Written by Christopher Priest
Review written by Michael Jecks
Released: 10th February 2011
This is not a terribly recent book. First published in 1995, I had heard of it ten years ago, I think, but never managed to read it.
However, it came onto my television a short while ago, and the story was so extraordinary, I had to buy the book. For once, I wondered whether the film was better than the novel dissected to provide its plot.
So what is the basic story?
Two magicians in Victorian London first clash in 1878, and from that moment their lives are directed by their mutual antagonism. One, Rupert Angier, is a master showman, a brilliant stage-worker who can captivate his audiences; the other is far less competent at holding his audience, perhaps, but he has some ability. But when he designs a new, thrilling trick, Alfred Borden makes Angier so jealous, that he is prepared to risk all to learn the truth of the trick.
That, in essence, is the straight-line story. But it’s not the simple plot that pulls you into these two narratives. Because the film and the book are very different, and equally excellent.
The film is honed and precise in the way that it places the story before the viewer. It grips all through, and then there is a subtle twist at the end that had my hackles rising with horror. No, I won’t give it away.
But the book, the book is as good if not better. The shock is more subtle, the cruelty of jealousy and revenge over the years more poignant than a film could portray, and yet horribly effective.
If you haven’t seen the film or read the book, do. Get the DVD and buy the book, because both deserve it!