Anubis Gates – Review of a Time Travel Fantasy Novel

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Anubis Gates – Tim PowersAnubis Gates by Tim Powers

I dove into this book because I’d read a passing mention of it as being a good treatment of early 19th century Britain. That’s it. I didn’t know that it had been a Philip K. Dick award winner, or caused a stir when it was released in 1984. Indeed, neither this book nor the author have been on my radar. That is an oversight I’m glad I finally remedied.

For the first time in a long time, I read some fiction here that kept me awake at night because I had to know what happened next. Yay, Tim, for ruining my sleep cycle! I only recently got a Kindle, and this is the book that popped my “falling asleep and Kindle bashes you in the face as it falls out of your hands” cherry. (Tell me I’m not the only one that happens to?) Anyway, as to the story itself:

He sets up his time travel premise neatly and it effectively accounts for the to-and-fro’ing that happens. It’s s not a theory I would personally “believe” in outside the context of this book, but Powers does that good-author thing and ~within the context of the story~ it is logical, his world follows these rules, and it makes sense in the fictional world. So, I was able to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride.

His protagonist grapples with a weird bit of knowing the past, and being caught living out some things he has foreknowledge of, and yet it does not feel like a trite predestination slog. Powers keeps the element of suspense going through to the end, where even the protagonist is surprised at the turn in his own fate. So again, well done on that point.

The London of the early 19th century is well represented on the page. You get a good feel for the place and time (and some other times and places that are visited as well). It’s intriguing to meet the historical figures who pass through these pages and see them from the everyman viewpoint of the protagonist. But the great strength of Powers’ storytelling is the world building and characterizations that surround the antagonists, their magical and time-travel shenanigans, and the beggar and criminal underworld that comes to play a role. If you have ever hated clowns on general principles, Tim’s Harrabin character will convince you that you are right to feel that way. I’m especially interested in the story of Harrabin’s experiments-gone-wrong, who we meet fleetingly and who appear only at a few critical plot points. I would like a whole other book about them.

Finally, Tim envisions magic to work a certain way and again, and plays with the strengths and weaknesses of this rule set to craft a winding plot that surprises with some of its turns. The book reads like a prelude to another; although it stands alone, there are also lots of events and people this reader still wants to know more about by the end of the tale. Now I’m going to have to go investigate Tim Powers’ writing and see what else I’ve missed. I was a long time coming to this party, but glad I finally arrived.

This book gets 4 Lizard Stomps of Approval.

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Author Tim Powers
Author Tim Powers

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