Monday, 26 September 2011

Marvellous Monday Book Group 19th Sep: The Prestige

Although this has been published under
the SF Masterworks banner, Chrisopher
Priest's book is rather lacking in sci fi
details. In fact, as MM Book grouper
Chris pointed out, there is really just
one sentence that you can stamp the 'sci fi'
label on.

As a tale of warring magicians - one naturally gifted (Borden), one financially in a position to buy elaborate equipment (Angiers), it is pretty engrossing. But - the
discussions around the table (some heated) suggested that we were all fascinated by the premise but disappointed in the execution.

Several members of the group found the descriptions of the stage performances tedious and felt that this was one area where the film adaptation probably did the book a favour. Most people also found that the 'modern day' wrapper surrounding the book (allowing the Victorian story to be told via discovered notebooks) was superfluous and detracted from the whole. The hapless journalist descended from Borden was two dimensional and there were details mentioned in the opening paragraphs that seemed significant but which were never referred to again.

The juxtaposition of present day and historic characters did open up a very interesting debate about how as readers we suspend belief. The point was made that a disappearing man seemed less outrageous in a Victorian setting, where vast acres of scientific discovery were yet to be pinned down, but was unconvincing in the 1970's - where scepticism would have been king. The people that enjoyed the book most were quite happy to suspend belief in both time zones.

Overall, the majority view was that the book was mainly hampered by cumbersome prose and under-developed characters. There were pockets of enjoyment though and it's worth noting that many of the group didn't see this book as sci fi in the slightest - but would have been put off reading it had they known beforehand! It's always exciting to dip a toe into the water of a new genre - just a shame that on this occasion the quality writing quality was felt to be lacking.

Next up: "Spooks" Mr B's style. A Hallowe'en discussion of Michelle Paver's chilling ghost story 'Dark Matter' at 6:45pm on Monday 31st October. And, if we have any unsolved burning questions about the book, we have the opportunity to quiz Michelle when she comes to Mr B's in November!

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