Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

     A friend of mine told me years ago how she loved the Bourne books by Ludlum so much, that she kept them by her bedside and would read them over and over. She told me that if I loved the show "Alias" as much I did, I would love them. But I never went to pick them up. So, recently, I decided it was time, and I was not disappointed.
     You may think you know the story of Jason Bourne because you have seen the blockbuster movies with Matt Damon. Think again. Many people have told me that the books barely resemble the movies, and they were so right! While the general premise that Jason is hurt, found on a ship and nursed to health, only to find he has one heck of a case of amnesia, is all intact, that is where all similarities between the book and movie stop. In this complicated espionage thriller, the plot to destroy Bourne is not just undertaken by the government agency he worked for, it's perpetrated by many other criminal aspects as well, most especially by a notorious assassin named Carlos. All Jason remembers is that he is a killer and that he must kill Carlos, even though he has no idea who that really is or who, he himself, really is.
     The people and places in the plot swim smoothly together, creating a huge web of mystery, and you question your logic at every turn. The only thing I really disliked in the book was the woman love interest, Marie, who is so unlike the sexy, unfortunate woman that Bourne borrows the car from in the movie, that it was pretty distracting to me at times. The Marie in the book, while extremely intelligent and loyal, seemed too much like a '70's romance novel heroine to me. The romantic dialog between she and Bourne seemed very forced, and pretty unoriginal. "Oh, Jason,  my love, I can't bear to live without you," and that kind of thing. While the whole exciting plot kept me on the tips of my toes, holding my breath, I would then sigh when Marie would say this kind of inane drivel and think, "Geez, Jason, can you just dump her for someone with a little more savvy?" I so love the tattooed girl with the choppy hair and broken down car in the movie, that I just kept wishing it was her at Jason's side in the book.
   But that is a small flaw in a wonderful thriller full of detail and twists and turns. While I enjoyed The Millenium trilogy more, the Bourne books are classics in the thriller genre. So, don't be a late bloomer like me, and pick up a Bourne today!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

     Ugh! How can it be over? I hate it when I'm done with a wonderful series like this one and there just seems to be nothing to read afterwards. This third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, while slightly darker than the rest, was a satisfying end to the story, even though I'm always left wanting more.
    Beginning right where Catching Fire left off, Katniss recovers from the Quarter Quell competition, finding herself in a hospital deep inside District 13. This is the district that the Capitol obliterated once upon a time, but as it turns out, there were survivors who went underground, literally. While you may think they just want to live in peace in their new underground world, District 13 is also filled with rebels who want nothing more than to defeat the Capitol and free Panem for good. Their plan? To promote the survival of the "Mockingjay" and use her as a symbol to the people, urging them to rise up and fight in a revolution.
     But what of Peeta? What about the other tributes we have come to love and hate in equal measure, and Katniss's beloved Gale? Well, they are all here in Mockingjay, each playing a role in the rebel plan. But Peeta did not escape the Capitol like the others, being used as well as the Capitol's symbol of power, urging Katniss to give up the rebel cause. Is he for real? Is he really on President Snow's side, or does he continue to try to save Katniss from afar?
   While I found Mockingjay to be quite sad and dark throughout, it's that sadness and desperation that lend reality to the fantasy world of Panem. If, indeed, our own country were taken by the government and turned into a sort of Communist state, wouldn't mankind be disheartened? Would we fight with everything we have to be free again? Of course we would.
     The thing I found the most disheartening, though, was that the leaders of District 13, while having the right ideals and the right end game in their hearts, were just as ruthless and politically minded as those in the enemy camp, the Capitol. It's just one more realistic train of thought within the novel; we need to be careful of our leaders, no matter what type of institution they lead. There are corrupt people in all walks of life, in every group and geographic area, in every religion and political party. It is our job to question logically what is right and what is wrong, no matter what our leaders say. Like Katniss, we should understand our own personal weaknesses, acknowledge them, and let others with better knowledge and skill fill in the gaps. But when we know what is truly right, we have to follow our own moral compass and step into the arena and fight for what's right, which ultimately is our freedom.