The Prestige by Christopher Priest

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I have a hard time classifying this novel through conventional methods because Christopher Priest combined the contemporary epistolary style from Bram Stoker, the scientific mysticism from HG Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s humanism in literature, the grey tinted first person horror from Edgar Allan Poe shorts and the noir subtext from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Its not hard for folks to recognize the steampunk quality from the obvious Tesla worship and the mechanics of his technology, but as a whole, it was obvious that Christopher Priest’s The Prestige is as awe-inducing as its adaptation from the Nolan brothers.

Despite my initial skepticism over the ambitious style that this book embellished from the start and the fact that I already spoiled myself by watching the 2006’s movie, I do stand in awe with the complexities of the novel which are virtually unadaptable. For all the ambitious things Nolan brothers did to their movie, the book surprisingly remain unblemished. In fact, I don’t think the movie itself as a faithful representation of the novel.

The novel is actually a compiled set of narrative parts from four characters. The novel began with a modern man, Andrew Westley, who found out that he was descendant from an illustrative magician, Alfred Borden. He came to meet with a Kate Angier who turned out to be a descendant of Rupert Angier who is another infamous illusionist “The Great Danton” who had an intense rivalry with the “Le Professeur de la Magie” aka Borden. The secondary narrator was Borden which was in a form of a published notebook of his early life and the subsequent tales of his subsequent life as a magician, his family and mistakes. The third narrator was Kate who told Andrew about her own past that conflicted with his own while the fourth consists of a more in depth series of Rupert Angier’s diaries which gave another fresh perception of the events happening inside the Bordon’s diaries.

I was uncertain with the rating as the story telling are distorted, the style changed too much and inconsistent but by the end, I was completely taken aback by the complexities and the applied multivariate techniques in this story. There were the parallel between the movie and the book but to be honest, the movie as a whole are probably 25-30% from the novel’s storytelling and even it was only moderately faithful to that said percentage. This made the book more enjoyable if you’re dissatisfied with the movie but I think you won’t get a lot of closure with the book too.

Some of the characters are the same but characterization itself was only similar to a degree. The terms used in the Nolan’s The Prestige itself was absent which shows a great degree of improvisation to make the novel film-able. Some of the things I was I think the movie simplified the feud by giving a strong impression in the beginning while to book’s reasoning itself is even much intense. I don’t know how this is possible but it is. At least, the book didn’t use the usual Nolan’s trope on “woman in refrigerators” characters. The females in this book was more well-developed than the Nolan’s characters and I am deathly glad because of this.

There were some disadvantage over the limited point of view from the style like there were moments where it does drags and there were inane entries and some repetitions, naturally, but suddenly you get things that are more than just interesting, then it became intriguing and confusing and suddenly even I felt I was being fooled by Priest in the end. You know the feeling you get when Thom Yorke song suddenly emerged at the end of the movie? That horror is even more profound in the novel. What even weirder, neither of them are the same.

So, if you want to read this novel. You need a strong psyche to withstand the psychological baggage from the author who have a tendencies to manipulate each and everyone of his character and the readers themselves. Personally, I love the book and the movie but now I am in complete adoration of the story. On side note, I had complimented Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus in my review and the parallel with the movie. But this book and The Night Circus are definitely not in a same pea pods’ universe. If you love classical science fiction and fantasy set and written in the Victorian eras to the Edwardian era, this book will sit nicely with your collection… and Neil Gaimans’ too.

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