Book: The Prestige by Christopher Priest

Interesting, but drags in the second half

Christopher Priest
The Prestige
Tor, 1995
ISBN-10: 0-312-85886-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-85886-5
360 pages

The title of The Prestige, the reader learns, is a bit of a pun. The book is about two nineteenth-century stage magicians who engage in a bitter professional rivalry. It turns out that "prestige" refers not only to the fame and wealth that each seeks. It also has a technical meaning among professional magicians, for whom it refers to the seemingly impossible thing that is the result of a trick.

The book begins and ends with a short modern-day narrative that frames the story, but the large majority of the book is about the two magicians. The first half is an ordinary narrative from the point of view of one of them. The second half is a diary kept by the other, who conveniently didn't bother to record the years of his life that we wouldn't be interested in.

It's interesting to see the rivalry from the two points of view and to see the two magicians' personalities and secrets emerge. But, despite the portions that aren't recorded, the book drags in the second half, as its structure would pretty inevitably make it do. Having read the story of one nineteenth-century stage magician, it's not that interesting to read the story of another. Some interesting things happen at the end, but I can't say that they were really worth the slog through the second half.

Posted: Wed - December 6, 2006 at 07:20 PM   Main   Category: