I check this site every hour of every day to see if students are trying to copy my sub par work. I need to get a life but I’m too busy [doing explicit stuff] [Some of it involving] Matt Damon. I’m Jeremy

    [Edited -ed.]

    Comment by Jeremy — May 28, 2009 @ 7:41:39 PM

  40. I’m a blockhead student who thinks he can fool his teacher into believing that a Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com book review is my own work, and am wetting my own pants, because the author of Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com has already figured out my plan well before I initiated it. So I’ll insult the genius to build up my own pitiful self-esteem and go back to trying to find a date on my Facebook site.

    Man, I suck.

    Domain Name rr.com ? (Commercial)
    IP Address 24.209.196.# (Road Runner)
    ISP Road Runner
    Continent : North America
    Country : United States (Facts)
    State : Ohio
    City : Cincinnati
    Lat/Long : 39.1699, -84.4859 (Map)
    Distance : 1,553 miles
    Language English (U.S.)
    Operating System Microsoft WinNT
    Browser Internet Explorer 7.0
    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0; GTB6; SLCC1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; Media Center PC 5.0; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET CLR 3.0.30618)
    Javascript version 1.3
    Resolution : 1440 x 900
    Color Depth : 32 bits
    Time of Visit May 28 2009 7:24:59 pm
    Last Page View May 28 2009 7:41:14 pm
    Visit Length 16 minutes 15 seconds
    Page Views 3
    Referring URL http://www.google.co…e identity &aq=f&oq=
    Search Engine google.com
    Search Words book review for bourne identity
    Visit Entry Page http://www.jeremygilby.com/?p=350
    Visit Exit Page http://www.jeremygil…?p=350#comment-65460
    Out Click
    Time Zone UTC-5:00
    Visitor’s Time May 28 2009 10:24:59 pm
    Visit Number 258,571

    Thanks for Visiting.

    Comment by Jeremy — May 28, 2009 @ 7:46:14 PM

  41. Perhaps he was angered because he is using IE 7 which still reverses the title capitalization. Or, perhaps, his teacher actually figured out what he was doing for his book reports.

    Comment by Chan — May 28, 2009 @ 8:26:55 PM

  42. Friend me!

    Comment by Cisco — May 29, 2009 @ 11:41:40 AM

  43. tushay mr. Jeremy Gilbert. I see you’ve done your research( probably down to every last pornsite I have visited… Just think that you’re getting a little too sensitive about this plagiarizing issue..almost bordering an obsession for you. You fail to see that many students check these sites as helpful resources to get differing opinions on the book they have just read. I don’t plagiarize but there is no way you could prove it anyway. Please just take my computer info down while I score a dime piece off facebook. thanks

    Comment by blockhead student — June 1, 2009 @ 8:59:30 PM

  44. Did he just call you a Tushey, Cisco?

    Comment by Jeremy — June 1, 2009 @ 10:09:00 PM

  45. Pardon his (lack of) French. Methinks Mr. Thushay doth protest too much.

    Comment by Cisco — June 2, 2009 @ 9:39:02 AM

  46. Mr. Gilbert, are his eyes really blue? Check your complete dossier.

    Comment by Chan — June 4, 2009 @ 7:23:43 PM

  47. […] Arc As I said above, this is the third book of the series. The first two books being The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. This was supposed to be the point of closure for the Jason Bourne […]

    Pingback by Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com » Book Review :: The Bourne Ultimatum — February 3, 2011 @ 10:06:24 PM

  48. […] book in The Bourne Identity Trillogy. It is difficult not to compare this book with the first one (See the review here) and the only real similarity is that the book is about David Webb (a.k.a. Jason Bourne), and his […]

    Pingback by Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com » Book Review :: The Bourne Supremacy — February 3, 2011 @ 10:22:02 PM

  49. […] So I read the book. And it was a great book, but it was easy to see that the movie veered away from the book almost about halfway. Characters were changed, or even deleted (in the case of Carlos). But if you didn’t compare them side-by-side, the movie and the book were both great, and I was fine with the artistic differences. […]

    Pingback by Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com » Pre-Review :: The Bourne Supremacy — February 4, 2011 @ 12:18:12 AM

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