An eyeblink away from 5 stars and joining the list of my 'all-time-favorites'.
My belief is that some books are just too good a story to be easily told and even a few minor flaws leaves the reader needing a bit more than was delivered. The Prestige is very close to this group.
Combing many of my favorite leisure time reading elements - Gothic/Victorian/Edwardian backdrops, English setting and storyline, the hint of science gone astray, and a few historic figures wrapped into the tale; this story delivers on the suspense level marvelously. You gentle reader, know from the opening paragraph that something is coming. Is it wicked or sordid? Malevolent or macabre? Does it matter? In the end, with this book, it does not.
A feud that will not be resolved ( ever we learn ), the desires of men mixed and confused with needs both real and invented, spread across and illustrated by the theatrical world of the stage magician, this makes a deliberately ensnaring read. The reader is inexorably drawn, cajoled, and even cheated at points to continue to carry on with absorbing the elements of the story.
Human nature in a murky form plays out over a century that has the reader in disbelief only a part of the time. Just like a good magic show. Misdirection and subterfuge are subtle tools employed by Christopher Priest to relay his story. The ending of this story of grasping for power and 'prestige' both has a haunting quality of eternal continuation that leaves the reader hanging in a final moment of uncompleted horror, but not without purpose.
My preference for a different impact in the ending is, as mentioned, the prime flaw I had with this book. I will still read it again and strongly recommend it to any one who like any or all of the elements that frame this unique story.
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* EXTRA *
The movie that is a companion to this book is a different story. They are related thematically and in certain scenic elements. For purposes of successful translation to the screen major changes were made to the whole of the story.
The movie of The Prestige is also one of my favorites, if for different reasons. Still set in the same time, many identical elements both in mechanism and 'moral' theme, the book and film diverge.
If you read or see one, you must consume the other as a companion. They uncharacteristically complement each other as few books and film treatments ever have. And the film has a great cast and is of the highest product value.
May 3, 2009