Book Review from the Pocket Pistol: The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Roughly 350 Pages)
I loved the movie based on this book. A friend of mine gave me a copy of the novel later, and I really looked forward to reading it.
The old letters, journals, and discussed memories approach to telling the story is an artifice that tends to annoy the crap out of me. It takes a really good writer to manage to pull that off without either coming across as overwrought and pompous or just turning out to be a dull, plodding narrative with unnecessary and unrealistic in-character explanations. Oddly enough, the author managed to avoid both fates just barely well enough to keep the book interesting.
. . . but it also fell victim to both, to some extent at least.
The book and the movie diverge significantly toward the end, though, where the explanation of what’s actually going on with the Transported Man trick starts to become directly important to the progress of the story. Unfortunately, where the movie’s explanation for what’s going on behind the scenes is a little weird and might make suspension a little more difficult for some of us, but lends itself to an understanding of the characters that shocks the viewer and gives the tale real pathos, the book’s take on it just comes across as lame and poorly conceived.
The common wisdom is that the book is always better than the movie. When drastic changes are made to movies, they tend to end up being much worse than the original version of the story as presented in the books. In this case, though, the movie turned a frankly crappy ending and just plain dumb underlying concept into something interesting that lent itself to the construction of a gripping story.
The book was . . . decent, until the lengthy, stumbling climax and denouement, complete with its cheap theatrics in the last few pages. The end, and the explanation for what was going on, completely ruined the story, though.