Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time.
Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, and befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives and learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible...
Timothy Thomas Powers is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Powers has won the World Fantasy Award twice for his critically acclaimed novels Last Call and Declare.
Most of Powers's novels are "secret histories": he uses actual, documented historical events featuring famous people, but shows another view of them in which occult or supernatural factors heavily influence the motivations and actions of the characters.
Powers was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in California, where his Roman Catholic family moved in 1959.
He studied English Literature at Cal State Fullerton, where he first met James Blaylock and K.W. Jeter, both of whom remained close friends and occasional collaborators; the trio have half-seriously referred to themselves as "steampunks" in contrast to the prevailing cyberpunk genre of the 1980s. Powers and Blaylock invented the poet William Ashbless while they were at Cal State Fullerton.
Powers's first major novel was The Drawing of the Dark (1979), but the novel that earned him wide praise was The Anubis Gates, which won the Philip K. Dick Award, and has since been published in many other languages.
Powers also teaches part-time in his role as Writer in Residence for the Orange County High School of the Arts where his friend, Blaylock, is Director of the Creative Writing Department. Powers and his wife, Serena, currently live in Muscoy, California. He has frequently served as a mentor author as part of the Clarion science fiction/fantasy writer's workshop.
He also taught part time at the University of Redlands.
A fairly common mistake made by authors is failing to be familiar with their genre. They end up retreading old ground and relying on long-dead cliches because they aren't aware of what's already been done. So, it behooves an author to get some familiarity with the genre he intends to work in, to ensure that he isn't just writing the same old story over again.
In that spirit, I thought I'd check out this award-winning early piece of Steampunk. It was a rough start. One of the first red flags in an author's prose is how often they use 'almost', 'seemed' or worst of all 'almost seemed' in their descriptions and metaphors. Such words are meaningless filler, and are usually a sign that the author is not comfortable with his own figurative language, or is trying to seem mysterious without really knowing how to do it.
We're barely a page in before Powers gives us 'a musty fetor . . . almost shockingly incongruous when carried on the clean breezes of Hampstead Heath'. Almost shockingly incongruous, but not actually shockingly incongruous. But, if it isn't actually shockingly incongruous, why not tell us what it really is like? Why use a phrase that almost describes the situation, but not quite? What is the benefit to this imprecision?
Of course, in most cases, it is just 'shockingly incongruous', and the 'almost' just happened to slip in there for no reason at all.
From there we move on to the conflicted metaphors:
"His cloak flapping behind him in the wind like the wing-case of some gigantic insect"
'Like some' is another meaningless phrase to look out for in figurative language. It's meant to sound mysterious, but really, it's just filler. Beyond that, to anyone actually familiar with insect wing-cases, this metaphor just doesn't make sense, because wing cases are rigid and held out steadily from the body during flight. They don't flap. In the case of the scarab, which I assume Powers is trying to evoke here in his Egyptian magic story, they're also shiny.
Also, why does it have to be a 'gigantic' insect? Because he's a person, and people are bigger than insects? Figurative language already has that covered. If you say 'his gaze darted about like a viper's', you don't have to continue 'but a viper with hair, and external ears, and lacking scales, and also much larger than a normal one, and with limbs and no tail, and without the capacity for natural poison'. There's a reason that explaining a metaphor that way is often done as a joke--it's simply not necessary.
Here's another one:
"[The tent] looked, thought Fikee, like some huge nun in a particularly cold-weather habit, crouched beside the river in obscure devotion."
Can you picture that? Does that produce a clear and effective image in your mind, or a rather confused muddle? For me, it was definitely muddle. These two metaphors appear on the same page, along with another one about a smile being 'like a section of hillside falling away to expose old white stone', which isn't so bad, but that's a lot of trying-too-hard similes to cram on just one page.
"Romany intoned, his voice becoming deeper as though trying to wring an echo out of the surrounding carpets"
'As though' is another vague little bit we want to be careful about when we write. I don't think the verb 'wring' works there at all. Are you imagine someone twisting carpets (with their voice) in order to try to squeeze some extra echoes out of them, because that's what this description paints into my mind, and it is not remotely working.
A few pages on, and we break suddenly into a long stretch of story exposition straight from the narrator about all this stuff that happened before, to set up the story. So, why start off with a mysterious intro where your characters are mumbling odd references to events, if you're going to explain them all a few pages later? That's a pretty quick way to kill all the mystery you had just been trying to build up.
Then, the characters themselves start delivering long pieces of story exposition to one another, even though they all know these things already!
"I'm sure you haven't forgotten how you suffered after playing with the weather at the Bay of Aboukeer three years ago."
More time travel than steampunk, although it has been categorized as the latter, Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates is fun, but it leaves one feeling a little short changed.
The problem is that Powers' story has the narrative scope of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but it is packed into a mere 380-ish pages. Beggar's guilds, Egyptian wizards, Romantic poets, business magnates, and prize fighters mix with cross dressing vengeance seekers, mad clowns, body snatchers, fire elementals and gypsies. Time slips from 1983 to 1810 to 1660-something and back to 1811, seemingly following a linear path of cause and effect, then spilling paradoxically into a strange whirlpool motion where effect can be cause before effect.
And all of this is tremendously effective.
It generates curiosity, makes one read at high speed, fills the imagination with wonder and provides great entertainment, but it is not enough.
There are huge gaps in the tale, like Brendan Doyle's/William Ashbless' time in Egypt, where the story jumps too quickly, leaving the promise of more adventure -- sweeping adventure, epic adventure -- unfulfilled.
Powers creates characters so compelling, even his supporting characters, that one finds oneself wanting more, but the more never comes. We spend a tantalizing amount of time with Horrabin, the puppeteer-clown-beggar master, but it is never enough. We barely get to know Powers' versions of Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and then they are gone. There is simply never enough of these characters, and it leaves one feeling cheated.
So in case you haven't already guessed, the great failing of The Anubis Gates is that it leaves the reader wanting more -- too much more. Occasionally that feeling can be healthy, but in this case it is mostly frustrating. Had Powers reduced the scale of The Anubis Gates, or increased the size of his story to match the scale, it could very well have been his masterpiece. But without serious alterations, The Anubis Gates is little more than an entertaining sci-fantasy confection that is difficult to recommend.
But recommend it I shall, to anyone who likes time travel or creepy clowns or good, old fashioned chases. No matter how frustrating The Anubis Gates is, it is never boring nor a waste of time.
Well, apparently, the universe doesn't want me to write a review, so let's try this a third time. :)
I wanted to like this re-read a lot more than the first, but unfortunately, the things I thought were uninteresting the first time around, like the Egypt expedition, were still uninteresting, but I stuck around because all the run-ins with the egyptian magicians was still pretty damn wonderful.
As for the first half of the novel, I'd easily give it 5 stars. I mean, where else can you see some unknown poet scholar of Coleridge and an even more unknown poet by the name of Ashbless turn into a time-travelling, swashbuckling hero able to make mortal enemies of near-immortal Egyptian wizards, and do it all the while in 1810 London for 35 more years?
The details and the plot and the funny bits are absolutely great. I like Doyle before and after his transformation into an orange ape, too. :) Perhaps more after his transformation. I love Dog-Face Joe, the body-switching werewolf, all the dirty streets of London, and practically every single enemy in the book. So many of them had other sides to them and evil is not absolute. :)
I still regard this book very highly, especially for the ideas, the wonderful ideas, the surprising magic system, the awesome time travel problems and its clever solutions. Even the writing is clear and interesting well past the middle part, and there was nothing in it to really turn me off about it except, perhaps, that it was too light and too action-y? I don't know. I didn't feel very invested. It turned around again, of course, and the ending was very satisfying, but not enough to knock this book up to a 5 where my *mind* thinks it should be, but my *heart* refuses to budge.
I was surprised to find a novel that was much more complicated and rich than I might have otherwise expected. I knew this was a time travel book, and I knew there would be magic in it. I didn't expect it to be forerunner of the steampunk movement or to be so literary. Mr. Powers put a lot of consideration into the lives portrayed here, and while Doyle was hard to truly love, he grew on me as he grew as a character. I really liked him by the end. There are many twists and turns to the story, and the plot is both intricate and complex. The novel is in third-persion limited omniscience, which allows for a great deal of variety, while sacrificing the immediacy and the feeling of being in the character's skin. I almost wish it was written in first-person, because the sheer amount of detail and description in 1810 London was astounding and beautiful in the horrible way those grubby English types can be, and feeling what he felt would have been an extraordinary treat. This is no urban fantasy novel. The magic was strange and had some very curious aspects to it, and pitting a magical viewpoint with a time-traveler in a closed-loop system felt like a stroke a of genius.
I have to say that the novel, while sometimes slow, was well thought-out and complex. I think it succeeded as a traditional fantasy novel, a traditional science-fiction novel, and also as a traditional horror novel in equal parts. I may be jaded by modern fiction that throws together whichever genres you like to make a goulash that's tasty and strange, or even some science fiction or fantasy that simply draws from the tradition of horror. This novel balances all three and even spares a tithe to mystery, romance, action-adventure, social-commentary a-la Dickens, and poetry. The fact that Mr. Powers pulls it all off is a testament to skill as a writer.
¡¡Cómo he disfrutado este libro!! Lo mejor que he leído en fantasía este año. Lo comencé con un poco de recelo ya que es primera vez que leo a Tim Powers quien, por lo que he averiguado, es un autor que no acepta medias tintas: o lo amas o lo odias. Afortunadamente yo quedé en el primer grupo.
Las puertas de Anubis es un libro con una trama que encontré increíblemente original, que no sólo mezcla hábilmente muchos componentes y situaciones (viajes en el tiempo, hechiceros milenarios, transmutaciones de cuerpos, la búsqueda de la vida eterna, conflictos políticos y religiosos, y mucho más), sino también estilos que pasan de escenas angustiantes y personajes realmente grotescos, a pasajes de una narrativa muy elegante, sin dejar de lado chispazos de un refinadísimo sentido del humor.
Demoré bastante en leerlo, pero no porque se me hiciera pesado, sino porque es de esos libros que hay que disfrutar en el detalle. Ambientado principalmente en Londres de 1810, las descripciones son una verdadera gozada, destacando especialmente el bajo mundo londinense, donde las bandas de mendigos, jefes del hampa, asesinos, ladronzuelos y demases, son representados entre lo siniestro y lo caricaturesco.
Por último, no puedo dejar de referirme a la notable evolución del personaje principal, Brendan Doyle, que pasa de ser un anodido y algo irritable profesor universitario del siglo XX, a un hombre que tiene más recursos de los esperados y que logra hacer frente a oscuros poderes ancestrales que quieren cambiar el curso de la historia.
Ahhh, y casi se me olvidaba, un Epílogo de lujo, que le dejó mucho mejor sabor aún a esta lectura.
Reto #12 PopSugar 2021: Un libro que has visto en la estantería de alguien (en la vida real, en una videollamada, en un programa de televisión, etc.)
He estado esperando durante 300 páginas a que este libro me interesara lo más mínimo pero no ha habido manera y he tenido que abandonarlo a 100 páginas del final. En la mayoría de los casos tras 150 páginas de cero interés y empatía lo hubiera abandonado pero la fama precede a esta novela, y todo el mundo insistía en que se acababa poniendo mejor... para mi, se pone PEOR. No quiero decir que sea un mal libro de aventuras (y bastante más de fantasía que de ciencia ficción) pero este tipo de historias no me interesan para NADA, el protagonista se pasa la vida corriendo de un lado a otro como una marioneta, persiguiendo o siendo perseguido. Y elemento clave para mi: Ningún personaje me gustó (tan solo me interesó mínimamente el único femenino, pero apenas tiene importancia) Insisto, si os gustan los libros de aventuras y mucha acción os gustará este libro, a mi se me hizo pesadísimo y he sido incapaz de terminarlo. Obviamente no volveré a leer nada de Tim Powers. Otro autor mítico de fantasía que no es para mi (ya van dos con Sanderson), y no me arrepiento de nada xD
This book was just so much fun! It was really, really entertaining and I have no problem giving it five stars. Basically it is a story about time travel. It reminded me a lot of the Doomsday Book by Connie Willis which is one of the best books I have ever read so I mean this as praise indeed. The method of travelling is very original and the purpose very devious. Having travelled our hero spends a large part of the book living in the past and often suffering accordingly. We meet Coleridge and Lord Byron and travel geographically as well as time wise. Magic comes into play but it is a very flawed magic and does not always behave as it should. Occasionally I must admit it all got too smart for me and I got a bit lost as to who was who. (Did I mention there was some body swapping going on as well?) In the end I decided just to go along for the ride and enjoy myself and eventually it all fell into place. There was a masterpiece of an ending which tied up all the loose ends and I sat back and asked myself what else this guy has written because boy is he good!
Two and a half stars for me by the GR system; 'okay' verging on 'I liked it.' My appreciation could probably benefit from a second read. Ultimately, I can see where others liked it, but it's not executed in way I enjoyed.
In some ways, it reminds me of Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog in that while there is some time traveling, there is very little of technological surprise, and most of it takes place within Victorian England. In similar fashion to TSNotD, a historian accidentally gets left behind; in this case, he is kidnapped shortly after his time-traveling group goes to England to hear Coleridge speak.
The magic system isn't well explained, but involves some Egyptian spirit theory and some earth magic, and perhaps the most interesting developments of the book are when these devices are employed or executed. The fact that it isn't well explained, however, contributes to the choppiness of the overall story. The plot was interesting, and Powers develops a number of characters that grew on me, but the execution was rough and choppy. A body-switching spirit comes into play, and by the second half of the book, at points we only know there has been a switch by a death scene and new names coming into play. It becomes distracting and confusing to know who is important to plot and character development, as body switches and secondary characters enter and are quickly dropped. When the main character, Doyle, first escapes from his kidnappers, we quickly go through a score of characters, and neither he, nor us, apparently, are supposed to look back. Frequent references to poets like Byron and Coleridge, and the general Victorian setting--a period which I normally avoid-- and it only adds to the confusion. The initial scene probably started me out with a number of wrong assumptions, as it created some sympathy for the both the main antagonist and his boss, but it was sympathy that would never be recaptured through the course of the story.
I had a real life experience that comparable with the critical moment of the main protagonist.
This book is not only my first read of Tim Powers, but also one of my earliest read of fantasy novels. I was still innocent literally. So, I had many "Wow!" experience when I read this book.
Then I re-read this novel as a group reading. I could still remember some of the pleasure and exciting parts. Although as a more experienced reader, I could see that the characterization of this book is mediocre at best. But, I forgive the characterization because it is not the strength of this novel.
The main strong selling point of this novel is successfully blending the temporal paradox of time travel with the thrilling plots. I cannot praise enough how the author is playing with temporal paradox idea so well and keep the story exciting.
My main feeling during the book was that it was weird. Not bad weird, not necessarily good weird, just a bit odd. I found it took a while to get into, I was never bored, but I also wasn't really all that interested for a large portion of the beginning of this one. Then it started to pick up and I found I really started to enjoy things once we met Jacky and that lot.
There were a lot of interesting ideas, strange characters and weird happenings in this novel. I enjoyed it, but I'm sure I don't understand half of it. Although a few of the motivations were very clear, most really weren't. I know what they were trying to achieve but I still don't know why. I'm not sure it really matters. It was a fun read anyway. Strange, but fun.
Brendan Doyle is an expert on Samuel Coleridge and a contemporary of his, William Ashbless, hired by a crazy millionaire to take part in a trip through a hole in the river of time. Rich clients have paid Darrow, the millionaire, a million dollars each to travel back to a Coleridge lecture in 1805. Only something goes wrong, as it does in most time travel stories...
Powers's writing is good without having needless descriptions. His depiction of the early 1800's is really vivid. I found a few of the plot twists obvious but that might be because Three Days to Never used similar themes.
The Anubis Gates is really good as far as time travel stories go and features such diverse elements as magicians, body-swapping, ape men, two competing camps of beggars, and all kinds of other craziness that seem to be Tim Powers's bread and butter.
2.5 stars. Complicated, chaotic time travelling riotous caper combined with sorcery from Egypt. There were some great ideas in here but the story as a whole was just too much. I was so relieved to get to the end.
I’m not sure exactly what I think of this time-travel adventure. There are aspects that I love, some that leave me confused, and at least one that produced both sensations.
I loved the Ancient Egyptian connections—hieroglyphs, gods & goddesses, the great boat of Ra. I appreciated that it wasn’t easy for the time-displaced person to fit into the new society that they found themselves in. Coming from the privileged twentieth century didn’t mean beans when it came to supporting oneself in the late 19th century, something which I think many writers forget or discount. I also loved the use of the Beatles’ song “Yesterday” as a signal amongst the time-travelers in old London, something that every 20th century person of a certain age would be familiar with.
One of the confusing aspects of the book for me was the role of the Gypsies. I’m unsure why they were inserted into the narrative—perhaps because there was once a line of thought that the Romany people had originated in Egypt? Also, at least one of the characters, Dog-Faced Joe, has the ability to switch bodies. At points in the latter part of the book, I just couldn’t keep up with who was housed in which body—it became a little much, especially as they were busy eliminating one another.
What was both wonderful and confusing was the poetry of Ashbless. Brendan Doyle has studied Ashbless’ poetry in the 20th century and indeed memorized it (a lost skill these days). While waiting in an inn for Ashbless to show up, he writes out a poem from memory. Doyle is confused when Ashbless does not arrive, as he remembers his history—Ashbless was to spend time at the inn & write that specific poem there, leaving Doyle to wonder if history is being changed. At that point, I realized that Doyle had to actually become Ashbless and write the rest of his poetry from memory—leaving the wonderful paradox: if he learned the poetry in the 20th century, wrote it from memory in the 19th century, where did the actual poetry come from? A lovely circular dilemma for the reader to enjoy.
An interesting ending as well, in that most writers would probably want to bring their main character home to the 20th century and Powers chose not to do that, a detail that I consider to be more realistic (if one can speak of such things in the context of time travel).
Book number 183 in my science fiction/fantasy reading project.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A time travel novel featuring sorcery, evil clowns, Ancient Egyptian Gods, body switching, a condensed version of Dante, literary scholars, cross dressing, fencing champions, dog-faced men and Romantic poets.
That opening sentence lost it's short, pithy, catchphrase-like nature somewhere along the way. Mirroring the novel in that way infact.
An American Coleridge expert gets invited on a time travel adventure to hear said poet speak only to find himself trapped in the early 19th century London, adventure and skulduggery ensue. There's so much plot that even Powers doesn't know what to do with it half of the time and after the first two thirds he was either forced to drastically cut whole swathes of storyline or he really liked the idea of a nonstop series of action sequences which repeatedly puts the protagonist in peril with very little linkage between each one.
Prior to this point it was an exciting adventure story, peopled by intriguing characters and entertaining passages of action, if not quite fully evoking the time and place at least giving enough detail to make certain that you're not in 1980s America, the time travel element is dealt with very well and isn't foregrounded to the extent that you're always aware of it and puzzling over it but really this should have been multiple books or at the very least a 900 page novel.
I found myself sucked in to the story by Powers way with words, more reminiscent of the golden period of science fiction than contemporary fantasy novelists and what starts as a pretty typical time travel idea becomes so much more so quickly that you barely have time to draw breath. It's constructed so cleverly and entertains to thoroughly that the switch two thirds of the way through isn't the disaster it might have been in a lesser novel, yes in essence you're dragged over the finish line in a river of blood but he got you there and he entertained you en route. At no point did I even consider giving up early and going home.
All in all a great read that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone open to a time travel fantasy.
En 1801 el Imperio Británico ha logrado controlar Egipto tras la derrota de Napoleón por parte de Nelson en la Batalla del Nilo, suprimiendo estos el culto a los antiguos dioses establecidos en el país. Para tratar de recuperar el poder, un poderoso hechicero planea traer del pasado a dioses ancestrales y liberarlos en Londres para que la destruyan. En 1802, cuando Amenofis Fikee trata de llevar a cabo esta misión, ocurre algo extraño durante su invocación. En el presente, Brendan Doyle, un profesor universitario especializado en poesía romántica inglesa del siglo XVIII Y XIX, es llamado para dar una conferencia por un excéntrico millonario llamado Darrow. Una vez allí descubre que su propósito es otro, Darrow ha descubierto la manera de viajar a través del tiempo y planea una expedición al Londres de 1810 para escuchar una conferencia de Samuel Taylor Coleridge, un célebre poeta junto con otros nueve acompañantes que pagan inmensas fortunas. Tras mostrar alguna reticencia Doyle acepta el trabajo y se embarca en una expedición que sale a la perfección salvo por un detalle, cuando están a punto de regresar Doyle es secuestrado y se ve atrapado en 1810; viéndose envuelto en una compleja trama llena de intrigas, poderosos hechiceros egipcios, bandas organizadas de mendigos por un siniestro payaso, sociedades secretas del siglo XVIII y un hombre lobo con la capacidad para cambiar de cuerpo que asola la ciudad con frecuentes asesinatos.
Ganadora del premio Philip K. Dick y el premio Apollo, Tim Powers presenta una de las mejores obras sobre viajes en el tiempo que he leído nunca. El estilo de Powers se sale de lo comercial para narrar de una forma reposada y muy descriptiva, donde unos diálogos brillantes, escenas memorables y personajes entrañables pueblan sus letras. Resulta un hábil narrador, que logra crear una trama con acción, reflexión y momentos para un humor sutil, con gran talento natural para escribir comparaciones y símiles. Aun así tengo claro que no es un escritor para todo el mundo, sobre todo por un par de defectos de los que adolecen casi todas sus obras que he leído, está incluido y que a muchos pueden resultarles odiosos (que no es mi caso). No consigue mantener el ritmo más o menos sostenido durante la narración, los momentos de acción tienden a embarrarse, haciendo necesario releer varios párrafos para comprender algunas de las situaciones. El otro defecto es el tramo final, que tiende a ser fragmentado y sin centrarse en lo que debería, y aunque en esta no ha sido totalmente como en “En costras extrañas”, sí que en algún momento me ha ocurrido. Pero todo ello se solventa con una historia impregnada por magia antigua, sociedades secretas, poderosos hechiceros, viajes en el tiempo, romanticismo inglés y muchas desventuras.
Sumergiendo al lector en otras épocas con una facilidad pasmosa, el meticuloso trabajo de documentación realizado por Powers se ve reflejado en páginas donde se puede sentir ese Londres del siglo XIX con estilo Dickensiano, lleno de calles adoquinadas y viejas tabernas que está lleno de mendigos, ladrones y elementos de los bajos estratos sociales. Es un punto fuerte del autor su capacidad para encajar la historia que conocemos con hechos sobrenaturales que ejercen como motor de la trama, viviendo hechos históricos como la fallida rebelión de I duque de Monmouth contra el rey Carlos II de Inglaterra en la década de 1680 o la masacre de los Mamelucos por Mehmet Alí de Egipto en 1811. Los personajes no tienen nada de típicos y están bien construidos, todos resultan creíbles y logras visualizarlos dentro de cada época, dotándolos de un trasfondo y un misterio con el que juega a la imprevisibilidad de sus futuros, dejándonos con la boca abierta en más de una ocasión. En resumen, Una gran historia que aúna elementos de ciencia ficción y fantasía como los viajes en el tiempo o la magia, que son insertados en un contexto historia real. Powers consigue crear una magia disimulada y ambigua, creíble hasta cierto punto, embarcándonos en una odisea espacio-temporal, en un enrevesado ovillo de posibilidades que nos llevará por el Londres actual y el del siglo XIX, además de pasar por el Egipto de los mamelucos.
This was one of my favorite books back in high school, a madcap time-travel adventure, a maniacal blend of steampunk, Dickensian London, Egyptian sorcerers, villainous rival beggar gangs, real poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge & Lord Byron, fictitious Victorian poet William Ashbless, monstrous human/animal experiments lurking in the sewers below London, a body-switching werewolf, hairy ape men running mad with bleeding mouths, spoon-sized boys, and a modern-day scholar of Victorian poetry who travels back with a group of time-traveling sightseers and gets stranded. Tim Powers throws in so many disparate plot elements, grotesque villains, and non-stop action that its all a bit overwhelming, but it was an incredibly fun ride.
Thirty years later, I decided it was time to revisit one of my favorite SF/Fantasy/Horror mashups. This time I listened to the audiobook narrated by Bronson Pinchot, also known as Balki from the inane sitcom Perfect Strangers back in the 1980s. He has became a well-respected voice actor and sounds nothing like that silly character. He manages to do a huge range of accents, mostly Victorian British, and the wealth of historical details of Victorian London that Powers packs into such an action-filled story is quite an impressive achievement. Hearing so many familiar place names in London was a great pleasure.
Of course I didn't feel quite the same youthful excitement as I did three decades ago, but that is a direct result of the Heraclitus quote that starts out the book and provides a perfect metaphor for time:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
I've remembered this quote over all the intervening years, and it is completely true. Just substitute the word "book" for "river", and it perfectly describes the experience of revisiting an old favorite book. Anubis Gates remains the whirlwind time-travel/steampunk/Victorian/horror adventure I read before and is still just as enjoyable, but I am not the same teenager anymore and I was able to enjoy it differently as an adult. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time when every book I read was a completely immersive experience, but the next best thing is to step into the river again and see what it feels like.
Hay libros que aparecen por tu vida de una manera curiosa, y este es uno de esos casos para mí. A raíz de una serie de televisión, de la que por cierto se decía que tenían cosas en común y solo encuentro una, me enteré de que había un libro con viajes en el tiempo, ganador de varios premios destacados, y en general con una muy buena valoración. Por muy variados motivos, no he sentido nunca ganas de empezarlo, hasta que salió ganador en una encuesta para club de lectura (perdón por dar la brasa, grupo) y decidí que era el momento idóneo para empezarlo.
Lo que se cuenta en él se resume fácil: un millonario ha encontrado una forma de viajar por el tiempo a través de agujeros (una especie de burbuja temporal que conecta dos épocas distintas) que duran un tiempo determinado. Valiéndose de ello, organiza un viaje para conocer a Coleridge, en el que participa como experto Brendan Doyle. Saltan al Londres victoriano (aunque es 1810, no es plenamente esa etapa) y allí se desmadra todo. Lo que en principio parece una buena idea acaba siendo una mala ejecución, y es que se deja de lado todo lo planteado para centrarse solo en un aspecto, que al final cansa por repetitivo.
Los personajes tampoco han sido de mi agrado, ya que solo he podido empatizar con uno de ellos, que aparece mediada la obra. Los demás han sido todos deficientes en su actitud cuanto menos, lo que me ha hecho plantearme si realmente el autor sabía lo que quería hacer con ellos o iba escribiendo sobre la marcha. Personajes como Horrabin o Cara-de-perro-Joe han sido una tortura de leer, solo deseaba que la acción fuese a otro lugar cuando estaban ellos en escena. Y el protagonista también ha sido un personaje difícil hasta la mitad más o menos, una vez sucede un hecho importante al menos mejora
En general no ha sido una buena lectura, aunque ha tenido cosas interesantes, y es por ello que no le doy solo 1 ⭐ . Una pena, ya que le tenía muchas ganas y trata muchos temas que me interesan. Pero no siempre se puede acertar, y por desgracia este ha sido uno de esos casos.
There are books that appear in your life in a curious way, and this is one of those cases for me. As a result of a television series, of which was said that they had things in common and I only found one, I found out that there was a book with time travel, winner of several outstanding prizes, and in general with a very good appraisal. For a variety of reasons, I've never felt the urge or need of starting it, until it came out the winner in a book club poll (sorry for the fuss in the comments, group) and I decided it was the right time to start it.
What is told in it is easy to summarize: a millionaire has found a way to travel through time through holes (a kind of time bubble that connects two different eras) that last a certain time. Using this, he organizes a trip to meet Coleridge, in which Brendan Doyle participates as an expert. They jump to Victorian London (even though it's 1810, it's not quite that stage) and everything gets out of hand there. What at first seems like a good idea ends up being a bad execution, and that is that everything raised is left aside to focus only on one aspect, which in the end is tiring due to repetition .
The characters have not been to my liking either, since I have only been able to empathize with one of them, who appears halfway through the work. The others have all been deficient in their attitude at least, which has made me wonder if the author really knew what he wanted to do with them or was writing as he went. Characters like Horrabin or Dog-face-Joe have been torture to read, I just wished the action would go somewhere else when they were on stage. And the protagonist has also been a difficult character until the middle or so, once an important event happens at least he improves
In general it has not been a good read, although it has had interesting things, and that is why I do not give it only 1 ⭐ . A pity, since I really wanted it and it deals with many topics that interest me. But you can't always get it right, and unfortunately this has been one of those cases.
Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's "The Anubis Gates," is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's "Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels" and Jones & Newman's "Horror: 100 Best Books," as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mouth, to say the least. And, as it turns out, all the ballyhoo back when was fully justified, as this really IS some kind of superb work. As John Clute puts it in the Jones & Newman volume, it is "a book which it is possible (rare praise) to love"; as Pringle writes, it is a "virtuoso performance." I could not agree more.
In the novel, we meet a middle-aged widower named Brendan Doyle, an expert on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the (fictional) poet William Ashbless. Doyle is asked by an eccentric millionaire who has come up with a time travel device to journey back to London in the year 1810, to attend a Coleridge lecture with a group of wealthy chrono tourists. Doyle warily agrees and--to make things brief--gets marooned in the past, where he soon becomes enmeshed in the machinations of Egyptian wizards attempting to destroy England. Powers' way-out plot somehow manages to conflate the brainwashed "ka" of Lord Byron, a body-hopping werewolf, an underground criminal society headed by a deformed clown on stilts, a plucky young vengeance-seeking woman disguised as a man, Egyptian gods, 4" high "Spoonsize Boys," fire and wind elementals, the Mameluke slaughter of 1811, a menagerie of freaks, the Beatles (!) and on and on. And just when the reader thinks this plot could not possibly get any wilder, Powers catapults Doyle back even further, to the year 1684! Indeed, there is no way for anyone to possibly guess what is coming next, in this truly zany romp of a book. Remarkably, every single page of this nearly 400-page affair boasts some startling conversation, plot twist, description or speculation. Powers has done a huge amount of historical research, and his book always has the ring of verisimilitude, despite the outrageousness of the plot. An originator not only of the so-called "steampunk" literary genre but also of the "secret histories" style of writing, Powers, in this book, puts forth his amusing explanations for London's Great Fire of 1666, as well as Byron's apparently simultaneous presences in Greece and London in the autumn of 1810. And although stories with time travel paradoxes can sometimes leave me with a headache, I found this one absolutely delightful. Let me not mince words: This book is a blast, from its opening scene in a London gypsy camp in 1802 to its wonderful, ironic, totally satisfying conclusion in the swamps of Woolwich. Clute was right; I really DO love this book, and indeed am in awe of it. So many wild elements mixed together, such an original and imaginative story line, and the whole thing coming together so completely and perfectly...Tim Powers must be some kind of a freakin' genius! I'm gonna need more of this guy; possibly his 1979 novel "The Drawing of the Dark," which is highly praised in Cawthorn & Moorcock's "Fantasy: The 100 Best Books"....
I would like to add that "The Anubis Gates" is not an easy read for folks who (like me) choose to look up every historical reference or place name that they encounter. I found a London street map invaluable while reading this book, for example; it's not necessary, of course, but sure does make for a richer, deeper experience. Thus, I was able to spot one of two flubs that Powers is guilty of in his otherwise perfect work. At one point, he tells us that Coleman Street is east of Bishopsgate Street, whereas a quick look at the map will clearly show that it is west. Powers' other goof? When he infers on page 353 that Doyle would be attending a literary meeting at the home of renowned publisher John Murray on a Tuesday, and two pages later says it would be on a Monday. (I also find it hard to believe that the word "savvy" was being used in 1684.) Mere quibbles, of course. For all lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, historical fiction and/or poetry, this book should prove a godsend. It is a very generous book, far more intelligent and humorous than it absolutely needs to be, and well deserving of all the accolades that it has received. Oh...and I just love the inclusion of that pig Latin!
The Good: Where do I begin? This is such a clever, epic story. Time travel, body swapping, Dickensian London, Egyptian mythology, Romantic poets, evil wizards and an exploration of fatalism - props to Tim Powers for managing to combine all this into something that wasn't absolute crap. Good story, good characters, great settings and ideas, and the ending was excellent.
The Bad: It's a complicated mess at times which might diminish one's enjoyment. Plus the book starts in 1983, so I suppose the protagonist had a stupid hairdo.
'Friends' character the protagonist is most like: Jessica Lockhart.
Buen libro de aventuras con toques de fantasía y ciencia ficción, pero que me ha resultado una lectura con altibajos, o bien todo era acción frenética y sin darte respiro o bien trozos que he encontrado pesados y lentos. Lo que más me ha gustado ha sido la ambientación y toda la ciudad de los mendigos de Londres con el payaso Horrabin y sus errores.
This was a fun book. The list I took it from has it tagged as sci-fi, which I began to doubt from, oh, about page 1. I would definitely classify this as fantasy. There is a time travel element, which I guess is why it sometimes ends up with the sci-fi classification, but it’s more magical than scientific.
In 1802, some sorcerers perform a difficult magical spell in an attempt to bring Anubis back and wipe out all of these pesky modern religions. There are some unexpected effects. Our main character, a man named Doyle, travels back in time from 1983 to 1810 (for reasons explained in the book) and accidentally gets caught up with events involving the evil sorcerers and the aforementioned unexpected events.
The story is pretty twisty, with lots of intertwined events affecting other things in a way that keeps you guessing and speculating, and with enough information provided that you can guess some of it successfully on your own while other things are a surprise. That was one thing I particularly enjoyed about it. I also enjoyed the humor; there were several times when the book made me laugh out loud.
As is typical with a book involving time travel, there is some questionable logic and things that just don’t make sense if you put much thought into them. Those things niggled at me a little bit, but didn’t really detract from the entertainment value.
Time travel, body swapping, Ancient Egyptian blood magic, lycanthropy, mutant beings in the sewers of early 19th C London, and a meeting with Coleridge. Yep, it was Tim Powers time again, and a reread of his classic THE ANUBIS GATES.
The Powers imagination is on full throttle in this one right from the start, and it's a wild ride through the aforementioned tropes, with Powers jugging a variety of characters, plots, sub-plots and timelines in a riotously entertaining romp.
He keeps everything just on the cusp of falling apart into incoherence, driving set piece after set piece at you until you give in, go with the flow and get carried along by the sheer manic exuberance of the thing.
It's a wonderful feat of imagination, a wonderful bit of writing and, in the Zeisling Press hardcover I've got, a wonderfully presented package all round, with an intro by Ramsey Campbel for good measure.
It's a favorite thing of mine, and one I recommend to everyone who asks what I think they should read. So, go and read it if you haven't. It's truly magical.
What a strange book. I mean, really, really strange. It's just such a weird mishmash of science fiction and fantasy and the just plain odd. We read it in my online SF group, and there's a good question here as to whether it's even science fiction. There's time travel, which would put it under that rubric, but also ancient Egyptian magicians (ooh, a new tongue twister!). And the time travel itself, now that I think about it, may not be scientific in nature. There's the suggestion that it might be magical as well.
Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Ever wonder what it would be like to travel in time and be able to rewrite parts of history? In The Anubis Gates, Brendan Doyle, a professor of nineteenth-century English literature living in 1983 California, accidentally gets to try his hand at it when he is invited by a mad scientist to attend a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810 London. Needless to say, an accident prevents Doyle from returning to his own time (it always does in these books, doesn't it?), so he is stuck in early-nineteenth-century London, where he gets to deal with gypsies, underground dens of beggars, an unpleasant clown, a body-shifting werewolf, a young woman disguised as a boy, a brain-washed Lord Byron, assassins, homunculi, legendary beasts, life without antibiotics and last but not least, an ancient Egyptian sorceror who seems to want something from him. What ensues is an off-the-wall tale full of outlandish conspiracies, time travel, Doppelgangers and magic, and yes, a bit of poetry. The evocation of nineteenth-century England isn't entirely convincing (there are some glaring historic and linguistic anachronisms), and the narrative gets a bit predictable at times (despite the plot being so insane), but the action is non stop, the story unfolds at a cracking pace and there are enough inventive and amusing links to actual history and literature to make even the harshest critic chuckle. In short, it's a fun read -- not perfect, but perfectly entertaining, with some interesting ideas to ponder afterwards.
I'm now wondering where *I* would go if I could travel in time...
Para mí Tim Powers es un escritor de voz oscura, añeja y dorada como el mejor de los whiskys. En esta novela crea un mundo singular de magia y de realismo como si fuera un claroscuro, donde la magia es el elemento a vencer y el futuro el elemento al que no se puede engañar. Me ha encantado pasear con Doyle por las calles de la Inglaterra de 1810 y sufrir con él, ver cómo su personaje iba avanzando al mismo ritmo que la novela hasta crecer y convertirse en otro hombre.
Recently I was cleaning out some back folders on my hard drive and came across an old file named "Writers I Should Really Get Around to Reading the Complete Works of Before I Die;" and one of the people on that list was Tim Powers, whose genre-hybrid works span across the traditional lines of science-fiction, fantasy, horror and the occult to deliver truly unique stories that make a lasting impression, which is what makes him one of the most cultishly beloved writers in the entire industry right now. (Genre fans will probably best know his "Fault Lines" trilogy from the 1990s, a contemporary story about the "secret history" of magic in southern California; non-fans will probably be most familiar with a supernatural pirate novel he wrote in 1987 called On Stranger Tides, which twenty years later was adapted into the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, to almost no one's satisfaction.)
Although not his first-ever book (that would be the 1976 traditional sci-fi tale The Skies Discrowned, which I'm reading next), the novel of his that I most recently took on was the first to get him a lot of attention, 1983's The Anubis Gates which won that year's Philip K. Dick Award and was nominated for the Locus and BSFA. Like many of his books, Anubis posits that there were a whole series of hidden supernatural things going on that explain the gaps in real history from various famous moments in time that we know of; here, for example, that the birth of Romanticism in the early 1800s coincided with a group of Egypt-worshipping occultists who could do actual real magic, and that their unsuccessful attempt to bring back the pagan god Anubis from the dead resulted in ripping open a series of holes in the fabric of the space-time continuum.
Flash-forward to the early 1980s, then, and we see that a Ted-Turner-type ailing billionaire has actually figured out a way to access these space-time holes, has sold a dozen private "time-traveling tickets" for millions of dollars to his rich friends to help fund his research, and has hired an academic expert on Samuel Taylor Coleridge to be essentially a "tour guide" for this group, who are traveling back to 1810 for a night to attend a lecture by this famous poet and opium addict. Needless to say, things go to hell with this plan just as soon as they get there; and our historian hero Brendan Doyle finds himself permanently stuck in 1810 London, where he must learn to fend for himself while trying to track down a way to return to his own time, avoid the occult magicians who now know that a group from the future have traveled back to their time, and learn more about the hidden agenda that made this dying billionaire want to travel back to this specific moment in history in the first place. (Hint -- it has to do with the werewolf-like serial killer who happens to be haunting the back alleys of London's East End at this same time.)
Like most of Powers' books, it's a mondo storyline that sometimes gets so weird and scattered that you can't possibly imagine how he's going to tie it all together by the end; but like most of Powers' books, he eventually does, with a kind of finesse and mastery over the three-act plot that makes most people an instant fan once they've read even a single book by him. Powers paints a portrait of early-1800s London here that is so real and concrete-feeling, it seems sometimes like you have literally stepped back in time yourself; and by sticking to the real events and people of this time with the fastidiousness of an academe (one of the other things his books are known for), he delivers not just a fantastical book but a historical one as well, one that looks at the actual things that were going on at that time and simply asks, "And what if a bunch of crazy supernatural things were also happening, at the moments that the historians weren't around to write about?"
A thrilling, page-flipping delight, The Anubis Gates is a fantastic introduction to Powers' work for those who have never read anything by him before, containing in ur-form pretty much all the elements that have made his subsequent books so beloved in the 35 years since. It'll be interesting at this point, I think, to jump back to the beginning of his career when he was writing much more straightforward genre tales; then after that, I think I'll jump forward to the "Fault Lines" books (1992's Last Call, 1996's Expiration Date and 1997's Earthquake Weather), and see him at what many consider the height of his power as a storyteller. If you're never delved into the career of this fascinating writer yourself, I strongly encourage you to do so.
Tim Powers books covered in this review series: The Skies Discrowned (1976) | An Epitaph in Rust (1976) | The Drawing of the Dark (1979) | The Anubis Gates (1983) | Dinner at Deviant's Palace (1985) | On Stranger Tides (1987) | The Stress of Her Regard (1989) | Last Call (1992) | Expiration Date (1996) | Earthquake Weather (1997) | Declare (2001) | Three Days to Never (2006) | Hide Me Among the Graves (2012) | Medusa's Web (2016) | Alternate Routes (2018) | More Walls Broken (2019) | Forced Perspectives (2020)
It's funny how one work can be read so many different ways. On the one hand, this is an inventive romp through 1600s & 1800s in England and Egypt with magic, the concept of the pre-destination paradox and a whimsical explanation for some of the poetry of the time. On the other, it's tedious, self-congratulatory nonsense that is really excited about giving an elitist, whiny and essentially useless main character his best ever life.
Things to appreciate:
-Predestination Paradox. This is probably one of the better time travel books in that the author took the time to work out how to make the timelines consistent with what's actually happened, and explain how the timeline corrects.
-Poetry in scifi. It's not often, and it could be of interest to fans of Lord Byron.
-Gallivanting fun. If you can get past the uselessness of the MC, there's all sorts of adventures in interesting locations!
Things off which I bounced so hard I bruised my desire to read:
-Does not age well. The g-word for the Roma diaspora is EVERYWHERE and just makes me wince. Also every woman is literally just a sex partner for the men, and all the tired things that just exhaust me thinking how hard so many of us had to just grin and bear if we wanted to read any fiction at certain points in our lives.
-The bad guys. Okay, so they're annoying, especially when they start rhyming, but I also never understood what they wanted, how they started or why, by the time we meet them, their power has waned.
-The good guys. Doyle grated on my every nerve, from his lengthy dissertation on his favorite Scotch, his whinging on a plane about his substandard scholarship and subsequent reviews, his complete lack of survival instinct in a bad situation, the number of times his butt gets saved and he's a total wretch to everyone around him...just man oh man! This guy is a mess! A mess who ends up getting every one of his dreams fulfilled, and a pretty new wife even while he's still dreaming about his former wife's brains all over the highway. Gross. I don't know why he was immune to the effects of the situation that caused his good fortune, either.
-A bit messy. So, some of this might be because of my skipping around a bit once my interest finally gave out. But I felt like we put certain things down and picked new things up and added new named characters and explained things waaay too late.
In short, this wasn't for me, I do not like time travel books, and I'm glad I can delete this off my Kindle now.
I gave it 100 pages & really didn't care about what was going on, so I quit. It could have been interesting, I think. The problem for me was I just didn't get any feeling for any of the characters or the situation. I wanted to, felt I should, but every time I picked up the book it was a chore & I found my mind wandering.
Tim Powers is at his best with wacked-out time travel stories, and that's precisely what this is. He basically took the entire collection of English-language literary devices and tossed them into one book. And then added some poetry. And some genderfuckery. And Ancient Egyptian myths and legends. And, also, did I mention the time travel?
So. A mild-mannered literature professor (this is, um, something of a theme character in Powers' work) goes back to the time of Lord Byron, and - look. Things happen. I'm not going to spoil it. Suffice to say that this is the kind of book time travel fans read with joy and sorrow - joy because oh my god, so awesome, and sorrow because sooner or later the joy will be over.
The book isn't without flaws - Powers was still a fairly unseasoned writer when he produced this, and it shows. But, seriously, whenever I re-read this, I'm having too much fun to care.
Me lo he pasado bien con este libro. Pensé que iba a tener otra estructura y trama con muchos viajes en el tiempo y eso pero no es así. En cualquier caso interesante y entretenido. No leí a Tim Powers cuando se puso de moda y lo estoy recuperando sin todo el hype de cuando ganaba premios y lo veías en todas las librerías. Sus libros son lentos, llenos de contexto y sub tramas pero al igual que me pasó con La fuerza de su mirada una vez terminado el libro el regusto que me queda es bastante bueno y eso se agradece. Le doy 4 estrellas **** y lo recomiendo para cualquiera que le guste el "steam punk" o las novelas ambientadas en la "época romántica" (no confundir con las novelas románticas de ahora).