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What We’re Reading: Anubis Gates

Post by Lauren Kage
Posted July 25, 2014 in NoveList Bookshelf

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Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

ISBN: 9780441023806

Tim Powers combines such far-flung genre elements as time travel, cloning, body-swapping, lycanthropy, gods, and magic in Anubis Gates.  Despite his thematic hodgepodge, I found the book surprisingly immersive.  In 1802, Egyptian nationalists, who also happen to be sorcerers, attempt to summon the god Anubis to aid them in their fight against colonial subjugation.  They botch the summons, but succeed in perforating time with a pattern of gates, making time travel at discreet intervals possible.

J. Cochran Darrow, a millionaire living in 1983, discovers the gates and arranges a tourist outing to 1810 in order to hear Coleridge's lecture.  Observing these visitors' arrival, a survivor of the failed ritual which opened the gates kidnaps Brendan Doyle, the group's resident Coleridge expert, stranding him in the 19th century.  The story follows Doyle's struggle to survive in this hostile time, where a spell-wielding faction for Egyptian independence wants to question him for any arcane knowledge he might possess.  He also faces a psychotic clown and hirsute body thief. 

These outlandish characters, and Doyle himself, would jar the reader out of the book's mainly Georgian setting but Powers writes a detailed and believable 19th century London, plagued with occult terrorism though it is.  The steady action maintains reader interest, while Doyle's journey across a history that, as a Coleridge scholar he knows well, or thinks he does, raises questions of identity and fate.  Readers will appreciate this book’s balance of imagination with careful historicity and its excellent pacing, ushering them through vignette-like episodes to underscore the periodic windows in time that set the stage. 

Recommended by Lauren Kage, Cataloger at NoveList.