Josh's Reviews > The Prestige

The Prestige by Christopher Priest
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Mar 26, 2012

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bookshelves: sci-fi, fantasy
Read in May, 2010

Christopher Priest's The Prestige is a story about two feuding magicians set in turn of the century England. The novel is deeper than the film adaptation, but it also lacks its momentum. The novel's epistolary approach -- using diary entries to tell the story -- provided an intimate look into the feuding magicians' lives that gave the story depth and passion; but, at times, it was plain boring. In some cases, we witness events more than once from competing perspectives. This is a skillful approach to exposition but it doesn't always work perfectly.

The most fascinating part of The Prestige was being thrust into the world of turn of the century England of stage magic and spiritualism. In additon to attending seances, stage shows, and period locales, we also meet Nikola Tesla during the early years of electricity. Priest did a wonderful job describing the hope and the promise that many felt during that time. It was as if many foresaw that the world was changing rapidly, and that electricity would soon become integrated into everyone's lives in unthinkable ways. Priest also harnesses the fear that many felt about electricity and deftly puts it to his own end.

The frame story involving Alfred Borden's descendant, Nicholas, visiting the old Angier estate was unnecessary and added little to the story. The characters inhabiting this story, Nicholas and Kate, were mostly uninteresting and felt a bit contrived. The whole purpose of the frame story is to set up the ending, and it shows.

The Prestige is an entertaining novel that is flush with imagination and intrigue. Its pacing can be quite slow at times, particularly in the second half of the novel where the perspective switches from Borden to Angier. Regardles, it is entertaining and memorable.
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