The Anubis Gates
Tags: alternate history, historical, steampunk, time travel, totally awesome
Words like “uniquely bizarre” are practically clichés when it comes to describing Tim Powers’ books, but they are no less true for that — and, as always, fully applicable to this enjoyable, zany novel about time travel. And Lord Byron, and ancient Egyptian gods, and a body-stealing werewolf, and kas, and a terrifyingly villainous deformed clown. Oh, and destiny versus choice, fate versus free will. In this, well, uniquely bizarre book, Brendan Doyle gets a lot more than he bargained for when he agrees to accompany a quick time-traveling trip to 1810 London and accidentally finds himself marooned there — and the target of some maniacal and ultra-creepy villains who are aiming to help Egypt replace Great Britain as a world superpower. But Doyle’s role in history is fixed and unchangeable — or is it?
This book never slows its pace for a moment — and yet never leaves the reader behind in its dust, either, thanks to some remarkably tight plotting. More than anything else, it’s just plain fun to read. In all the bizarreness, it’s easy to lose sight of how much authorial expertise is required in order to make a story this crazy actually work. Powers’ genius is displayed most notably in the way he first creates such wacky scenarios, and then draws the reader along — you’ll suspend disbelief early on and forget all about it for the rest of the ride. For a tale of this caliber, Powers settles upon the perfect tone — not comedic, certainly (much of the content is extremely dark, in fact), but not without undertones of jollity. The novel takes itself seriously, while never descending into depths of solemnity. Basically, the book is unique, and you’ll have to read it for yourself.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this book morally; it’s basically clean, and not too complex. There is a lot of black magic performed, but all by the villains. (Doyle does seem to have a bit of an alcohol problem, for what it’s worth.) I’m not going to go so far as to say there’s any ‘point’ or ‘message’ to this book; it’s basically just plain fun. But it is kind of fun to see how, even in a not-too-serious book, Powers brings in the concepts of fate and choice — and balances them in a fully satisfying way. You’ll see some of the twists coming…and then the other ones will astonish you.
Content warning: This book contains a fair amount of bad language, as well as some gruesome violence and other disturbing/frightening images; it’s definitely for mature readers only.