Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. I found the positives in Twilight. I even seem to remember rattling through The Bridges of Madison County.

The Prestige is worse than all of them. Possibly the worst book I've ever read.

If you've seen the film, then you'll have had a taste of the balderdash herein. Two dull and unpleasant stage magicians from the late 19th century carry on an unconvincing feud for a number of years. Let's call them Penn and Teller.

Penn has a trick where he vanishes at one end of the stage and reappears at the other. Teller is intrigued. He's told Penn must use a double, but he's unconvinced. Instead he's
sent on a wild goose chase by Penn with one word - Tesla!

So Teller is tricked into going to Nebraska, and asking Nikola Tesla to build him a transporter. Piece of piss says Tesla, much easier than transporting energy. Oh, and I need it to transport something living. He's in luck as that's much easier than transporting inanimate objects. The machine is built

Just to make clear - there's been no earlier suggestion that Tesla could do this. Tesla didn't even know he could do this! He certainly doesn't make another, just drops out of view.

Now because Christopher Nolan is generally a maker of quality bollocks, the movie has the interesting twist that Teller (or Batman. Or Woverine, I forget) ends up with two living copies every time he does this, so he has to kill one each time, and that leads to his rival being framed for murder. This doesn't happen in the book. Instead Penn accidentally unplugs the machine mid-act. So there are two imperfect versions of Teller. Neither of whom does anything.

Okay, one does think about killing the rival, but doesn't go through with it. Then they both die. After unneccesarily faking their death. Then they come back to life and do nothing for ninety years.

Oh, and the other magician's secret? He had a double. Probably. That's kind of forgotten about.

The Prestige really is a masterclass in terrible plotting. A series of mishaps and boneheaded coincidences, and the solutions to the central riddles manage to be both bizarre and banal. There so much more stupidity to go into, but I've said more than enough. It's probably bad form to describe so much of the "plot" and I won't make habit of it, but this book has already spoiled itself.


Ed said...

There are positives in Twilight? Granted I've only seen the film, not read the book.

James said...

First things first. Just in case folk ain't seen the movie... Spoiler Warning please!

I read this a long while back in anticipation of the Nolan movie. Like the Nolan movie I thought it was very good, although the film was better because it got rid of the unnecessary contempoary framing device and changed the incomplete "Wolverines".

The Da Vinci Code was great for what it was; a daft, pulp, page turner. Sadly the film attempted to make something serious and was pretty terrible for it.

And finally, possibly the most fascinating thing... You actually watched Twilight, Ted? What situation arose that got you to sit through that?

Joe said...

Swoony gothic romance. Quite effective and emotionally engaging. And a basic level of competence, which I'm also a fan of.

New Moon is on my list to read if I get round to it. The film wasn't very good though.

Joe said...

Yeah, spoiler warning should've probably gone at the top. Still. Fucking Tesla.

Ed said...

A mate of mine at work lent me three DVD-Rs with no writing on em and said The Jacket is one of these (which is what I was borrowing in the first place). I determined I might as well watch the other films generally being a fan of films. One was Twilight (romantic guff), another was Primer (awful) and then there was The Jacket (quite good).

James said...

I haven't read Twilight, just watched the first and suffered the second. The thing that bothers me about them isn't the teen romance bollocks, it's that the lead girl is such a horrific cunt, especially in New Moon where you just wish the boys would see through what a shallow, manipulative, cock teasing bitch she is and decide to fall in love with something more interesting like a mound of dirt. That and vampires can't reveal themselves to the world by going into direct sunlight, yet they can attend high school because the sun never randomly comes out during the day.

True Blood is much better.

Joe said...

Not that I want to be the big Twilight defender, but the school thing is explained adequately - they've chosen to be part of human society, and teenagers have to go to school. It does make it clear they've moved there because the town has less sunshine than any other in the country. When it's sunny, they call in sick. I've got no problem with that.

Others I've spoken to who like the book have singled out Bella as being a bitch from hell who doesn't deserve such fine looking monsters fighting over her. It hasn't annoyed me yet.

I'm certainly not going to say it's better than True Blood, or most other successful vampire fiction. Bloody hell, Let the Right One In! But it is enjoyable romantic gothic nonsense. Not sure I can be arsed reading New Moon though.

Ed, I've seen Primer and remember enjoying it, though it was hard to follow. The same doubling motif as the Prestige, but handled better I reckon.

Ed said...

I didn't get past the first half an hour I'm afraid - I got sick of watching ill lit, mumbling boffins discussing physics round their kitchen table.

James said...

But saying "when it's sunny they call in sick" doesn't justify it. There are days, many of them, where it's generally overcast and dull, and then there'll be a small gap in the clouds and for a couple of minutes the sun will come out. That's retardedness of too high a level to be ignored. Weather is a tad unpredictable!

Joe said...

Damn, I think I've just spoiled Primer as well. I may need to add to that warning at the top.

On Twilight - remember they'll be off during the summer anyway, so that takes the best chunk of the year away. Plus it's only direct sunlight that gives them gay sparkle, they're constantly aware of it, and their reactions are much quicker than humans. Of course they can stay out of the sun, but then I go out with a ginger - I can see how it's done.

Then in New Moon Edward fucks off to Italy. Yeah, that makes no sense.

But still, compare this with the Tesla Coincidence. I know which is harder for me to accept. At least they try and address the sunshine issue.

Hey, Tesla's a good name for a girl.

Noyus said...

You have neglected one key point re: Nolan's movie adaptation -

Tesla is played by Bowie. This overrules and makes EVERYTHING AWESOME.

LonWon said...

Hmm... I don't know about the book, but with Nolan's film The Prestige, as with Inception, it's possible the audience might need to pop out one more layer of unreality than they want: