Winner of the World Fantasy Award
Inspiration for the movie directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale
In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent séance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another.
Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians' craft can command--the highest misdirection and the darkest science.
Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations...to descendants who must, for their sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.
|Product dimensions:||6.80(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier.
I had no sense of any of this at the time: I was on company time, following up a report of an incident at a religious sect. On my lap lay the bulky envelope I had received from my father that morning, still unopened, because when Dad phoned to tell me about it my mind had been elsewhere. A bedroom door slamming, my girlfriend in the middle of walking out on me. 'Yes, Dad,' I had said, as Zelda stormed past with a boxful of my compact discs. 'Drop it in the mail, and I'll have a look.'
After I had read the morning's edition of the Chronicle, and bought a sandwich and a cup of instant coffee from the refreshment trolley, I opened Dad's envelope. A large-format paperback book slipped out, with a note loose inside and a used envelope folded in half.
The note said, 'Dear Andy, Here is the book I told you about. I think it was sent by the same woman who rang me. She asked me if I knew where you were. I'm enclosing the envelope the book arrived in. The postmark is a bit blurred, but maybe you can make it out. Your mother would love to know when you are coming to stay with us again. How about next weekend? With love, Dad.'
At last I remembered some of my father's phonecall. He told me the book had arrived, and that the woman who had sent it appeared to be some kind of distant relative, because she had been talking about my family. I should have paid more attention tohim.
Here, though, was the book. It was called Secret Methods of Magic, and the author was one Alfred Borden. To all appearances it was one of those instructional books of card tricks, sleight of hand, illusions involving silk scarves, and so on. The only aspect of it that interested me at first glance was that although it was a recently published paperback, the text itself appeared to be a facsimile of a much older edition: the typography, the illustrations, the chapter headings and the laboured writing style all suggested this.
I couldn't see why I should be interested in such a book. Only the author's name was familiar: Borden was the surname I had been born with, although when I was adopted as a small child my name was changed to that of my adoptive parents. My name now, my full and legal name, is Andrew Westley, and although I have always known that I was adopted I grew up thinking of Duncan and Jillian Westley as Dad and Mum, loved them as parents, and behaved as their son. All this is still true. I feel nothing for my natural parents. I'm not curious about them or why they put me up for adoption, and have no wish ever to trace them now that I am an adult. All that is in my distant past, and they have always felt irrelevant to me.
There is, though, one matter concerning my background that borders on the obsessive.
I am certain or to be accurate almost certain, that I was born one of a pair of identical twins, and that my brother and I were separated at the time of adoption. I have no idea why this was done, nor where my brother might be, but I have always assumed that he was adopted at the same time as me. I only started to suspect his existence when I was entering my teens. By chance I came across a passage in a book, an adventure story, that described the way in which many pairs of twins are linked by an inexplicable, apparently psychic contact. Even when separated by hundreds of miles or living in different countries, such twins will share feelings of pain, surprise, happiness, depression, one twin sending to the other, and vice versa. Reading this was one of those moments in life when suddenly a lot of things become clear.
All my life, as long as I can remember, I have had the feeling that someone else is sharing my life. As a child, with nothing to go on apart from the actual experience, I thought little of it and assumed everyone else had the same feelings. As I grew older, and I realized none of my friends was going through the same thing, it became a mystery. Reading the book therefore came as a great relief as it seemed to explain everything. I had a twin somewhere.
The feeling of rapport is in some ways vague, a sense of being cared for, even watched over, but in others it is much more specific. The general feeling is of a constant background, while more direct 'messages' come only occasionally. These are acute and precise, even though the actual communication is invariably non-verbal.
Once or twice when I have been drunk, for example, I have felt my brother's consternation growing in me, a fear that I might come to some harm. On one of these occasions, when I was leaving a party late at night and was about to drive myself home, the flash of concern that reached me was so powerful I felt myself sobering up! I tried describing this at the time to the friends I was with, but they joked it away. Even so I drove home inexplicably sober that night.
In turn, I have sometimes sensed my brother in pain, or frightened, or threatened in some way, and have been able to 'send' feelings of calm, or sympathy, or reassurance towards him. It is a psychic mechanism I can use without understanding it. No one to my knowledge has ever satisfactorily explained it, even though it is common and well documented.
There is in my case, however, an extra mystery.
Not only have I never been able to trace my brother, as far as records are concerned I never had a brother of any kind, let alone a twin. I do have intermittent memories of my life before adoption, although I was only three when that happened, and I can't remember my brother at all. Dad and Mum knew nothing about it; they have told me that when they adopted me there was no suggestion of my having a brother.
As an adoptee you have certain legal rights. The most important of these is protection from your natural parents: they cannot contact you by any legal means. Another right is that when you reach adulthood you are able to ask about some of the circumstances surrounding your adoption. You can find out the names of your natural parents, for instance, and the address of the court of law where the adoption was made, and therefore where relevant records can be examined.
I followed all this up soon after my eighteenth birthday, anxious to find out what I could about my brother. The adoption agency referred me to Ealing County Court where the papers were kept, and here I discovered that I had been put up for adoption by my father, whose name was Clive Alexander Borden. My mother's name was Diana Ruth Borden (nee Ellington), but she had died soon after I was born. I assumed that the adoption happened because of her death, but in fact I was not adopted for more than two years after she died, during which period my father brought me up by himself. My own original name was Nicholas Julius Borden. There was nothing about any other child, adopted or otherwise.
I later checked birth records at St Catherine's House in London, but these confirmed I was the Bordens' only child.
Even so, my psychic contacts with my twin remained through all this, and have continued ever since.
The book had been published in the USA by Dover Publications, and was a handsome, well-made paperback. The cover painting depicted a dinner-jacketed stage magician pointing his hands expressively towards a wooden cabinet, from which a young lady was emerging. She was wearing a dazzling smile and a costume which for the period was probably considered saucy.
Under the author's name was printed: 'Edited and annotated by Lord Colderdale.'
At the bottom of the cover, in bold white lettering, was the blurb: 'The Famous Oath-Protected Book of Secrets'.
A longer and much more descriptive blurb on the back cover went into greater detail:
Originally published as a strictly limited edition in 1905 in London, this book was sold only to professional magicians who were prepared to swear an oath of secrecy about its contents. First edition copies are now exceedingly rare, and virtually impossible for general readers to obtain.
Made publicly available for the first time, this new edition is completely unabridged and contains all the original illustrations, as well as the notes and supplementary text provided by Britain's Earl of Colderdale, a noted contemporary amateur of magic.
The author is Alfred Borden, inventor of the legendary illusion The New Transported Man. Borden, whose stage name was Le Professeur de la Magie, was in the first decade of this century the leading stage illusionist. Encouraged in his early years by John Henry Anderson, and as a protege of Nevil Maskelyne's, Borden was a contemporary of Houdini, David Devant, Chung Ling Soo and Buatier de Kolta. He was based in London, England, but frequently toured the United States and Europe.
While not strictly speaking an instruction manual, this book with its broad understanding of magical methods will give both laymen and professionals startling insights into the mind of one of the greatest magicians who ever lived.
It was amusing to discover that one of my ancestors had been a magician, but I had no special interest in the subject. I happen to find some kinds of conjuring tedious; card tricks, especially, but many others too. The illusions you sometimes see on television are impressive, but I have never felt curious about how the effects are in fact achieved. I remember someone once saying that the trouble with magic was that the more a magician protects his secrets, the more banal they turn out to be.
Alfred Borden's book contained a long section on card tricks, and another described tricks with cigarettes and coins. Explanatory drawings and instructions accompanied each one. At the back of the book was a chapter about stage illusions, with many illustrations of cabinets with hidden compartments, boxes with false bottoms, tables with lifting devices concealed behind curtains, and other apparatus. I glanced through some of these pages.
The first half of the book was not illustrated, but consisted of a long account of the author's life and outlook on magic. It began with the following words:
'I write in the year 1901.
'My name, my real name, is Alfred Borden. The story of my life is the story of the secrets by which I have lived my life. They are described in this narrative for the first and last time; this is the only extant copy.
'I was born in 1856 on the eighth day of the month of May, in the coastal town of Hastings. I was a healthy, vigorous child. My father was a tradesman of that borough, a master wheelwright and cooper. Our house'
I briefly imagined the writer of this book settling down to begin his memoir. For no exact reason I visualized him as a tall, dark-haired man, stern-faced and bearded, slightly hunched, wearing narrow reading glasses, working in a pool of light thrown by a solitary lamp placed next to his elbow. I imagined the rest of the household in a deferential silence, leaving the master in peace while he wrote. The reality was no doubt different, but stereotypes of our forebears are difficult to throw off.
I wondered what relation Alfred Borden would be to me. If the line of descent was direct, in other words if he wasn't a cousin or an uncle, then he would be my great- or great-great-grandfather. If he was born in 1856, he would have been in his middle forties when he wrote the book; it seemed likely he was therefore not my father's father, but of an earlier generation.
The Introduction was written in much the same style as the main text, with several long explanations about how the book came into being. The book appeared to be based on Borden's private notebook, not intended for publication. Colderdale had considerably expanded and clarified the narrative, and added the descriptions of most of the tricks. There was no extra biographical information about Borden, but presumably I would find some if I read the whole book.
I couldn't see how the book was going to tell me anything about my brother. He remained my only interest in my natural family.
At this point my mobile phone began beeping. I answered it quickly, knowing how other train passengers can be irritated by these things. It was Sonja, the secretary of my editor, Len Wickham. I suspected at once that Len had got her to call me, to make sure I was on the train.
'Andy, there's been a change of plan about the car,' she said. 'Eric Lambert had to take it in for a repair to the brakes, so it's in a garage.'
She gave me the address. It was the availability of this car in Sheffield, a high-mileage Ford renowned for frequent breakdowns, that prevented me from driving up in my own car. Len wouldn't authorize the expenses if a company car was on hand.
'Did Uncle say anything else?' I said.
'This story's still on?'
'Has anything else come in from the agencies?'
'We've had a faxed confirmation from the State Penitentiary in California. Franklin is still a prisoner.'
We hung up. While I was still holding the phone I punched in my parents' number, and spoke to my father. I told him I was on my way to Sheffield, would be driving from there into the Peak District and if it was OK with them (of course it would be) I could come and stay the night. My father sounded pleased. He and Jillian still lived in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and now I was working in London my trips to see them were infrequent.
I told him I had received the book.
'Have you any idea why it was sent to you?' he said.
'Not the faintest.'
'Are you going to read it?'
'It's not my sort of thing. I'll look through it one day.' 'I noticed it was written by someone called Borden.'
'Yes. Did she say anything about that?'
'No. I don't think so.'
After we had hung up I put the book in my case and stared through the train window at the passing countryside. The sky was grey, and rain was streaking the glass. I had to concentrate on the incident I was being sent to investigate. I worked for the Chronicle, specifically as a general features writer, a label which was grander than the reality. The true state of affairs was that Dad was himself a newspaperman, and had formerly worked for the Manchester Evening Post, a sister paper to the Chronicle. It was a matter of pride to him that I had obtained the job, even though I have always suspected him of pulling strings for me. I am not a fluent journalist, and have not done well in the training programme I have been following. One of my serious long-term worries is that one day I am going to have to explain to my father why I have quit what he considers to be a prestigious job on the greatest British newspaper.
In the meantime, I struggle unwillingly on. Covering the incident I was travelling to was partly the consequence of another story I had filed several months earlier, about a group of UFO enthusiasts. Since then Len Wickham, my supervising editor, had assigned me to any story that involved witches' covens, levitation, spontaneous combustion, crop circles, and other fringe subjects. In most cases, I had already discovered, once you went into these things properly there was generally not much to say about them, and remarkably few of the stories I filed were ever printed. Even so, Wickham continued to send me off to cover them.
There was an extra twist this time. With some relish, Wickham informed me that someone from the sect had phoned to ask if the Chronicle was planning to cover the story, and if so had asked for me in person. They had seen some of my earlier articles, thought I showed the right degree of honest scepticism, and could therefore be relied on for a forthright article. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, it seemed likely to prove yet another dud.
A Californian religious sect called the Rapturous Church of Christ Jesus had established a community in a large country house in a Derbyshire village. One of the women members had died of natural causes a few days earlier. Her GP was present, as was her daughter. As she lay paralysed, on the point of death, a man had entered the room. He stood beside the bed and made soothing gestures with his hands. The woman died soon after, and the man immediately left the room without speaking to the other two. He was not seen afterwards. He had been recognized by the woman's daughter, and by two members of the sect who had come into the room while he was there, as the man who had founded the sect. This was Father Patrick Franklin, and the sect had grown up around him because of his claimed ability to bilocate.
The incident was newsworthy for two reasons. It was the first of Franklin's bilocations to have been witnessed by non-members of the sect, one of whom happened to be a professional woman with a local reputation. And the other reason was that Franklin's whereabouts on the day in question could be firmly established: he was known to be an inmate of the California State Penitentiary, and as Sonja had just confirmed to me on the phone he was still there.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Historic and literary "family feuds" range from Shakespeare's Montagues and Capulets to the Hatfields and McCoys. Could the Angiers and Bordens have ended theirs at some point, or was it predestined to continue through the years? Must the sins of the fathers be passed to other generations? Did the feud join the families as much as it separated them?
2. "Readers should be made to work a bit and they shouldn't take anything for granted," as Priest wrote in the magazine Locus. "For me, the unreliable narrator keeps people alert. Some people get fed up with it and can't be bothered, but the people I think of as serious readers very much like it." Into which category did you find yourself falling, and why?
3. The use of the ampersand (&) instead of the word "and" is one way in which the author differentiates between the two "voices" in Borden's book. What are some others? Do such devices make the story easier to comprehend, or confuse the reader even further?
4. Noting that Angier's clients derive genuine comfort from his fraudulent séances, Borden asks, "Was any of this so different from the pleasurable mystification a magician gives to his music hall audience?" Do you agree? Do such séances help or hurt the participants?
5. Both Angier and Borden routinely cheat on their wives. What does this say about their characters in general? Is it more likely in those "whose very profession is deception?"
6. Borden recounts the story of Ching Ling Foo, who affected a shuffling gait onstage and off to protect his greatest illusion. To what lengths does Borden go to conceal the secret of The New Transported Man? Does he lie to himself, as well as to the outside world?
7. The Prestige exemplifies Priest's self-described "fascination with doppelgangers and twins." What are some of the ways in which this theme is incorporated, either overtly or subtly? Do you see Angier and Borden as essentially opposite sides of the same coin?
8. Classics like Alexandre Dumas père's The Corsican Brothers depict twins as having a unique, almost telepathic bond. Do you believe that such a bond really exists? In what ways does Priest play with the traditions and expectations associated with this concept?
9. As in Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, Priest sometimes depicts the same events from multiple perspectives, especially the incident that sets the feud into motion. Did you trust one account more than the other? Why? Does subjectivity always affect our perception?
10. Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." At what point did you begin to suspect that at least one magician used science in his stage act? Does this push The Prestige from fantasy into the realm of science fiction?
11. Many critics have compared the writing of The Prestige to a feat of magic in itself. Do you agree? In what ways do the style, structure, and showmanship of the novel mirror those of magicians? Does Priest play fair with the reader? Did you guess his "secrets?"
12. Priest uses real-life electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) as a character, depicting him as a bitter rival of Thomas Edison's. Does Priest portray Tesla accurately? Does the use of such historical figures make a story more believable for you, or is it a distraction?
13. Angier calls Tesla "a prophet of what the next century will hold for us." How does Priest use the turn of the century as a backdrop? Do his characters adapt well to such changes?
14. The forthcoming film version of The Prestige stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians Angier and Borden. With its complex structure and multiplesometimes unreliablenarrators, does the novel naturally lend itself to adaptation in the first place? How might a screenwriter alter or compress the story to turn the book into a viable script?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
" The Prestige by Christopher Priest is the story of a feud between two stage magicians, around the beginning of the 20th century (mostly) in England. Rupert Angier (stage name "The Great Danton") and Alfred Borden (Le Professeur de la Magie) spend almost as much time retaliating against and spying on each other as they do rehearsing and improving their illusions. It all starts when Borden interrupts a seance being held by Angier. He later regrets his actions, but to Angier, it is unforgivable. The rest of their lives are spent trying to sabotage each other's shows, and when Borden begins performing an illusion he calls The New Transported Man, Angier will stop at nothing to discover the secret to the performance and improve upon it for use in his own act. ..." (For full review, please visit me, Les Livres, on Blogger!)
Wow this book was great i never thought there could be so many twist in a book and it was very well written. At times it was a little slow but this was a very good book that will get you caught up in the magic that this book delivers i recommend this to everyone!
the twist and terns will take you for a ride to remember to the day you die! the book had a story line like no other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's funny how things work out sometimes. I know I have had 'The Prestige' lying around for a while to be read, but when I finally did get around to reading it last month, the sales slip that I routinely keep in my books to date when I purchased them said I bought it on February 5, 1998 -- and so, so much has passed in my life since then, so I think it's only appropriate how this book so amazingly looks backwards into the bygone era of magic. It's amazing how wistful also this book has made me for the era of the classic magician and prestidigitator resplendent in tuxedoes, best exemplified by someone like Mark Wilson, now that we are in an age of either flashy showmen such as David Copperfield or the down-and-dirty 'street magician' like David Blaine 'who's really from my hometown, I must add' and Criss Angel. At any rate, 'The Prestige' is simply a well-written, wonderfully-paced novel, a snapshot of 19th Century life with all its centering on arcane science, somewhat-hypocritical morals, and fascination with the paranormal. Nikola Tesla's presence, while unannounced in the blurb, was very welcome, and I must say that, much like the entire novel, I was pleased that his presence did not insult my intelligence, leaving me to draw my own conclusions on the extent of his scientific acumen and achievements and not at all painting him as a cult figure one step removed from Aleister Crowley. Yes, this can be a challenging book to read -- just who is Alfred Borden, for example? -- but as I said, Christopher Priest will not hit you over the head bluntly with easy answers, instead letting you formulate your own. Overall, I cannot recommend this novel enough, and I now wait with bated breath to see the movie, although I cannot imagine how even such sublime actors as Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale can top this book. Not quite horror, not quite science fiction (let alone steampunk), not quite merely a character study or documentary of 19th Century magic, all I can deem 'The Prestige' is...highly recommended.
Chronicle reporter Andrew Wesley receives the book, Secret Methods of Magic by Alfred Borden, from his adopted father who said a woman asked him to forward it to him. A note from K. Angier is sent to his editor offering information to Andrew on newsworthy Father Franklin. K. is Lady Katherine who sent him the Borden book she claims they knew each other as children and that her father killed him. He has been haunted by similar memories feeling he shares his body with someone else. They team up looking at their respective family trees seeking the links. --- Alfred Borden fanatically exposes those magicians he considers a fraud. In 1878, Alfred tries to prove that talented Rupert Angier is a con artist at a séance that the latter and his spouse host. During a melee, the zealot pushes Rupert¿s pregnant wife causing a miscarriage. Outraged Rupert vows vengeance. As both rise in popularity, Alfred learns how to use the new science of electricity to transport from one spot to another. Rupert travels to Colorado to obtain the help of reclusive electricity guru Nicola Tesla. While Alfred¿s stunt is a parlor trick Rupert obtains the genuine article. However, tragedy hits their descendents including Andrew and Katherine when Alfred pulls the plug on Tesla¿s gizmo as Rupert performs the stunt. --- This exciting time paradoxical award winning thriller hooks the audience once the story line reverts to the mid nineteenth century and keeps readers guessing as to what is going on and will happen. The cast past and present are fully developed so that the feud between Rupert and Alfred feels so real that in turn makes them human and the curiosity of their descendents to learn the truth also feels genuine. Fans will appreciate the amateur sleuth modern day subplot and the companion historical science fiction that blends into a superb thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
The Prestige is a wonder for any who can love the art of fiction, and revel in its craft. Focusing on two victorian stage magicians, the real magic is how Priest convincingly fools the reader through his narrative, while admitting to the reader he is misdirecting them. The characters are well built, and intruguing, and Priest drives an old fashioned plot by hinging it to the character's modern descendants. But what I found most invigorating was that the ending revelation brought relevance to the beginning of the book. It was a great reward for a beginning that had, at first glance appeared to be slow going. Yet, on every parade a little rain must fall. Priest's science is unexplained and confusing. It does not make up a large section of the book, but hard-core science fiction fans will be dissapointed. His prose is tremendously well crafted and carefully built, but his science needs more research. If you can look past that point, and believe that the slower parts of the book are necesary for the ending reward, this book is not only a fabulous read, but one to read again and again.
Basically, I ran out and picked this book up as quickly as I could after watching the excellent film by Christopher Nolan. Of course, having seen the film spoiled the ending for me a bit, although knowing the ending allowed me to enjoy the ride for what it was, rather than trying to figure out what the secret of the film was.The basic plot: two Victorian-era magicians from differing backgrounds feud, and become obsessed with being better than each other, regardless of the personal cost. It's a terribly harrowing story, watching what depths the two men will sink to in order to achieve greatness, and seeing how terribly obsession can destroy one's life.One of the most fascinating thing about the story is the structure of it - the entire story is told through a succession of memoirs and journal entries, which allow us to see greatly differing interpretations of the events of the story.If you had to choose between reading the book and seeing the film, I would recommend the film; however, I would definitely recommend experiencing both to get the 'full experience'.
If you've only seen the movie, you owe it to yourself to read the book. They bear but a passing resemblance. A magnificent turn of imagination. A young man goes on a quest to find out who he is, where he came from and learns far more of his past and future than he can bear. An electrical-magical story of modern Frankensteins. Or perhaps Prometheus.
I saw the movie version first, which is a stunning work of cinema by director Christopher Nolan, and that led me back to the source material by Christopher Priest. This novel is an engaging bit of storytelling even though most will agree it meanders when compared with the movie. Studying them together is a good master's class on the differences between the mediums.The story of The Prestige is the story of the rivalry between two magicians, Borden and Angier, obsessed with the craft, and their journal entries often serve as the narration. The book has more room to explore and frame the story around the family legacies of the two men, and it also dives deeply into the turn-of-the-century interest in spiritism, which is absent from the film.
This story, about two 19th century magicians caught up in a bitter rivalry by turns amuses, fascinates, and horrifies. Told via multiple narrators, we discover how both magicians developed an obsession for their craft at an early age and devoted their entire lives to becoming the most recognized stage illusionists of their time, not hesitating to bargain their souls away to get there either. I had seen the movie version a few years ago and thought it was quite brilliant, not realizing at the time it was based on a book. The book provided much more rich detail, but was also sometimes encumbered by what I felt was an unnecessary additional layer of storytelling which the moviemakers cleverly did away with. Also, I felt like the second part of the book, told in the form of diary entries, dragged on at times, which are the two reasons why I did not award a full four stars, but I still wholly recommend this novel for the sheer entertainment value.
While the plot does have some interesting twists and a unique writing structure towards the beginning. This book fails itself about two thirds of the way through leading up to an illogical and boring ending. I still gave it two stars though because it's clear that some of the better points in the book inspired the movie, which is brilliant. My advice, just see the movie.
First off, the movie is better. Secondly, and this applies to both versions, I can't get through my head why you would waste such a magnificent invention on magic tricks! That preposterous notion is the main failing of both movie and book.
I found The Prestige to be disappointingly unsatisfying. The book had such potential, but the author failed to deliver characters worth caring for and a plot worth understanding.Thankfully, Christopher Nolan's movie version saved the best plot devices and created a coherent story where Priest failed. Wonderful idea, but poorly executed.
I read this book because of seeing the movie and I'm glad I did. I liked the movie a lot and enjoyed the book even more.
Very original book. Became impossible to put down at one point in the middle. Would not have thought this structure of changing point of views would have worked but it was pulled off. Ending did not quite work and there were some less than thrilling parts. I wonder if the movie was good. It would be a hard book to make into a movie.
This book really is incredible! Christopher Priest perfectly balances magic, mystery and adventure with stunning narrative to create a book which is practically impossible to put down. It has suspense in all the right places and really gets the reader to invest in the characters, it's a must read! And, if you do read it, make sure you check out the movie adaptation as well, it's brilliantly made =]
I must say that this was a sterling novel that absolutely kept me reading until the very end. But before I launch into it, here's my recommendation. The book thoroughly requires the reader's participation. It's not a wham-bam thank you ma'am kind of story and definitely NOT for readers who quickly become impatient with what they're reading. It is one of those books where you're going to be thinking about what's going constantly as you read, so don't pick it up if you think you're just going to buzz through this one. You're not.I cannot go into too much detail because it will give away the story. The novel begins with a young news reporter who senses that somewhere deep in his past he had a twin, and even though he's checked birth records (he was adopted at age 3), he finds no trace of a sibling. Yet, he has that sort of telepathy unique to twins, and so he must keep searching. However, that's just a brief moment in the story...the real action takes place between a 19th-century magician named Alfred Borden who, for many reasons which I won't explain here, has a lifelong rivalry with another magician of the period, Rupert Angier. Their story is told through their respective diaries, and it's not until you've finished that you realize just what an excellent job Christopher Priest has done framing this extraordinary tale. He has done it much in the way a magician performs a spectacular illusion, where you, the reader, are the viewer of the trick, and it's not until it's over that you feel the effects (in the parlance of magicians, the "prestige" of what you've just read. I can't remember anything else quite like this in the recent past.I very highly recommend this novel with one major caveat. The end is so abrupt, I was looking to make sure pages hadn't been torn out of my book. However, the rest of the book is so incredible that it will make up for the strange ending. VERY HIGHLY recommended.
Whatever the merits of the film based on this book (I liked it, but I acknowledge it had some flaws), the film did bring the book back into the spotlight, and for that, we must be thankful, because this is a very, very good story. Very good plot, believable and well-written characters, stylistically different but well done for each of the characters' viewpoints, and full of interesting ideas and ties to the rest of the world.Here we have the story of two rival magicians, told through their own personal notebooks, and also their descendants, who meet at the beginning of the book in a sort of framing story. But it's the two magicians, Angier and Borden, who are the centerpieces of the story, and they are at the same time so similar and so different: their ambitions are the same, but their beliefs and ways are different. The two notebook idea really allows you to compare them fairly directly. Even in terms of style and lines, you feel like you're meant to contrast the pair, and see how much they match up.But there's also an element of mistrust that you can feel for them; they're obviously trying to hide their secrets some of the time. Borden's narrative makes it more explicit than Angier's, but it's there for both of them. Further, their recollections of events works differently. Both of them try to put themselves in the best light, but both are willing to admit they have failings. They're very human, and that's a large part of why it's so engrossing. It's also, though, that they really have surprises in store all along for us; I actually missed my guess on a large plot point, and it still fit, which is nice to see.Anyway, bottom line: definitely worth reading. Give it a shot. I should try some of his other work at some point, too.
I loved the movie, so checked out this audiobook. The story is quite different from the film version. I must say the film was better! I admire the screenwriter for improving on it.
I had to read this for a book group, though Victoriana and stage magic hold no real interest for me. The book was well written, but exceptionally bland. It was also boring until about the last 100 pages. I could keep reading once I started, but when I put it down, it was very hard to pick back up. Never saw the movie.The book leaves a lot of questions unanswered when it ends, so it stays with you. But it is more in a sense of trying to solve the puzzles, than in the sense of a gripping story.
When I first heard the concept of this book I was intrigued and eager to read it. I was expecting a minor step up from a penny dreadful, but was pleasantly surprised to find Priest a sophisticated and intelligent writer and the book to be quite a treat. What was daring of Priest's using a structure of "dueling journals" was the lack of an objective narrator or even a first person "hero" to tell us who we're supposed to root for. Truly, there is no hero, both protagonists are deliciously flawed, leaving us a plot. There is no objective rubberband in the middle to hold them together and help us pick our side based on that buoy floating between them. Its not easy to write without bias--without a horse to bet on, but he pulls it off pretty well. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading and a truly creepy ending. Excellent read.
This was a case of the movie is vastly different from the book if I ever saw one. Wow. Basically only the names and professions of the company were preserved - almost every other element was changed. Both are very, very good in their own ways though. I understand the liberties and changes that had to be taken for the movie to work properly, but so very much was left out. There is no Michael Caine character with a nice explanation of the prestige - in the novel, the reason for the book's title is much more sinister and of greater importance. We have a modern-day couple of descendents of both magicians. They are in possession of diaries of both men. The diaries tell about their great rivalry and what happened to put them at odds with each other. The reason given in the movie is not the same reason as in the novel. As the two great-great-grand kids read the diaries, they find clues to events that happened when they were kids. GGG-son is convinced he has a twin brother even though there is no evidence, and GGG-daughter is convinced that Andrew has been to the house before even though he has no memory of it. Once we understand the nature of Algeir's trick with the Tesla device and GGG-daughter relates the incident of Andrew's supposed first visit to her house, we get a fairly horrifying understanding of what happened. This is a much more paranormal angle than the movie presents. In the movie, Algier goes to Tesla (on Borden's urging, to ostensibly throw him off track of Borden's real secret) to find a device to create a trick to rival Borden's. His understanding of magic is more limited than Borden's and he doesn't make creative leaps and only understands a trick when he's told the secret. This is part of the irony when Algier and Tesla stumble on `real' magic. The price is the prestige. The illusion was so grand that Algier could command great fees and also great license with the theaters - he closed the set, much to the annoyance of the crew. Borden now has to relentlessly pursue the secret to Algier's improved Transported Man. Both Bordens. If I had not known there were two, the book would not have illuminated that as well as the movie does. There are some clues in the writing - Borden referring to himself as me and I in a sense that conveys another person reading and writing. As in the movie, his wife, girlfriend and assistants have no idea. Only his engineer knows there are two. It was a very precarious way to `live' a life. Bizarre and difficult, I can't imagine it succeeding outside of fiction. The pursuit of the ruin of each other is what drove Algier and Borden. Not just fame and fortune in their own right, but if they would be won at the expense of the rival, all the better. Algier still sets a spy among Borden's crew and that spy eventually turns against her master, delivery the false clue as a parting gesture. I found the returns to the present a bit jarring because my immersion in the world of 19th century magic was so complete. Both Borden and Algier are equally despicable. Borden is more vicious and physical with his attempt at ruining Algier, but Algier is no saint. And physicality does enter into the equation with a vengeance and a finality that brings the story to an end. The ending is a bit out of nowhere, but is haunting and deliciously ambiguous.
This was a very compelling read, and I loved comparing the changes that were made for the film adaptation.
I wanted to read this having seen the movie recently - they are certainly different plot-wise, but I suppose the themes are the same. The movie is tighter - there is a certain amount of superfluousness to the framing characters in the book. All in all, an entertainment. That is what I was thinking the other night while I was reading this - if a novel isn't an entertainment, then I'm not going to like it, and why would you bother to write it?On the bookcover, it was noted that the author had first come to promise in the 70s as a writer of romantic science fiction. That's intriguing enough that I hope to explore that later.
Aaaaahhhhhhh!!!! The majority of the book was wonderful. Extremely well-written, suspenseful; it was compulsive reading. So beautiful, so imaginative. Then there was the ending. I finished on the commute home, and I was so cranky the rest of the night. It was flat, nonsensical, and so disappointing. I'm still looking forward to the movie, since the storyline that contains the end of the book won't be in the movie (I'm nearly positive anyway). Skip the last chapter and create your own ending.