So disappointed with this book! It had such great potential! If you like monotonous babbling this might be the book for you! So many questions remain unanswered.
pretty great human person
Had seen the movie and was interested in hearing the book. The book is pretty different, but still a pleasure to hear. Simon Vance made the story come alive with his character voices. Would definitely recommend this audio book.
Fascinating tale of a feud between two confused men, told in such a way that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Now that I've finished, I feel the need to return to the start and revisit earlier parts of the book to check the story.
The twists were revealed so we'll and gradually that you could enjoy them for a long time. Very satisfying story with cool contrasts in characters.
This was my first read of Christopher Priest, and I found it masterfully done. The interplay of competing character stories, the use of journal entries to propel the passage of time, and the story itself were wonderful, dipping only slightly through the second middle half of the book.
Priest makes the fantasy and science elements seem plausible, interlacing the protagonist's story with the inner workings of late 19th century Britain and the inclusion of the eccentric Nikola Tesla to give it a realistic historical play.
I selected this book because it was read by Simon Vance. From the Prestige, to A Short History of Nearly Everything, to Interview with the Vampire, to Dune, to The Great Divorce... all masterworks by their respective authors, all masterfully narrated by Vance. He is, in my mind the greatest narrator Audible has.
"The New Transported Man"
It was interesting listening to this after having seen the movie years ago. I remembered enough of the movie to know the Secrets but not enough that I could anticipate details or make comparisons. However, there are massive differences between the book and the movie anyway. It's too bad that this is one of those rare cases where the movie is far better than the story, and not even as much in the plot as in the execution of storytelling.
The story is told through a series of journals, and Simon Vance does a nice job of differentiating the voices (even aging the voices of individual characters as necessary). As is often the case, trying to sound female or like a child is a bit of a stretch, but Vance manages it clearly yet smooth enough that it is not distracting.
Alfred Borden's journal is easily the best writing in the story. Knowing the Secret also made it really fun to see exactly where Priest was playing with the reader's expectations. I absolutely loved that section of the book! That section is very well crafted and some of my favorite writing in a while.
Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. One of the mantras of writing is "Show don't tell", but Priest is over the top in "telling not showing" several times. Major reveals are conveyed second hand in very anti-climatic ways. Technically, it is even third hand or in one situation fourth hand as the journal writer tells us what the reporter told him that a lady told him. It could have been subtle playing with unreliable narrators, testimonial knowledge, and more subterfuge, but in reality, it isn't. It just comes across as flat and uninteresting.
I keep coming back to the word "anti-climatic" but that really sums it up for me. For example, the structure of one major Secret's reveal (hoping to keep this vague enough and metaphorical enough not to spoil anything), is like a magician performing a card trick. You figure out the card was up his sleeve and the trick is actually pretty easy. But then someone says "I checked his sleeve and didn't see the card!" So you are curious again about the trick, until that person says "Oh wait, I didn't look close enough. Yeah, there was a card in his sleeve. Never mind, you were right." The suspense and reveal are far too bland, and with a book about magicians and their secrets, the reveals are important. A clear warning sign is the fact that Priest needs to have his characters constantly remind us that this is mysterious and inexplicable. "Sure, we already have an explanation that eventually turns out true, but no, really, you don't understand it really is WAY mysterious." Again, telling us it is mysterious is far less interesting than showing us.
Also, this may be more of a pet peeve of mine, but really all of the characters except one are very unsympathetic to the point of you not really feeling bad when things go wrong for them. The only character that is remotely sympathetic is Kate, but she's barely in the book, has little personality, and no real story to her other than a mystery that she of course tells us is VERY mysterious, but given that we start the book with the theme of possibly duplicate people and every single storyline involves that theme, again the mystery falls pretty flat.
There is so much I didn't like about this story that it's sad considering that I REALLY enjoyed the first third or so and would easily give that 5 stars. It really is very well crafted. Unfortunately, the rest just doesn't work for me and comes across as a whole series of bad choices by Priest and rather poorly crafted storytelling. Perhaps Priest is really two brothers and one began the story and the other finished it. Too bad one is a great writer and the other not so much.
I loved this book, it's dark and magical, a wonderful mystery through generations and time. The prose and the pacing is excellent, and you really sympathize with everyone. It's a bit on the dark and morbid side, so if you like that, I would highly recommend it to you.
It wasn't a bad book, but it seemed lengthy to me and at times difficult to get through. Its written much like its movie counterpart yet has several large discrepancies, including the ending. If you liked the movie the book could be worth a read for a similar yet different story.