Epiphyte Book Review up to review index

The Prestige

by Christopher Priest

trade paperback edition

hardcover edition

The Prestige is the story of two Victorian stage magicians locked in a bitter and tragic feud. It straddles the boundaries between horror, fantasy, and science fiction, with a wild-eyed Nikola Tesla in a brief role as the mad scientist.

Rupert Angier is a disinherited younger son who turns to stage magic to keep body and soul together. His greatest rival is Alfred Borden, a wheelwright's son who rises to prominence with a showstopping teleportation illusion known as The New Transported Man. Angier, obsessed with the illusion, turns to Tesla for help in duplicating it. Borden becomes obsessed in turn with Angier's version of the trick, with tragic consequences. Nearly a century later, the magicians' feud continues to blight their modern descendants' lives.

This is a book that requires a certain amount of patience from the reader. Most of the book is told through the diaries and journal entries, and many events are related twice from different perspectives. The narration is occasionally pedantic and frequently misleading; nothing is as it seems. (This is, after all, magic.) The book ends frustratingly abruptly.

Priest evokes a tangible period atmosphere. Borden and Angier's stage shows are full of mystical bombast and "scientific" special effects; the arcing, spitzing electricity they use to frighten the crowds feels genuinely dangerous. They successfully cater to both of the Victorians' twin obsessions, science and the occult. Priest does much the same with modern readers. The Prestige isn't for everyone, but it's a complex, surprising novel that ought to appeal to readers who enjoy the work of Lisa Goldstein.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
February 1998

trade paperback edition
Publisher: Tor
Date: October 1997
ISBN: 0-312-85886-8
Binding: trade paperback
Pages: 416
Price: US $14.95

hardcover edition
Publisher: Tor
Binding: hardcover

  up to review index
Sep 2001 / CMS