1990s Fantasy

The Prestige – Christopher Priest

I am really pleased that I asked for literary science fiction recommendations as I don’t think I’d ever have found this book otherwise. I’m not convinced that The Prestige is literary or science fiction, but it is a fantastic read!

The Prestige follows two Victorian magicians who are battling to out-perform each other. The pair get locked in an increasingly bitter rivalry that leads them to commit acts so dark and secretive that their actions go on to affect several generations of their families.

Audiences know well that a magician will practice his illusions for years, and will rehearse each performance carefully, but few realise the extent of the prestigitator’s wish to deceive, the way in which the apparent defiance of normal laws becomes an obsession which governs every moment of his life.

I loved learning about the world of a stage magician – everything from how the magic tricks worked to their back stage life fascinated me.

It has been a long time since I last read a book so gripping that I walked around the house reading it; taking it to the kitchen as I couldn’t even bear to part with the story for the few minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee. Many of you will groan if I say this book reminded me of the Fingersmith, but I’m afraid it is the only book that I can compare it to. The Prestige is packed with Victorian atmosphere and has twists and turns equal to those in the masterpiece that is the Fingersmith.

The Prestige is written from the perspective of the two magicians and their grandchildren. It flips backwards and forwards in time, slowly revealing the truth about what went on. I loved the way all the characters drew slightly different conclusions from the same situation. Their subsequent thoughts and actions made so much sense once you’d seen things from their perspective. It was all just so cleverly done that I am still in awe of it.

The Prestige could fit into the science fiction/fantasy genre, but please don’t be put off by this. It would spoil the book if I let you know what happened, but the plot is written so convincingly that you feel as though it could have occurred. It isn’t much stranger than Gothic tales like The Seance or Her Fearful Symmetry.

I’m giving this book 5 stars, not because it is the best written book in the world (it isn’t), but because it is one of the most entertaining. The Prestige has become one of my top 20 books of all time. I’m sure you’ll soon be bored of me recommending it at every opportunity, so you might as well give in and get a copy now. 😆  

I am really excited to learn that Christopher Priest has written a lot of books and a few of them look as though they could be just as good.

This interview with Christopher Priest has made them sound even more appealing!

Have you read anything written by Christopher Priest?


I also watched the DVD as part of C.B. James’ Read The Book, See the Movie Challenge

Prestige DVD

The Prestige DVD is also very good, but the story is much simpler. Many of the twists and turns had been edited out, meaning that the book was far better than the film.

I admit that the film confused me a lot at first, although this was probably because the actors looked nothing like the images of the characters I’d built up in my head (and I am notoriously bad at recognising faces!).

The plot was also a bit different, so it was satisfying to watch straight after reading the book. I was never quite sure which bits would stay true to the book and which would take a whole new direction.

It was interesting to see the magic tricks performed on stage, but I have to admit that they were a bit disappointing. The book had conjured up fantastic images of amazing tricks, but the footage revealed the cheesy old magic that I’ve seen many times before.

I’d also warn all bird lovers to take care when watching this film – I was a bit distressed to learn the truth behind some of the bird tricks.

I’d recommend the film, but the book is far better, so I encourage you to read that first.

Have you watched The Prestige?