The Anubis Gate is Tim Powers’ award winning fourth novel, published in 1983 it really is an amazing book, the like of which I’ve never read before. The Anubis Gate doesn’t have many ulterior motives or deep meanings, apart from trying to constantly entertain the reader. I’m not going to cover the plot in this review (its too involved) but all I’ll say is that it cunningly merges together the following elements:
Time travel Body swapping Ancient Egyptian sorcery Werewolves Literary scholars Deformed wicked clowns Evil gypsies Dens of beggars Assassins Mad scientists Horrific stilt walking clowns Archaic Gods Romantic poets Doppelgangers An underground criminal society Tiny “spoonsize” boys Fire and wind elementals The Beatles, and so on. The bizarre thing it that (almost) all makes sense!
As you can imagine combining all of the above makes for a fairly zany plot which at times becomes difficult to follow but as the action is so relentless I was happy to just keep on going and ignore any confusing parts, along with the minor historical and linguistic errors. Powers also manages to skilfully build up a sense of mystery throughout the novel making the reader want to turn the 400 pages to find out what happens next.
I’d be fascinated to see how Powers constructs a storyline, you almost get the impression that he takes several interesting unrelated obscure facts then tries to somehow link them together in a logical, enjoyable and compelling way.
While this is classified as a Fantasy Masterworks (and it is definitely a Masterwork) I believe that constraining it to just the Fantasy genre is too limiting, after all it covers horror, science fiction, poetry and historical fiction too.
So, in summary a highly imaginative novel which blurs fiction with reality with a few laughs thrown in for good measure. The story rushes past you at a frightening pace and it would be worthy of a couple of reads just to try to make sense of the parts which I never fully grasped the first time round! I can’t wait to check out more of Tim Powers clever books; highly recommended.
If you think it would be impossible to meld Egyptian gods, time travel, poetry, and historical fiction, think again, because this book does it. Brendan Doyle, a scholar with expertise in Samuel Coleridge and the (fictional) William Ashbless poets of the early 19th century, is drawn into a scheme to actually travel back to the period of those poets via `gaps' in the integrity of time flow left from the performance of a major spell by a mysterious survivor/sorcerer of ancient Egypt. Kidnapped and marooned in this time period, Doyle is introduced to the underwold of that London, becoming a beggar who must hide from the sorcerer's disciples (and their ka's, replicas grown from the original's blood). Figuring out why he is object of such attention and determining what to do about it forms the balance of this work. The action is fast paced, the situation complex and in places appropriately horrific, the described environs of London and Egypt in that period very well done. Most of the characters were well drawn, from the ka Romany to Jackie the beggar, and their motivations and actions normally made good sense. Historically, this seems to be quite accurate in terms of known events, from the Duke of Monmouth's attempts to take the English crown to the known early life of Lord Byron. Some of the images and ideas of this book are excellent, from little four inch high men to a valid, believable werewolf. And it does provide an interesting explanation for some of Coleridge's visions. Where I had some problems with this work was with the character of Doyle himself as he changes from something of an ivory-tower milquetoast to a man of action and derring-do, as the change just did not strike me as totally believable, even given that he was almost forced into such action or die. In some of the later stages of the book, I also had trouble following just who was who, especially for some of the minor characters (why this confusion exists is one of the mainstays of the plot). But most disappointing to me was that Powers basically copped out on providing any answer to the philosophical question that time travel almost necessarily entails: if you go back in time, are all your actions from that point on totally pre-determined (else history would change), is there some wiggle room for self-determination if the actions were never documented; or can history be changed and a new universe born? How he managed to not answer this forms a somewhat surprising coda to the main action, good in its own right, but still left me feeling a little cheated. Still, a strong action novel, well researched, and very different from most books that fall under the umbrella of `time-travel'. --- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
Well what's not to like? One big time travel conundrum, from present day America (well, 1983 as this is when the book was written) to the start of 19th century London, Egypt, and even back to 17th century London for a while! What's going on? Well, basically there are evil sorcerers trying to destroy the English establishment by means of body cloning, but they did not bank on the famous(!) poet William Ashbless being on hand to save the day! There are themes here that Tim Powers goes on to cover in other books, such as Last Call, particularly ones of people "switching bodies". This means you need to pay close attention at times to make sure you remember who is actually who. This is typical of his books and means concentration is definitely required to fully keep track of what's going on. The main culprit for this act of body switching in this case is none other then Dog-Faced Joe, who has been terrorising London, leaving a trail of bloody bodies behind him, and alway eluding the authorities. He is just one of many great characters met along the way. There is also Horrabin the Clown, leader of a vicious clan of cut-throat beggars running the streets of London, who is also a freak only able to walk on stilts for fear of his contact with the earth depleting his magic skills learnt from the Doctor Romany, King of the Gypsies! Doctor Romany also happens to be the "ka" of the real Doctor Romanelli, sent to London to facilitate the plan from the Master back in Egypt, to get rid of King George! If this all sounds confusing, then the best thing to do is read the book. Don't just take my advice, all the other great reviews say it all really.
Tim Powers has that rare skill of dragging the reader into his world from the very first page. And this book does not disappoint. The characters are many but all are full and wonderful. The reader is never in doubt as to their motives or feelings to their situation or surroundings. Being set in Victorian London, there is always ample going on and Powers puts this across with gusto. Twists and turns in plot as well as the dark alleys of sinister London has the reader continually suprised but not in a way to distract from the main theme. Magicians, scary clowns on springs, half men/dog beings giving chase to our reluctant hero who tries to use his future knowledge to help him get back home.Wonderfully written. Fantastic story line. Characters that you care for. This book stays with you well after the last page. Many read it over and over again. Twenty stars!!
There are so many reviews of fantasy books claiming that each one is better and more exciting than the last, but this really is a stormingly good book. It has so many elements to it and such a fast pace that the whole thing sucks you in from the beginning and shakes you in it's teeth until the very end. A huge variety of bizarre, macabre and historical figures all collide and the books is packed with conspiracy, cultists, gypsies, crooks, mad scientists, scary jesters, innocent victims, poets, magic and Eygptology of the best hokum kind, all jostling for space in the seedy backstreets of a not-quiet-London. The plot twists and curves, from chases to black magic to underground dens of thieves. The prose is tight and often grim, but without the longwindedness that so often besieges fantasy writers. This is a wonderful, exciting book crammed with ideas, and great fun to read with the story continuing to surprise until the very end.
I can honestly say that I've never read a book so, so jam packed with different ideas, plots and congruent storylines, its a work of genius.
The central themes and ideas, socerous intrigue behind political fates, fortunes and national ascendency, werewolves, transmigration of the soul, time travel, victorian underworlds of beggar gangs and cut throats, will be familiar but here they all occur simultaneously.
However its managed very well and its never overwhelming or hard work, I was recommended this book as a steampunk archetype, it certainly does fit that genre (although there arent any derigibles or blimps) and in many ways it could fit as easily the category of science fiction as fantasy.
A throughly enjoyable and very well paced read with great characterisation, you will really feel for the protagonists and antagonists, full of surprises from beginning to end.
Ignore any review that gives this book any less than four stars. It is a glorious rollercoaster ride of adventure, poetry, time travel, Dickensian London and Egyptian magic. I am on my fourth copy of this book - purely for the fact I have leant my copy to friends who have loved it so much they have asked to pass it on. This book is simply a joy to read, and is even better read for the second time - which I guarantee you will do the minute you finish it the first time. You do not have to be a die hard fantasy/scifi fan to enjoy this - if the end of the first chapter does not grab you.....give it three more pages and you will be hooked!!!!
Prepare yourselves before delving into the page-turning depths of this book.
Rarely do i read something that actually surprises me with every page I turn - this book was such a rarity though. It was simply amazing. However, I must admit, I was not hooked from the very first page. It took a chapter or two before I was really into it and by the third chapter there was just no turning back. I was up into the early hours of the morning, continously reading.
The really great thing about the story is how you start really caring about the characters as they (especially the main character) evolve. The story was incredibly original and kept me interested all the way through. At no point while i was reading did i find myself thinking "get on with it already" because it was clear that everything written was written for a reason.
And the style with which Tim Powers has written this story is also very good. There is a subtle humour that makes you smile, outstanding dialogue and narrating that leaves out just enough information to keep you guessing and reveals just enough to keep you satisfied for the time being.
All in all a great job from Tim Powers; it's one of the best books i've had the pleasure of reading