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on 27 May 2016
WOW. Amazing Book. Tension: tick! Atmosphere: tick! Everything you could ever want from a book:tick!
I'd Definitely recommend it to anyone.Great read.
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on 20 April 2016
One of my favourite stories and now I have it in paperback.
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on 27 April 2017
An excellent story with a structure that will keep you intrigued
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2005
The Prestige tells the tale of a feud between two 19th Century stage magicians, and the secrets they jealously guard that end up dominating their lives. Each magician has an ingenious secret method of performing an illusion - one of these is explained away by normal means, the other is revealed to be pure science fiction. The novel is told predominantly through the selected diary entries of the two main protagonists - plus a very spooky framing sequence concerning the magicians modern day relatives - and while this does mean there is some repetition of material Priest skilfully shows how the same situation is seen differently by the two central characters, with even the reasons behind what sets off the initial conflict unknown by the other.
In terms of rationality the science fiction element isn't always wholly convincing - particularly the scientist who creates a device which would not only revolutionise society but lead to great personal wealth (and indeed does lead to great wealth for the magician he creates it for) inexplicitly being written out of the tale with an unconvincing case of illogical bankruptcy - but it does lead to a magnificently eerie climax as the revelations behind the 'prestiges' are finally revealed.
The Prestige contains some haunting images, and Priest creates two incredibly vivid lead characters while expertly examining the dangerous nature of secrets and obsession. A unique mixture of science fiction and mystery, this is a beguiling and highly original novel.
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The Prestige is the ninth novel by the British SF author Christopher Priest. It was first published in 1995 and won the World Fantasy Award for that year. It is Priest's best-known novel and apparently his most successful. It is currently being made into a film by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento) starring Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson, due for release in late 2006/early 2007.

The Prestige is the story of two feuding magicians from the late 19th Century, the aristocratic Rupert Angier and his working-class nemesis, Alfred Borden, and how that feud affects later generations of their families, personified in the mid-1990s by Borden's descendent Andrew Westley and Kate Angier. A strange mystery has haunted Andrew's life and his search for the answer leads him to Kate and the story of the feud.

From there the novel takes us back some 130 years and relates, in two separate sections, the life stories of Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier. Borden's story is told as a somewhat (deliberately) confused narrative, supposedly a commentary on a book on stage magic, but Borden's need to tell his story takes over and he goes into detail about his life and the feud with Angier. We learn that Borden develops an incredible magic trick which no-one can fathom, a trick which is then improved upon by Angier, to Borden's fury. The narrative then switches to Angier's more formal diary. Angier's story forms the bulk of the novel and takes us through his youth and his slow beginnings at the art of magic until his fateful meeting with Borden and the consequences of that meeting.

Priest tells his story by shifting between four first-person narratives (Andrew and Kate in the present, Rupert and Alfred in the past), altering his prose style between the two periods with apparent ease and painting these four central characters and the other characters described in their tales with depth and layers. As well as giving an insight into the world of stage magic he brings turn-of-the-century Britain to life with its slow, reluctant letting go of the old century and its embrace of the new, symbolised by the power of electricity. Electricity itself is nearly a character in the novel, the awe which Angier holds it in described with a nearly fetish-like quality and brought to life through the historical figure of Nikolai Tesla, who plays a minor but key role in the narrative.

The Prestige is a puzzle built upon twists, turns and conflicting mysteries. It's like an M Night Shymalan film but one where the twist you were confidently expecting is suddenly yanked out of sight and something unforseen being dropped in its place. Some may question whether if this is really an SF novel, so subtle are the ideas being explored here, but by the end of the book more overt SF elements have emerged and it is a tribute to Priest's writing that he keeps things firmly grounded in reality. The ending, when it comes, may strike some as abrupt, but on another level it is the perfect, ambiguous ending to a nearly perfectly-tuned mystery. The Prestige is one of the most finely-written, 'different' SF novels I've ever read, and firmly recommended to all.
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on 23 December 2013
When I watched The Prestige film, I thought it was brilliant - beautifully produced and very clever. It had me gripped from beginning to end, and I spent the next few days unpicking the clues to the denouement that I'd missed, and the ways in which the production itself echoed the story. I'm usually a book-before-film girl, but I only realised afterwards that this was based on a novel. I downloaded it and started reading immediately.

It's hard to say too much about the story of The Prestige without giving away the plot. Essentially, this is the story of two stage magicians (Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier) in Victorian London, who fall out and become life-long enemies. They find ever more imaginative ways to sabotage each other's shows and they become obsessed with learning one another's secrets. This feud escalates over the years, hurting those around them whilst simultaneously spurring them both on in pursuit of the ultimate illusion.

To be honest, that's where the similarities between film and book finish. It became clear to me very quickly that Christopher Nolan's film, good as it is, is not particularly faithful to Christopher Priest's novel, and I struggled to keep the two separate in my mind.

The most significant differences between the book and the film include: the way Borden and Angier first meet; the cause of their feud; their families and personal lives; the workings of Angier's version of the illusion at the heart of the novel; and the way both characters' stories end. The murder trial, for example, is a creation of Nolan's specifically for the film. I found it hard to keep track of what I'd read in earlier chapters and what I was remembering from the film.

This confusion was heightened by the epistolary structure of the novel and the nature of parts of the narrative. The middle two sections of the novel take the form of Borden's diary, followed by Angier's diary. Borden's diary is necessarily and deliberately bewildering, even for someone who (having seen the film) knows the secret behind it. It's hard to know at what point a reader would figure out that secret if they hadn't seen the film, but that prior knowledge didn't particularly lessen my enjoyment. What did become frustrating, though, was the fact that the two diaries (covering broadly the same time period) are printed consecutively rather than in parallel. Had I been reading this in paperback, I don't think this would have been an issue, but on a Kindle it's very difficult to flick back and forwards to match up dates and events, to compare the two different perspectives on the same incident and so on.

Framing these two diaries is a present-day narrative that is completely absent in Christopher Nolan's film. The Prestige, the novel, begins in the 1990s with Andrew Westley and Kate Angier - the descendents of the two magicians. In what is a rather long and drawn-out opening section, it is established that the mystery that's plagued Andrew since childhood seems in some way connected to the story of the magicians. Kate has pieced together what she can through reading old papers of Angier's, and presents Andrew with the two diaries so that he might draw his own conclusions. The narrative returns to the present day at the end of Angier's diary for the final few chapters, which reveal the true extent of the impact of the magicians' feud.

The present-day framing does add an interesting dimension, highlighting as it does the far-reaching repercussions of the feud on future generations. But I found the first few chapters very slow, and had I not been so fascinated by the film I'm not sure I would have stuck with it. There's a lot about Andrew's work, his parents and his girlfriend that is just padding, really, and didn't add anything to his character or the story that I could see. The end section is more satisfying, faster-moving and more dramatic - but ends rather abruptly. It all feels a little unresolved...but after my initial surprise that I'd reached the final page, I came round to thinking that that unresolved feeling is probably quite fitting for the novel as a whole.

In some respects, this is a story that lends itself more to the screen than the page: reading lengthy and necessarily vague descriptions of stage illusions packs much less of a punch than seeing those illusions on screen. But on the other hand, the book allows for much greater exploration of the psychology and motivations of these two complex and flawed characters, as well as a more vivid picture of turn-of-the-century London and stage magic in general. There is much more space to flesh out the characters and add layers of complexity to their relationships - to each other, to their families and to their craft.

The Prestige is not an easy read, and it's not a quick read: it took me almost two weeks to read, compared to an average of three or four days per book usually. It's also hard to categorise: I wouldn't have labelled the film science fiction, but I think the second half of the novel definitely moves into that genre. And I can't decide whether I'd recommend seeing the film first or reading the book first. What I will say is that The Prestige is worth a read, I think, as long as you're prepared for something quite different - darker, more confusing and harder work - from the film, but intriguing and surprising nonetheless.
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on 2 March 2007
I wasn't expecting this to start in the present day, so that was a surprise. At first I thought I might be a little disappointed at not getting straight into the thick of the magic aspect (which I knew was set in the 19th Century), but it's written in such a way that I was hooked from the start. It then quickly switched to the past in the second part, going from being narrated by Andrew Westley, to the personal memoirs of Alfred Borden himself.

It was all rather tantalising. Every time Borden seemed on the verge of making a revelation, he drew back, focusing on the back story and just touching on the beginnings of the feud between Borden and Angier...

The further I read, the better it got! The world of stage magic and illusion is fascinating at the best of times, but this was chock-full of mystery on top of that. I loved how the author kept coming back to the fact that the story was being related through Borden's notebook, throughout which Borden left little notes to himself, and even used the standard tricks of the illusionist (stating the whole "nothing up my sleeve" gambit when making a revelation, in order to relate that he's not hiding anything in the retelling).

In part three, the narrative was continued by a third character - this time one of Rupert Angier's descendants - who was also trying to fill in the blanks where The Great Dante (Angier's stage name) was concerned and who is also intrigued by Borden's descendent and her contemporary.

A fourth part, a fourth voice - now Rupert Angier's side of the story was told from his own diaries, revealing the reasons behind the old enmity between him and Borden that caused them both harm and spanned generations of both the families.

The plot twisted and turned like a twisty-turny thing. Strangely, despite being given every clue, I didn't work it out, which is rather unusual for me (if I say so myself) - I usually cotton onto things, whether it's early on or right before the "big reveal". The finale switched back to modern-day and wrapped up beautifully. I have to say this was quite an extraordinary read and now that I'm finished with it, I'm even more desperate to see the film!

(A big thank you to Marcus J who recommended this book to me - I've now found a new author to collect!)
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on 5 October 2016
Late 1800's and two egotistic magicians at the top of their game, go toe
to toe, vying to become number one.
The lengths they go to to sabotage each other's acts knows no bounds.
It is a fascinating glimpse into the world of magic, where the secrets are
sacrosanct.
And it is this battle of wills that keeps the pace of this story so interesting.
Throw in a bit of seance, a bit of ghosty, and you have the recipe for a
genuinely fine read.
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Published in 1995 and made into a successful movie in 2006, The Prestige is the ninth novel by acclaimed Sci Fi author, Christopher Priest. Science Fiction is not a particularly familiar genre for me but this novel's Victorian setting and story about rival magicians really appealed to me.

The story is told from the perspective of four different narrators, two from the present day, Andrew Westley and Kate Angier and two from the late 19th century, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier. Andrew and Kate are the descendants of Alfred and Rupert who were Victorian magicians embroiled in an, at times, vindictive feud which still has repercussions in the modern world. The historical narrative is conveyed via journals/diaries so it's a type of epistolary novel with most of the material focussing on Rupert Angier, the aristocrat who uses his financial advantages to purchase the secrets of each magic trick he performs whilst working class Alfred has to struggle for every penny. Their feud is predictable in so far as it is difficult to pinpoint what was its catalyst - great disputes from little altercations grow.

What I loved about The Prestige was the sensation of being immersed in Victorian music halls, allowed in on the secrets behind the illusions, witnessing each man striving to find that mind-blowing, inimitable illusion, seeing how far a man will go to be the best - in this case, half way across the world to enlist the help of scientist, Nikola Tesla! Indeed, this novel keeps the readers on their toes, you can never be sure as to what is illusion and what is reality. As usual, I found the modern day setting a bit flat but it's a very small part of the story and does serve its purpose. Borden and Angier are two extremely unlikeable characters, their self-obsessed, single-mindedness doing little to endear them to any reader but I found them all the more intriguing as a result.

There is no doubt that the last part of the novel is the most gripping so the opening chapters might seem a bit slow-paced in comparison but I enjoyed this gradual building up of tension. If you like a taste of Gothic, an unsettling, eerie atmosphere and don't need everything laid out for you in black and white, then you will savour this multi-layered tale of power struggles and intrigue. I'm now looking forward to watching the film and seeing how it compares with the original novel.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 December 2008
I agree with a lot of the comments made by the positive reviews here, but in the end I found this a disappointing book. Whether you will too depends on what type of mystery books you prefer.

Some mystery writers, even when penning plots with strong science fiction or supernatural overtones, still play as fair with the reader as a traditional crime novel author: there are clues and, if you are smart, you can figure out how the mystery event or crime was carried out. If you're not so smart, you can at least hope to - and afterwards look back to see how the plot fitted together. Within the world the author has created, logic still flows and it's possible to figure out cause and effect.

Then there are authors who in a world of science-fiction or the supernatural rely on a 'wave of the hands' to explain away the apparently impossible. There's no fun to be had in trying to untangle how something strange happened because it just did.

I very much prefer the former (as you may guess from my descriptions!); the author in this book goes for the latter. I feel that's cheating on the reader - building up the tension, creating a mystery and then using the implausible and unrealistic to resolve the plot line. If you also do, then you'll find this book disappointing too. However if you don't - go with the other positive reviews.
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