That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

Like many of you, I am a huge fan of the movie starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman and made by the always impressive Christopher Nolan. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was based on a book until I saw this pop up in Audible. Being a huge fan of the story I had to check it out and while the movie still holds a slight edge for me, this was an enjoyable read.

The Prestige
Title: The Prestige
Published: 01/01/1995
Categories: ,
When two up and coming magicians cross paths a rivalry that will span their careers is sparked. A rivalry that starts as attempts to expose each other as frauds and quickly escalates into much deadlier attempts at sabotage. We're taken on a journey through their epic clashes and shown how all the magic works, but when this story is finished will YOU be able to spot the Prestige?

I don’t want to make this a movie vs book comparison at all because honestly they were both very enjoyable. It helps that the movie is one of my all time favorites. But the book follows a very similar, yet in other ways entirely different, path as the movie.

We’re treated to this exquisite rivalry that starts as innocent “business competition” type rivalry between two talented stage magicians that are each vying for that “top billing” spotlight. As the story unfolds we are gifted glimpses of how they are learning to master their craft, each from a slightly different angle, as their rivalry intensifies and becomes more and more dangerous.

The characters of Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden are both driven by a desire to be great and theirs is a classic tale of two people so tangled up in thinking the other is the enemy that they are unable to realize how, until it’s far too late, things could have been much different, much BETTER, had they only worked as allies vs rivals.

What I found so interesting about the book vs the movie adaptation, is that the book goes much further into the realms of science fiction and fantasy when it comes to the magic these two magicians are seeking to perfect. When the Tesla story arc shows up in the movie it’s the only real foray into the worlds of fantastical sci-fi, but in the book that part of the story and what comes after is expanded upon greatly.

Which is the biggest difference between the film and the book, aside from the ending that is.

In this book the story is told through characters in the modern day that are brought together under the guise of a reporter being summoned to report on a story of a haunted estate. From there the head of the estate shares with the reporter that the two of them have history, as they are each the respective ancestors of Angier and Borden, and the story is told via a series of journal entries as the two characters look back at the books and diaries of the dueling magicians.

There is plenty of intrigue, tragedy, fantastical science behind the brilliant illusions they both become known for, and at the end of the day even some questions about what it means to be human and the lengths people will go to achieve their goals, be it fame or anything else.

If I had to give a word of warning however, it would be this.

For fans of the film, beware that there are a lot of elements that are pretty different than the film version. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact in many cases it’s very enjoyable to see how the book handles certain elements of the story. But the ending of the book, while interesting and leaving you with something to think about as it provides a callback to a nearly forgotten nugget in the very beginning of the book, does not seem to carry the same impact as the way the film ended. In many ways the ending of this book feels like a throwback to how fantasy and science fiction stories of the 30’s through 60’s would have ended. Plenty to think about but feeling like they kind of just taper off and end with the real climax to the story seeming to have come some time BEFORE the end of the book.

And for some, that may leave you feeling unsatisfied.

I love the rivalry between Angier and Borden, at times thrilling and other times heart breaking. I also love how this story serves as both a fantastic adventure and a gut-punch level cautionary tale that will leave you with plenty to think about as the pages fly by. There is stage magic, love, intrigue, sci-fi elements and above all a look at two characters as they journey through their life-long passion of becoming the best stage magician in the world.

It’s a beautiful dance that will suck you in and have you fully invested in both of it’s main characters until the very end, at which point many of you will feel like the story sort of fizzles and falls apart. In this respect, the movie still reigns supreme. The film absolutely sticks the landing and ties the entire story of Angier and Borden together with an epic gut-punch that leaves you with a ton to consider. The book, however, leaves you scratching your head a bit wondering what those last few pages were trying to say.

In the end, I still highly recommend this book as it’s a super fun look at two top tier magicians and a rivalry that spins wildly out of control.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest gets 4 out of 5 stars

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