The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was billed as a classic 'Steam Punk' story that helped define the genre ... the only problem here was that there was NO steam [tech:] and there was little or no punk either. In fact, the only way it fits here would be to credit the time period as Victorian (IMHO a useless expansion of the term), before mixing in a tremendous amount of magic in what should be more honestly billed as a time-travel fantasy. That said … it WAS a pretty decent time-travel story :)
The story opens with a magical spell gone wrong which tears holes [gates:] in the time-continuum which serves of the principal mechanism for the subsequent time-travel activities. Powers does a masterful job of weaving two intriguing plotlines … one from the future 20th century and one based in the host 19th century … both of which revolve around the protagonist, one Brendan Doyle, a mediocre 20th century scholar specializing in an obscure 19th century poet (whom he hopes to meet). Not long into the tale, Doyle becomes stranded in the past where he struggles to survive in the dark underworld of London beggars while avoiding capture by the local gypsies who fear he may upset their own schemes. Along the way we are introduced to a system of magic that is at once extremely limited when in connection with the earth and tremendously powerful (the ability to make a virtual army of homunculi, or ka’s, is really over the top IMHO). Stir in a body snatching werewolf, an Egyptian god or two, a secret society, a few elemental spirits, and the real story behind the Punch and Judy puppets for an entertaining mix of odds and ends that keep your interest as the mysteries unfold. The main problem with the story is that Powers touches so many things without really going into much detail … making it hard to leave any lasting impression.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.