Saturday, December 30, 2006

Review: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers defies typical sub-genre classification – part science fiction, part urban fantasy, part time travel story, part historical fiction, part thriller, part noir, and part secret history – yet it is not the sum of these parts, but something excitingly different. Since its release in 1983 it has deservedly become a ‘new classic’.

A small group of ancient Egyptian sorcerers in the early 19th century initiate a plan to end English domination of Egypt and reestablish it as a world power of its own right and religion, without the pollution of such up-start religions as Christianity and Islam. Magic has faded in the world and become perilous to use – a powerful spell intended to bring ancient Egyptian Gods back into direct interaction with the world fails, dramatically altering an attending sorcerer and blasting holes in the space-time continuum over a period of several hundred years.

A rich, powerful and eccentric old man in the 1980s seeks a way to conquer terminal cancer and discovers these gaps in time and how to use them for time travel. He seeks the help of an expert in early 19th century poetry to lead a group of high-paying, time traveling tourists to observe a lecture – the hapless Brendan Doyle. As expected, plans are more than they seem and they don’t last, leaving Doyle stranded and in grave danger.

The Anubis Gates is a plot-driven novel that keeps you wanting more once the story gets moving. While the plot is action packed and full of plenty of twists and turns, the lack of great characterization eventually catches up. One can’t help but cheer for Doyle, but his continued idiocy left me cold and questioning his character. Other characters are merely present, lacking the depth they beg for.

However, whatever The Anubis Gates lacks in character development, it makes up for with the sheer genius of the story. I might not be singing its praises as loudly as some, but I do recommend it to readers well beyond the traditional boundaries of SFF, as well as those of us within. On my 10-point scale, The Anubis Gates scores 7.5.

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