Title: The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest
Narrator: Simon Vance
Publication Year: 1995
Pages: 416 (audio length: 12 hours 19 minutes)
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction?
Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com
From the cover:
In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent séance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose each other. In the course of pursuing each other’s ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magician’s craft can command. Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the end, their legacy will be passed on for generations to descendants who must, for their sanity’s sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.
I had never heard of this book until the movie came out a few years ago. I remember one of my sisters going on and on about how great of a movie it was, and that there was a book, and that was it. It went into the background and I didn’t think about it again for quite a long time. Then, back in June of last year, I was searching Audible.com for more books narrated by Simon Vance, after absolutel loving his renditions of the J. Maarten Troost books, and I remembered the incident with my sister and the movie, so I downloaded it
And then, for another few months, it just sat there
Until a few months ago, on a rather inconspicuous evening, I pulled The Prestige (the movie) out of Zaid’s DVD binder. And we watched it. And I absolutely loved it. So much so, that the next day, when I finished listening to the audiobook I had been reading, I immediately plucked The Prestige from the bottom of the list to start.
I have to say – for me, it started off slow. I fully understand the kind of suspense that Priest was trying to create, and it probably works for most people; for me, though, maybe it’s because I watched the movie first and had my own ideas of how the narrative would be set up, but it just didn’t excite me like I had been expecting.
I actually continue to feel that way about the book in general. It’s not that I necessarily think that the movie is better than the book; rather, it’s that the movie chose to do certain things differently, and because I saw them that way first, I was surprised to see that they weren’t the same in the book. (Sometimes, to be completely honest, I preferred the changes they made for the movie.) Also, I think that a lot of the things in the book were better able to be understood in the visual format of a movie: for example, the details of magic tricks were extremely difficult for me to picture from reading them in the book, but seeing the ones that were also in the movie meant that I could understand some of them.
Thinking about just the book, pretending that the movie doesn’t exist, I still really enjoyed it. I rather liked the narrator, particularly as the frame narrative was being set up. Even though he didn’t necessarily play a huge part in the overall story, beyond being the person reading the journals through which the action was recounted, he was still an integral part of Priest’s novel. It wouldn’t have been quite the same without him, and it all makes more and more sense by the end.
Ultimately, The Prestige is a fantastic tale of illusions, trickery, rivalries, and discovering hidden secrets from the past. I quite enjoyed it, and I think you will too – but if you haven’t already seen the movie, hold off to do so until after reading the book.