The Prestige by Christopher Priest Review

the prestige

I was spellbound by the movie. So I decided to finally sit down and read the novel. Christopher Priest’s first edition of this book is rare, and can give you a lot of money. I don’t have it. I had the paperback at one point, but thanks to the library, I was able to sit with this book this week and well, it caused a stir in me. “The Prestige” by Christopher Priest is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Woa! Sorry to stop your flow of reading. I wanted to interject and say that this is an older review. I know, old content isn’t always great. However, if you’re reading this, just know that this is a review that I wrote after reading the book in 2018. I’m working on 2019’s reviews, and will post them as I can, but this is from my archives. Sorry to break up the flow again, just continue reading, and please try the fish! I mean, buy the book.

Ever read someone’s diary? Do you like epistolary novels? Well this is one hell of a work. If you liked Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, then you will definitely enjoy this book. This book is told from the perspective of diaries, letters, and first person for the most part. The diaries are read by the great-grandchildren of the magicians that you already know are the center point of the novel. The setup here takes a while, and I found myself somewhat bored with how long it took to get into the meat of the diaries. You’re going to have to stick with this one if you’re going to make it, as Priest takes his time in creating the mood, setting up the possession of the diaries, and giving you background to the story before pulling the rug out from under you.

Through the story, you are given both accounts of the rivalry between Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden. The two exchange blows, and things get really bad when Angier’s wife is pushed in a melee, resulting in the death of their son. Borden causes this during a séance, which was a normal proceeding during the time frame of the novel, presented in the 19th century. This is the catalyst of the bigger picture, but not so fast, there’s so much more to go.

The crux of the story involves the rivalry, but not without sex, lies, and destruction of the soul. Borden especially plays on the duality to the tee. He sacrifices so much within his life, and it drives Angier nuts at one point. He goes through the movements of trying to figure out Borden’s tricks, while Angier goes through the ups and downs of trying to make a living with magic. The story’s narrative flows so well at the mid-point, that you can’t put it down. You have to find out how the performances work, and how a beautiful assistance seduces someone to become their lover, only to dispel rumors that there are two Borden brothers, not one.

Through the rivalry, obsession stirs within both men. They trade back and forth hits, and misses. The story denotes magic’s history, the longing to defy physics, and at the end of the day perform in such a way that they can illuminate crowds, and make money. At the crux of what these two rivals do is money. Money is the key motivation across each path, although you’ll come to find out that Borden’s curse is that he wants more than that, at least a part of him does.

Christopher Nolan’s movie has been said to be “visual shorthand” by Christopher Priest ( He’s right. A lot of the movie is visual shorthand. The movie takes what Priest labors with and shows you through images. It’s visually appealing, but nothing compares to the story that is within your head. Your imagination is going to absolutely thrill, and you will find that there’s a lot of glory found within the visual design flow of your own mind. For me, it took on a more romantic feeling at times, and a lot more adult rated images than the pg-13 elements that Nolan put in his movie adaptation.

The movie and the book collide, and it’s well thought out. But the book is going to drive point the science fiction element in the final act. The final act is where you will either love or hate “The Prestige” by Christopher Priest.

Earlier this year I drew comparisons from “The Prestige” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. What happened was simple, my professor hated it and gave me a C on my final paper. That led me to getting kicked out of grad school, just 3 credits short of graduating. I think that Priest speaks volumes to the notion of obsession, creation, and science. He takes the works of Nikola Tesla and makes them magical with the stroke of a pen. The creation of an incredible electrical cloning device really pushes through a whole new vantage point, and it kills Angier. It kills him, or rather kills his clones, and leaves a ghost behind.

It’s within the presentation of sacrificing yourself to an extreme that you really get a sense for the novel. What would you sacrifice? How far will you go to get what you wanted? When you contrast Angier and Borden you start to unravel a web of truth. That we are all flawed and we all make extreme mistakes, some of which come back to haunt us, and some of which kill us in time.

Here we go, a book that is deep in metaphor, calculated until the end, and definitely better than the movie. This is a 4 out of 5 for me. Priest creates a lavish universe, but at the end of the day, it’s long. There are points where Priest is writing too much about the same thing. He really works hard to create so much smoke and mirrors to offset the magic of the story, you get bored. I was bored with the setup, but once you realize that Priest is using a giant magic metaphor for his story, you’re in deep.

Overall, “The Prestige” by Christopher Priest is worth picking up. I loved it. I think the movie is a visual delight, condensed and adapted for those that will not sit through 400 some odd pages of description. However, the movie leaves out a lot of the emotional reveal that comes with Borden and Angier. The ghost element is also left out, changed, and you end up with a sketch of characters, rather than a rich, brooding science fiction, warning of a book. I still think it contrasts well with “Frankenstein” despite what one American Public University professor says.

You can purchase “The Prestige” by Christopher Priest by clicking here, and getting it shipped to your home or office.

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