Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club


THE PRESTIGE
by
CHRISTOPHER PRIEST
Prestige US cover The Prestige (1995)
World Fantasy Award Winner

Tor trade paperback
cover engraving by Giovanni Battista Bracceli
cover design by Shelley Eshkar
360 pages (left)

Gollancz UK paperback
Film tie-in edition
368 pages (right)
The Prestige UK movie tie-in cover

From the back cover of the trade paperback:
       In 1878, two young magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent sťance.  From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation.  They continually vie to outwit and expose each other.
       This rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers -- with terrible consequences.  In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception the magician's craft can command -- the highest misdirection and darkest science.
      Blood will be spilled, but even this will not be enough.  In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations...to descendants who must, for sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.

Read for group discussion on February 28, 2007

RATINGS:
How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 6 Barb -
Aaron 6 Cynthia 7
Jackie - Ron 7
Christine - Deb -
Mike - Stephanie -
Patty - Shannon -

Aaron's Commentary  Christopher Priest - The Prestige

This is so skillfully and cleverly written that I really wanted to like it more than I did.  The many ironic twists and nested iterations on the theme of dual personalities are most impressive.  I think Priest made the right choice not trying to conceal Alfred Borden's nature too long, instead focusing on Borden's fascinating psychology.

(Trying too hard to keep Borden's secret was one of several regrettable changes the filmmakers made in adapting The Prestige to the screen.  The most obvious error was altering the nature of the Tesla machine.  With the movie's nonlethal version, Angier could have merely used the device once and thereafter pulled off his magic trick the same way Borden did it.  But the film version is fairly good nonetheless.)

I found Rupert Angier a much less compelling character than Borden, and unfortunately his was a longer section of the novel.  Because I wasn't terribly interested in Angier's psychology, and because both Angier and Borden struck me as petty and unsympathetic, I found the second half of the novel a bit of a chore.  I had the same reaction to much of The Prestige that I have to magic shows: I recognize that the magician is skillful, but can't see much reason to care about his tricks.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to vanaaron@excite.com

The Prestige movie The Prestige (2006) - the movie
"A Friendship, That Became a Rivalry...A Rivalry, That Became a Battle."

Directed by Christopher Nolan. Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Buena Vista.

Starring: Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier); Christian Bale (Alfred Borden); Michael Caine (Cutter); Piper Perabo (Julia Angier); Rebecca Hall (Sarah Borden); Scarlett Johansson (Olivia Wenscombe); Samantha Muhurin (Jess Borden); David Bowie (Nikola Tesla); Andy Serkis (Alley).

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Cinematography and Art Direction

Bibliography:
Christopher Priest (1943-    ) is a UK writer of science fiction, fantasy, and non-genre books.

Awards:
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for novel The Prestige
1975 British SF Award for novel Inverted World
1980 British SF Award for short fiction "Paley Loitering"
1996 World Fantasy Award for novel The Prestige
1999 British SF Award for novel The Extremes
2002 Arthur C Clarke Award for novel The Separation
2003 British SF Award for novel The Separation

Novels:
-- Indoctrinaire (1970, revised 1979), sf tale of imprisonment in Brazil
-- Fugue for a Darkening Island (1972, US title Darkening Island), sf set in near future England
-- Inverted World (1974), sf featuring a hyperboloid world
-- The Space Machine (1976), pastiche of the works of H.G. Wells
-- A Dream of Wessex (1977, US title The Prefect Lover), intricate non-conventional sf
-- The Affirmation (1981), a fabulation set partly in the Dream Archipelago
-- The Glamour (1984), contemporary fantasy featuring invisibility
-- The Quiet Woman (1990), mainstream sf novel
-- The Prestige (1995),  a Victorian technofantasy of rival stage magicians
-- The Extremes (1998), a near-future SF thriller of mass murders and virtual reality
-- The Separation (2002), an alternate/parallel history novel of World War II

Story Collections:
-- Real-Time World (1974), includes stories set in the Dream Archipelago
-- An Infinite Summer (1979)

Anthologies edited:
-- Anticipations (1978)
-- Stars of Albion (1979, with Robert Holdstock)

Other stuff:
-- The Last Deadloss Visions (1977, chapbook), cruel analysis of Harlan Ellison's Last Dangerous Visions
-- The Book on the Edge of Forever (1994), as above pamphlet, different form
-- The Making of the Lesbian Horse (1979, chapbook), spoof continuation of Inverted World

Priest has written non-genre novels under pseudonyms John Luther Novak and Colin Wedgelock.


Links:
Christopher Priest's Official Website
Christopher Priest - Wikipedia
The Prestige - Wikipedia

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