Thursday, January 15, 2009 by Becky
Powers, Tim. 1983. The Anubis Gates.
The Anubis Gates is a pleasantly weird novel. Stealing directly from the back cover, "The Anubis Gates is the classic, Philip K. Dick Award-winning time travel novel that took the fantasy world by storm a decade ago. Only the dazzling imagination of Tim Powers could have assembled such an insane cast of characters: an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, a modern millionaire, a body-switching werewolf, a hideously deformed clown, a young woman disguised as a boy, a brainwashed Lord Byron, and finally, our hero, Professor Brendan Doyle."
When two men--under the direction of a seemingly evil Master--invoke a spell from an ancient Egyptian book, it creates holes in time--among other things. Amenophis Fikee and Doctor Romany are the two men responsible. Fikee suffers worse--in my opinion--in that the spell transforms him into a werewolf. Fortunately for him, unfortunately for nineteenth century England, he's now got the power to switch bodies with others. Which wreaks havoc, of course, because Fikee is a murderous monster with ever-changing identities.
Enter Professor Brendan Doyle. He's a twentieth-century professor (1980s) down on his luck. When the DIRE company offers him a unique job, he's quick to take it. They want him merely to give a lecture on Coleridge. Now Coleridge isn't his poet of choice. No, he's spent most of his adult life studying the more obscure poet--a contemporary of Lord Byron--William Ashbless. There are so many puzzles in this life that are unsolved. He seems to show up out of the blue in England in 1810. No details are known about where he was born, who his parents were, where he went to school, etc. Doyle would love to solve the mystery of this little-known poet. And the good money that DIRE is offering may just be what he needs to fund his project.
Doyle has been employed by Mr. Darrow to give a lecture about Coleridge to a very select group of people--all wealthy and willing to pay huge sums of money. What he discovers is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime, out-of-this-world experience. For the group will begin in 1983, travel back in time to 1810 to actually hear Coleridge give a lecture in a tavern, and then return to 1983--all in a period of four hours. Doyle is ready to dress the part and have some intellectually stimulating fun.
Sounds like fun, right? Well, for Doyle, things don't go quite according to plan. He's kidnapped by Dr. Romany and separated from the others. Though he manages to escape his initial capture, now, Doyle is trapped in 1810--without money and street smarts--and danger abounds everywhere. That's all I have to say about that.
This novel had many individual elements that intrigued me: ties to Ancient Egyptian culture, ties to the British Romantic poets, time travel, werewolves, etc. I liked it. I did find it a bit confusing at times with all the body-switching going on. I'm sure a second reading would probably clear up a few of my lingering questions. But overall, I liked it.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews