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The Anubis Gates
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le 19 janvier 2004
It's hard to define "The Anubis gates" genre. Science-fiction? Historical fiction? Techno-fantasy-science-historical fiction? It doesn't matter. Tim Powers has created a story that's so amazing and different that the only comparison I can make is with Neal Stephenson's books.
Brendan Doyle is the Coleridge specialist that's invited to a time travel experience that will change his life. And I mean really change. Trapped in the early XIX century, Doyle will have to overcome a band of gipsies connected with egyptian magicians, street mugglers and beggars governed by a clown that makes experiences with human bodies, and a dog-faced murderer with the hability to... well I don't want to spoil the eventual reader's fun, because a large part of this fun is to disclose the many implications between the unusual characters in the story. At times, it is confusing, and this book clearly requires a commiment from the reader; otherwise the story is filled with such crazyness that the unnatentive reader may loose interest in the book. But, believe me, there's order and method in this crazyness.
Tim Powers seems to me an author blessed with an immense immagination to create different and fantastic stories, and this book is one good example. I was amazed by the size of this adventure. And I'm not talking about physical size, but mental and enjoyment size.
Grade 9.0/10
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le 19 août 2002
Being harsh on this one I have to say that it is more in the realms of fantasy or occult than Science Fiction. There is a distinct avoidance by the author of any logical explanations for what happens. We have people swapping bodies, magical gates opening through time, magical "hooks" to bring you back, and lots of macabre cripples and characters in the sewers of London. Really the stuff of horror and occult books.
But all that said - it is a good read. The pace is blistering and you have to keep up to remember who is in which body today. The story rips around the globe like an Indiana Jones movie, with the added attraction of leaping through time.
I don't want to give too much away, but I really felt it was a bit rich to have the main character give away all his good clothes upon his entry to old London, and accept rags - thereby sealing his fate at the bottom of the food chain. Had he been robbed it would have been more plausible.
As for Horrobins "Mistakes" - a bit of explanation would have been useful. What exactly was he trying to make? Beats me!
I think Powers would have done better to put a bit more logical motive into his story, to hold it together. I liked Horrobins character, and Dog-Face Joe. The description of the "Master" could have been filled in a bit more.
As I say, a fun book - but a bit uneven in places.
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le 31 janvier 2002
This is the first Tim Powers book I've ever picked up. It definitely won't be the last. 'Anubis Gates' is the best time travel story that I've ever read. I should mention, in the name of honesty, that I haven't read a lot of time travel books, because I am easily irritated by paradoxes that aren't resolved, cliches, and "scientific" explanations that don't make any sense. 'Anubis Gates' has none of these problems. I am in awe of the way that Powers neatly wrapped up every single loose end without making it feel contrived.
'Anubis Gates' takes you back to the early nineteenth century in London, with a quick jaunt to the mid-1600s in the middle of the book. The main character, Brendan Doyle, is a scholar who is researching the biography of the poet William Ashbless, hired to accompany a group of paying passengers back in time from 1983 to see a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I was very curious to see how Powers handled the paradox of changing a history that had already happened - and, to be honest, a bit skeptical that he would be able to satisfy me. I was pleasantly surprised. The paradoxes resolve themselves so neatly that it made me pause and think, "maybe this *is* what happened". The thread of Egyptian mythology that ties the story together makes the suspension of disbelief easy, since Powers isn't trying to convince you that the technology for time-travel actually existed in 1983, rather he is relying on a mysticism that has been around for millenia. And the ending was just perfect.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I can't wait to read more of what Powers has written.
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le 17 août 2001
When I started reading this book, my first reaction was, "Wow, what great atmosphere!" Egyptian magic, Coleridge, eighteenth-century England, secret societies... atmosphere abounds. But the thing about atmosphere is, it works well for the first half of a book, when the writer can get by with obscure intimations; but eventually, the book has to let you know what's going on -- and that's the point when many atmosphere-heavy books dissolve into an inchoate and incoherent mess. Because while it's easy to throw together a bunch of really cool elements and hint at secret plans and intricate plots, it's a lot harder to tie all those disparate elements up with all those ominous hints; and it's harder yet to make the revealed story live up to its veiled promise.
I stress the difficulty of this task, because it's all the more remarkable that Powers pulls it all off. The time travel, the mysticism, the historical figures -- it all works. When Powers finally pulls the veil away, what's underneath is just as intricate and rich as the reader has imagined -- and it makes perfect sense. That's an impressive trick indeed. This is the kind of book I really enjoy: it's complex enough to rise above the level of fluff, but still possesses the pace, wit, and joie de libre that make fluff so attractive.
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le 21 juillet 2001
Tim Powers seamlessly weaves the stuff of nightmares with a Victorian London that is so real that you can almost see the gamins and smell the filth. Anubis Gates draws on many of the old superstitions of sorcery and ancient gods in such a way that the book is nostalgic at the same time as it is exhilarating. It is a refreshing change from "modern" fantasy that often seeks to portray magic as a force that exists only in other lands and other worlds. Magic in Anubis Gates is instead more akin to the occult and the mystical, similar perhaps to The Club Dumas by Perez-Reverte. If you enjoyed one book, you will probably enjoy the other. A.G. is a very fast paced book and Powers' timing is complex and superbly accurate. The way he writes keeps you on your toes throughout the book, and everything in A.G. is there for a reason. He does not gloss details or delve into tangents; it is all one gritty trip though a tale that becomes increasingly macabre as it progresses. Furthermore, the blend of historical characters such as Coleridge and Lord Byron with fiction achieves something of a lasting effect long after the book is finished.
Ultimately, Anubis Gates is not merely another time travel adventure. It is also an idea about how magic could possible exist, and a valid look at where it might come from. Although many of the individual ideas can be found elsewhere in literature, not many books can claim to incorporate so many arcane superstitions into one philosophy. The plot is full of surprises that makes reading the book very entertaining, but makes describing it somewhat difficult. Do not let any reviews spoil the story, because it is that much more enjoyable if you do not know anything about it.
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le 17 juillet 2001
This is, currently, the only Tim Powers book I've read. I turned all my friends on to it, and now we're all wondering what Powers book to read next.
The only downside to the Anubis Gates is the overwhelming sense of depression you may feel at the main character's plight about 1/3 of the way through the book. It's pretty bleak, and I believe this may have turned off many other readers. I expressed some concern about this to a friend of mine who said; "Don't worry, things are never as bad as they first seem in Tim Powers novels." That's especially true here.
The other reviews explain the basic plot and give you some idea what to expect. Something they gloss over is the web of plot threads the author very carefully weaves throughout this book. Half the characters are really the other half from different points in time, or clones of other characters, or clones of themselves. By the last third of the book, you'll be quietly whispering 'whoah' every ten pages or so.
The book reads quickly, isn't dense or taxing, and invites you to guess at what's going on. Powers intentionally throws characters at you like tennis balls, hoping you'll lob back some interesting guesses at who they *really* are. Because certainly, no bald madman wheeling his legless way around 18th century London can be just some random dude.
There is, I warn you, one pretty meaningless sequence where the plot suddenly shifts to Cairo. The shift is necessary, it is felt, because it resolves much of what's going on, but while there the main character takes on yet another life and personality and *career* in the space of three pages. Don't hold this against the book, though. Give it a shot.
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le 28 février 2001
After recently posting a review of Crichton's "Timeline" in which I compared the book not too favorably with "The Anubis Gates," I decided to skim through the latter again in order to post a review of it. Well, that lasted about one page, after which I was sucked in again completely and read the thing cover to cover. Wow! Even after repeated readings, Powers' tale of a mild mannered English Professor from 1983 who finds himself marooned in early 19th century Britain still manages to dazzle.
Brendan Doyle, after agreeing to take a mysterious but high paying gig to give a lecture about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, embarks on what was to be a four hour tour to London in 1810 in order to hear Coleridge speak at a pub. Things begin to go awry almost immediately when Doyle is waylaid by a band of Gypsies led by an evil Egyptian sorcerer who is in league with a vivisectionist clown to overthrow the English Monarchy. And then there is the intriguing and astonishing figure of William Ashbless, a minor poet and colleague of Lord Byron and Coleridge whom Powers manages to portray in vivid detail, weaving him convincingly into the fabric of the story. This brief description does little justice to the book, though. Powers' plot and pacing are phenomenally tight, and his characterizations engaging. There are moments of genuine pathos here, interspersed with deliciously macabre scenes. This is a brilliant book that deserves a place at the top of any time travel or science fiction best-of list.
--TR--
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Tim Powers is, to put it plainly, the best fantasist working in the genre. Period. One read of The Anubis Gates will prove it to anybody's satisfaction; I know it's done so for me. My God, what a book. Simply the ideas of time travel and dopplegangers that Powers puts forth here (not to mention his teriffic eye for Victorian Period detail, and his brilliant, believable characterizations of notable figures of the time) are a delight. Unfortunately, I can't talk too much about the plot without giving it away and ruining the immense pleasure reading this book for the first time will give you. I can speak in generalizations, however -- such as the manner in which Powers' protagonist becomes unstuck in time, which is so pedantic as to be wholly believable; or Powers' expert pacing and timing, which help the novel to tick away like Swiss clockwork; Powers' delicious sense of atmosphere and mood, which add to the Victorian setting just the right flavor of danger and eerie magic bubbling just under the surface of things; Powers' understanding that human beings are frail creatures, especially in the time period he's writing about (when his characters get hurt, man, they HURT!); Powers' impeccable plotting. And it is this last, most of all, that makes The Anubis Gates what it is -- for as fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres know, time travel is very difficult to write about effectively, and only the very talented can make even a conditional success of the job. Powers is one of the best -- rather than leave behind all manner of loose ends and creating more paradox than closure with his story, Powers instead makes sure that everything is tied up by the novel's last line. Everything that happens in Anubis Gates happens for a reason, and nothing, not a moment, is wasted on unnecessary business. Not only is the book's ending completely seamless, it is also a total surprise: you'll think you know what's about to happen, but Powers will (I guarantee) pull the rug right out from under you. The only other artists I know of who were so compltetely able to fool their audience were Cornell Woolrich, Ira Levin, and Alfred Hitchcock; Powers is every bit as good. The Anubis Gates, by reason of its brilliantly-imagined world and Powers' strong, effective characters and plot, is one of the greatest fantasy (or science-fantasy, or whatever the hell you want to call it) novels I've ever read. If you care at all about the genre, you MUST read, not only this book, but everything else by Powers that you can lay your hands on. You owe it to yourself -- and to Tim Powers as well, because as far as I'm concerned he doesn't get anywhere near the recognition he deserves.
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Powers ranks for me with Robert Heinlein and Piers Anthony -- wildly popular authors who are hopeless writers. I tried to like this book. I REALLY tried. In the end, the whole thing is a mess, beginning to end. I have read many books with non-linear plots; Powers can't handle this. I have read books with outlandish characters; Powers can't pull through. I have read historical fiction/fantasy; Powers does not know from whence he speaks. I have read works of occult fiction; Powers knows nothing. I went into this book never having read any of his works and having it praised to the skies by no less than four of my friends -- I now wonder at their tastes. The characters are flat beyond compare, the plot is in its best points contrived, in its worst points hopeless, and even the use of "thieve's cant" is wrong, wrong, wrong. My god, it is easy to pick up Dickens and get more of theive's cant than Powers has! This book is revered and I know I will shift few opinions, but I must give this a poor review. Don't read it. It is not worth the effort.
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le 6 juillet 1999
Perhaps it's because I don't read enough fantasy or science fiction, choosing instead to read fiction more grounded in reality. In any case, I'd have to say that this book, while being quite thrilling and running at a breakneck pace, was forgettable.
It IS compelling, and you'll have a rough time trying to put it down. The action sequences are fast and furious. The story is fairly unique. However, I had expected something that dealt more with ancient Egypt ("The Anubis Gates," hello). Instead, we're treated to a story that takes place in the early 1800's in England (although it does swing to the 1600's and makes a quick stop in Egypt). And the story could have benefitted from a little less of that "magic 'n' sorcery 'n' amazing spells!" whoop-tee-doo.
Sure, it's a twisty, convoluted plot that is handled masterfully, with all the loose ends being tied up by the time you reach the end. But that's not quite enough to recommend this book. If you read it, be sure to keep your expectations low, and check your disbelief at the door.
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