THE PRESTIGE

After a ten-year hiatus, Priest (The Glamour, 1985, etc.) returns in strength with a taut, twisting, prize-winning story of two magicians and their fierce fin-de-siäcle rivalry that taints successive generations of their respective families. A London journalist is brought to an English manor house by a ruse, there to meet a young woman who claims to have known him as a child—and to have watched him die at her father's hands. Baffled by these memories, the two join forces to plumb the written records of their ancestors, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, talented magicians who bore each other tremendous ill will. Their first clash came in 1878, as Borden, in an excess of zeal for the purity of the magician's craft, attempted to expose Angier as a fraud during a sÇance he and his wife were conducting. The attempt failed, but in the process Angier's pregnant wife was hurt and lost their baby, thereby prompting an unending feud between the men. Many ruined performances later, with both men having risen to prominence in their work, Borden seems at last to have gained the upper hand with his use of then-novel electricity to transport himself, inexplicably and instantaneously, from one part of a stage to another. Not to be outdone, Angier visits Colorado to meet with the eccentric master of electricity, Nikola Tesla, commissioning him to build a transporting device that will top Borden's act. In time he learns that his rival's trick is only an illusion while his is the real thing, and this fact creates a catastrophe that will reverberate through several generations when Borden again disrupts Angier's act by pulling the plug on Tesla's device at the worst possible moment. Electrifying effects and a deft handling of mysteries and their explanations (some remaining tantalizingly incomplete) in an unexpectedly compelling fusion of weird science and legerdemain.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14705-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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