The Prestige, by Christoper Priest

Story about two illusionists in the late 19th century who nurture a mutual animosity to one another, and jealously guard their own tricks from their rival. Borden develops an illusion in which he appears to teleport from one side of the stage to the other in an instant, an Angier determines to match or better it.

This was a really good idea, and a fantastic read, although the book somehow felt a little bit flawed.

The main story (of Borden and Angier) is bracketed by a current-day plot which has Borden's great-grandchild, a journalist, investigating reports of a paranormal event. This was quite promising, had some neck-tingling moments and seemed to set things up very well for the main story. But at the end of the book, when we revert to the present, things are not very satisfactorily resolved, and you're left thinking "what was that about?". I have since watched the film, which omits this part of the story altogether, and I think that was a good decision.

But the main story was really nicely structured. First Borden's diaries reveal how he came to hate Angier, and how he develops his trick. The trick is described but never quite properly explained, even though there are hints and suggestions and promisies that you will find out how it's done. And then just as you think there might be a reveal, the narrative switches to Angier's point of view, and moves back in time to tell his story.

Angier is unable to discover Borden's secret, but Borden does make sure he comes across some red-herring clues. And as it happens, these lead to Borden developing his own variant on the illusion, which stumps Borden, who can't work out how Angier's trick is done. And here was another slight disappointment in the book: we are told how Angier does his trick, but the explanation relies on a made-up bit of science-fiction. So it's hard not to feel a little cheated (although, to be fair, that's how you always feel when you find out how a trick's done).

But the tension between the two protagonists, both keeping their own secret, but both going mad trying to find out the other's, is really nice.

Towards the end of the book, you do realise how Borden's trick is done. Or at least, I think you do: it's not spelled out, but is very strongly implied. In this respect, I think the book was better than the film, because the film makes it very clear (at the end) how Borden's illusion worked.

But the flaws didn't really spoil the book, which was a great read.

Completed : 06-Oct-2012 (audiobook)

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