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Within the film version of The Prestige, it is established that

Angier has engineered his magic trick so that the figure on the platform would be dropped into a tank of water to kill them, for they were, as he was, still alive.

In comparison, within the novel

No such mechanism is mentioned, although it is established that there is a body left behind after every performance of the "trick", buried in the crypt.

My interpretation of the novel's events is that only biological material is duplicated, and that the soul (or, as Tesla calls it, the "life energy") is transported, meaning that what Angier calls "the prestige materials" is always inert. Is there any evidence that is indeed what is meant to be shown (keeping in mind that, since most of the novel is epistolary, we've got a serious case of unreliable narrators)?

  • It's definitely not the case in the film as you point out, though that could be artistic license as a dead body dropping isn't as moving and only leaves further questions. I haven't read the book but I'd assume a body and transferred life energy is more likely than it being duplicated. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 2 '18 at 14:49
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    @TheLethalCarrot: Honestly, I think it massively changes the character of Angier from someone so afraid of having his spotlight stolen that he's willing to resort to repeated murder, to someone who bravely confronts the natural fear of death, and furthermore treats the results as worthy of respect. – FuzzyBoots Jan 2 '18 at 14:59
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    I'm a little confused by the use of the word "prestige" in this question. I thought in the context of the story, "the prestige" was a section of an illusion, not one of the props or items used in an illusion. In fact, the prestige as I understood it could just be an action or statement. The thing that makes it more than an illusion and turns it into astounding entertainment. – Todd Wilcox Jan 2 '18 at 18:25
  • @ToddWilcox: {nods} It's a term used in the book by Angier for it which I used in lieu of the actual artifact to avoid spoilers (although it might be a bit later to worry about that. It's practically at "It's his sled" levels). – FuzzyBoots Jan 2 '18 at 18:53
  • Well, I have an answer of sorts. I emailed Christopher Priest from his website and he gave me some clues, but also asked that I not quote him, so I'm going to give the book a reread and put up my honest deduction. – FuzzyBoots May 16 '18 at 21:10
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I did not have an opportunity to reread the book as planned, but I have found indications that indeed, the "prestige materials" were inert.

From this review of the differences between the book and the movie (spoilers ahead):

.... in the book, Tesla's machine created inanimate copies of living things. Angier used the duplication machine on Borden's son, and so the inanimate copy convinced Borden that his son was dead. Angier then raised Borden's son as his own. At the end, Borden's son finds the "prestige materials": Angier's duplicates and one of himself. Which is a pretty creepy scene even if it lacks a logical reason for the duplicates' perfect preservation.

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