The Prestige

August 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

prestigeThe Prestige by Christopher Priest


I’m always a little nervous when I read a novel that was the basis for a movie, when I’ve already seen the movie. I’m afraid I’ll pull too much of the movie into the book, and I won’t be able to pick up on the subtlety of the original story. Luckily, the book starts completely differently than the movie does, so I was able to at least start the story fresh.

On the bright side, I think it helped a lot to have seen the movie before reading the book. The Prestige is one of those novels that, by itself, requires a couple of reads to understand the full story. Knowing the twist, and knowing how the ending will play out, helps in some of the more difficult sections of the narrative. Not to give anything away, but the structure of the first section of the book would have been a lot more difficult to understand without already knowing the ending.

One thing I noticed while reading the book is how unbelievable parts of it are. They don’t seem as crazy in the movie for some reason. While watching the movie, I could acknowledge that the science was questionable, but I was so caught up in the events and trying to figure out where the Nolans were leading us, it didn’t affect me as much. In the book, they were somehow much more unbelievable. Part of it is the major differences in the ending; in the end, how the Nolans concluded their story sat more easily with me than how Priest concluded his.

The bulk of the story and its intricacies, though, are all Priest’s. He deserves the credit for how engaging, twisty, and unexpected the plot is, in the same way that Robert Bloch deserves that same credit for Psycho. He also structures the story differently, telling it in an epistolary style through journals of the two magicians. Interestingly, Priest chooses not to intertwine the stories; instead, he tells all of Borden’s story, and then shifts to Angier’s. By itself, it works very well; having watched the movie first, it’s a little jarring in how we get almost to the end of the movie before we shift gears and go back to the beginning.

Like the tricks themselves, the story is one of prestidigitation, making it one that rewards careful, attentive readers. Much of what we need to know about the plot and its twists are made clear in the beginning, if only we know what to identify as the keys. I’m not saying I’m one of those attentive readers (there’s a good chance I would have missed a lot of them had I not seen the movie), but those who like a good mystery would enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

Started: August 12, 2018
Finished: August 22, 2018

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