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The Anubis Gates (Fantasy Masterworks,…

The Anubis Gates (Fantasy Masterworks, Volume 47) (original 1983; edition 2005)

by Tim Powers

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2,630702,274 (4)1 / 244
Title:The Anubis Gates (Fantasy Masterworks, Volume 47)
Authors:Tim Powers
Info:GOLLANCZ (ORIO) (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library, Novels
Tags:novels, fantasy, Fantasy Masterworks, 20th century books, male authors, science fiction, time travel, dark fantasy, 2012 reading, historical fantasy, alternate history

Work details

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (Author) (1983)

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I found 'De poorten van Anubis'/'The Anubis Gates' at a thriftshop and was intrigued because it promised time travel (I love time travel) and it has won/was nominated for awards (I always carry The List with me when book-shopping, a list of award nominated or winning books). So, when my last two books were a bit disappointed, I figured 'De Poorten van Anubis' would be a nice pick-me-up. Well, it wasn't.There are still magicians from the Egyptian olden days, and they want Egypt back under the rule of the gods (you know, Ra, Isis, Anubis etc.). However, now, in 1802, England has taken over Egypt from the French (who could be trusted to rule in name only, and leave the Egyptians to it). So, why not destroy England and regain control over Egypt (and the rest of the world, while they're at it). But whatever they did, their ritual caused holes in the fabric of time, and one man in the 1980s has discovered this. So he organizes a trip for a group of interested people to a reading by Samuel Coleridge in 1810. Our main character, expert on the period Brendan Doyle gets stuck in the period, and is left to fight not only the Egyptian magicians but also beggar guilds, a werewolf-shapeshifter and other people who seem to have it in for him, all while trying to figure out what is going on, and save the future.
When I read the summary of this book, I thought I'd love it. I mean, time-travel, Egyptian mythology and a shapeshifting werewolf, what's not to love? Well, the mixture of these elements. I admit, in part it may have been my frame of mind, but to me it really felt like the writer threw all these elements into a melting pot and this story came out. There is just too much going on, and in the end, the ending feels like a let down. Enjoyable for the ideas, but not much more than that. Three out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Mar 16, 2014 |
An entertaining story, but very complicated and very fast paced. When I just started reading I was very confused very soon - but all the little threads and riddles come to satisfying conclusion during the story or at the end. Don not peek at the last pages- it is frustrating and confusing. ( )
  Maaike15274 | Feb 23, 2014 |
With rich characters, great re-imagining of early 19th century places, a fantastic story backed up by industry awards, this book showed great promise. And I was hooked for 95 percent of it. But it let me down in the climax as I felt there was too much deus ex machina and not enough of the characters I already knew getting the hero out of a sticky situation. I still enjoyed the story and I will read more of Tim Powers' books because of this. Four stars out of five. ( )
  Bruce_McNair | Jan 19, 2014 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 2002. Spoilers follow.

This was an elaborate, intricate, action-packed mélange of Byron and Coleridge's poetry, secret societies in Jacobean and Georgian London, time travel, lycanthropy, transvestism (the typical young girl disguised as a boy though, here, engaged in the atypical quest for vengeance for her dead boyfriend, killed by a werewolf), Egyptian mythology, literary studies, beggars, and gypsies.

From what I've read, this is the second of Powers' secret histories (the first being The Drawing of the Dark) where he mixes history -- cultural and political -- with mythology to reveal the real story and motives behind famous events. The opening epigraphs of some chapters show this: a letter from Byron, where he remarks about how some thought they saw him in London when he was, in fact, in Greece; another epigraph has mention of the Italian physician, here the Egyptian sorcerer Romanelli, who talked the Pashah into massacring the Mamelukes -- an event our hero Brendan Doyle aka William Ashbless barely escapes in his Mameluke disguise.

Standard Powers' elements show up: magic described in physics terms, particularly in electromagnetic terms since the Anateus Brotherhood ground their boots to negate Romany and Fife's spells; bodyswitching -- a lot of bodyswitching here with Fife in his Dog-Face Joe incarnation forcing a lot of personalities to be evicted from their body; criminal undergrounds engaged in occult pursuits much like the hideous Horrabin clown here who mutilates people in his underground caverns; beggars; imbecilic immortals, and maiming. He uses a thriller format with scenes using not only his protagonist as a point of view character but also scenes built around his villains and minor characters. He often describes a startling or strange scene and then backtracks to give the setup for it. Humor shows up frequently, particularly, here, the ghastly dialogues with Horriban's Mistakes in the basement of the Rat's Castle.

There are differences here, though, between this and other novels I've read. Not only does Powers mix fantasy and sf (with a tenuous justification for time travel), but his exchanges of dialogue are much longer here than in the Western America Fisher King books. The action is much more furious here.

Still, I'm impressed how Powers always uses certain images in each novel for thematic significance. Here it is the image of the river used, in its ice covered form, as a metaphor for time travel (an image probably taken from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine) and life's journey including a passage through the Underworld of Egyptian myth). I'm also impressed how much emotion Powers develops through just brief mentions of Doyle's dead wife and the poignancy of living with the knowledge of the hour and manner, as Ashbless, of his death.

I particularly liked the closed timeloop of William Ashbless and his work. His work springs from nothing since 20th century literary scholar Brendan Doyle, after not meeting him, begins to recreate his work in the 19th century and, eventually, becomes Ashbless -- not a creator of Ashbless' work but a caretaker, as he notes. It was a pleasant surprise as, at the end, Powers wraps up the loose plot end of Doyle's ka and gives Ashbless a new, uncharted life to look forward to. I liked using Coleridge's opium-addled sojourns in Horribans dungeon and his conversations with Horriban's Mistakes (which he views as manifestations of his own mind and character) as the explanation for Coleridge's later, more obscure poems (which I'm not that familiar with).

I also liked the not original idea of having a time traveler who thinks he's going to use his historical knowledge to live well getting a comeuppance. Villain Darrow is able to do so, but the hapless Doyle barely escapes death and poverty several times. (He finds an aptitude for being a beggar.) I also liked Doyle, in his Ashbless body, boldly facing dangers because he believes he will survive them since Ashbless' biography says he will -- until, after blood is drawn to make a ka of him -- he begins to realize that maybe the ka will survive and not him.

Powers also is able, through sheer narrative drive and inventive bizarreness, to make me overlook his convenient coincidences (here not rationalized magically as in Last Call): when Brenner's bullet hits the gun around Doyle's neck and Fike just happening to jump into Darrow's body after the later has been shot to death. Some of the details of his magic seemed a little vague. Specifically, why Fike becomes Dog-Face Joe and why Romanelli is so worn out after traveling from Egypt to London.

Still, a very impressive and delightful book. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Dec 29, 2013 |
A pretty decent story all told. It has a lot of atmosphere and its slightly convoluted structure gives it a bit of the feeling that the protagonist would probably have with keeping times and identities in order. There's a reasonable dose of (mostly Victorian) grime and grimness that manages to do its thing in the story and convey the very sinister and wretched things that Doyle is dragged into, without falling into offputting grimdark. There's some onstage gore and darkness, but generally they're narrated rather than depicted. There are some very enjoyable weird people and mystical elements, which felt novel to me. On the whole, decent but not stellar writing; it's a little bit heavy at times and not always entirely clear, which is an issue with a complex story with some very similar characters. Could maybe have been shorter and punchier; sometimes feels like Powers wasn't sure whether he wanted an action-packed yarn or a heavy atmospheric story.

The story itself is reasonable, though I always worry about time-travel plots because they're easy to do badly. In this case I think Powers managed a respectable plot that didn't disappear up its own rear end or turn into Exposition Central, and tied itself up neatly, though I wasn't always clear on what was going on. I got the sense there were slightly too many characters, though. There were also some aspects that I found predictable as soon as I worked out what kind of story it was: the enigmatic historical figure is bound to be yourself in the past, for example, and the compulsion to work in several historical figures is apparently irresistable (though Powers does it reasonably). As far as I can work out we never find out who the Master was, and I slightly feel that there was just enough Egyptian magic in the story to make it strange that there isn't more about it, especially given one major scene. Finally, there's precisely one female character worth mentioning, and while she has a couple of decent scenes I'd have preferred it without the obligatory rape threats. I'm glad I've read it but I don't think I'll feel the urge to reread it. ( )
  Shimmin | Nov 29, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Powers, TimAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brautigan, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campion, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clifton-Dey, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podevin, Jean-FrançoisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, Jeffrey KCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From between two trees at the crest of the hill a very old man watched, with a nostalgic longing he thought he'd lost all capacity for, as the last group of picnickers packed up their baskets, mounted their horses, and rode away south...
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441004016, Paperback)

Author Tim Powers evokes 17th-century England with a combination of meticulously researched historic detail and imaginative flights in this sci-fi tale of time travel. Winner of the 1984 Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback, this 1989 edition of the book that took the fantasy world by storm is the first hardcover version to be published in the United States. In his brief introduction, Ramsey Campbell sets The Anubis Gates in an adventure context, citing Powers's achievement of "extraordinary scenes of underground horror, of comedy both high and grotesque, of bizarre menace, of poetic fantasy."

The colonization of Egypt by western European powers is the launch point for power plays and machinations. Steeping together in this time-warp stew are such characters as an unassuming Coleridge scholar, ancient gods, wizards, the Knights Templar, werewolves, and other quasi-mortals, all wrapped in the organizing fabric of Egyptian mythology. In the best of fantasy traditions, the reluctant heroes fight for survival against an evil that lurks beneath the surface of their everyday lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:54 -0400)

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A novel of time travel that combines action and adventure with the surreal and bizarre.

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