NESFA Members' Reviews


by Christopher Priest

St. Martin's, ISBN 0-312-14705-8, 1996, 404pp, US$24.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper

I have resolved to spend more time pointing out the wonderful books that people don't seem to hear about, and much less reviewing the latest "nth book in a heptology" or whatever.

And this is a wonderful book.

Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier were two Victorian magicians who through circumstance became not only rivals, but bitter enemies. Borden's descendent is a modern-day journalist who has been having strange "premonitions" of a lost twin, and eventually becomes entangled in the strange tale of his ancestor and Angier. Both Borden and Angier were masters of deception, and it is this bent towards deception and concealment that leads to their war against each other. That both perform a trick involving magical bilocation is part of their rivalry, but only part. How they perform their magic, and the implications thereof, are only slowly unfolded throughout the book. By the end it all makes sense if one accepts some science fictional conceits and a certain amount of misdirection. But then, misdirection is what prestidigitation is all about, and Priest manages his magic trick as neatly as Borden and Angier do theirs.

This is a book that you cannot read only once. As with a stage magic trick, there is a compelling desire after seeing the trick to go back and see if one can figure out how it was worked. (This has been used to excellent effect in a couple of movies of late as well. After reading it you'll know which ones I mean, but even saying which is giving too much of a hint.)

This is a magical book, and the one mystery is how it's managed to remain as invisible as it has, especially given that it won the World Fantasy Award. It would be a better trick to materialize it on everyone's night stand (though of course that would bypass the royalties for it). So I'll settle for giving you a strong recommendation for this book.

%T      The Prestige
%A      Christopher Priest
%C      New York
%D      October 1996
%I      St. Martin's
%O      hardback, US$24.95
%G      ISBN 0-312-14705-8
%P      404pp

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