The Prestige by Christopher Priest – A Book Review

I picked this book up because I heard that Christopher Nolan, director Batman Begins, was going to direct a film adaptation.  On top of that, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and David Bowie have all agreed to star in said film.  I figured if talent of such high caliber saw something redeeming in this novel, I would as well.  Thus, I picked it up at my local bookstore.

I was not too familiar with author Christopher Priest.  I knew he was primarily a fantasy writer who occasionally dabbled in the world of comic books.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from The Prestige, but when I picked it up and saw that it had won a World Fantasy Award, well, it immediately seemed that Christopher Nolan and the previously mentioned actors knew exactly what they were doing.

The first three quarters of The Prestige are entertaining, but I would not necessarily say captivating.  In fact, at times, I was quite unsure what the allure of this novel was.  However, the last quarter of The Prestige was absolutely riveting and I could not put it down until I had finished.

The book is written from several different perspectives, mostly in a journal format.  It spans several generations dealing with a feud that began in the late nineteenth century between two rival stage magicians.  We’re not talking wizardry here-we’re talking good old craftsmen who were at the top of their profession of trickery and illusions through hard work and cunning. 

However, early on in their lives they developed a dislike for one another and it continued between the families, even to this day. 

What’s so interesting is getting both men’s perspective on why the feud began and why it continued for so long.  Of course, both think they’re in the right, and neither seemed especially nefarious when reading their own thoughts.

The title deals with a facet of one of the magician’s tricks called “In a Flash.”  He developed this trick after he saw his rival transport himself from one cabinet to another several feet apart within seconds.  His rival called this “The New Transported Man.”  Hoping to one up his competitor, he discovered means to transport himself even further with the aid of electricity. 

Oh, this plot is so full of so many aspects, far too many to convey in such a short review.  Let me just say that while this book seems utterly trivial for its first seventy-five percent, it all proves important in the last twenty-five.  It will leave you breathless and stunned, I promise.

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