THE ANUBIS GATES Brendan Doyle, a poet and historian, joins a jaunt back to the eighteenth century that turns deadly...and permanent Author: Tim Powers (1952- ) Subgenre: Fantasy--historical Type of work: Novel Time of plot: 1802, 1983, 1810-1846, and 1684 Location: Primarily London, also Cairo First published: 1983 The Plot: Professor Brendan Doyle is offered a remarkable sum to give a lecture on Samuel Taylor Coleridge...and then to attend an 1810 lecture Coleridge gave in London! The title refers to a set of holes in spacetime, created in 1802 (though Doyle and his employer, J. Cochran Darrow, don't know it) by some worshippers of Anubis; Doyle and his party use one of these holes in 1983 to travel back to 1810. Things start to go wrong as soon as they get to the Crown and Anchor Tavern where Coleridge is supposed to speak: they have the wrong week! Fortunately, Coleridge also had the wrong week, and so he gives the lecture anyway. As they are about to leave, Doyle is kidnapped by a sinister figure. This is Dr. Romany, head of a band of gypsies, and one of two sorcerors who inadvertently created the Gates in a failed attempt to return the Gods of ancient Egypt, and magic itself, to their former glory. Romany wants to know why Doyle and his associates are using the Gates, and he takes Doyle to his gypsy camp for torture. Doyle escapes into the river, and ends up back in London the next morning, having been rescued by onion sellers. Broke and hungry, Doyle is still confident that he'll find work as a writer, but he quickly finds that begging is the only employment he's fit for. Doyle doesn't know that Romany has enlisted the unsavory beggar and thief guilds let by Horrabin the Clown to look for him. Fortunately, the beggars he's fallen in with don't trust Romany, and help Doyle hide. Unfortunately, Romany finds him and Doyle is forced to flee, barely escaping with the assistance of a young beggar named Jacky and a gypsy named Damnable Richard. Doyle is hoping to meet William Ashbless, an American poet Doyle studied back in the 20th century, and get some assistance, financial and otherwise. Ashbless never shows up where his biography claimed he wrote one of his poems, so Doyle angrily writes the poem from memory. On his way back to his job of shoveling horse manure he hears someone whistling "Yesterday," by Lennon and McCartney. Someone else from the 20th century is here in 1810! Romany and Horrabin have discovered that Jacky helped Doyle escape, and Horrabin catches Jacky. They lock Jacky in an oubliette in the fourth sub-basement, and eerie place that frightens even Horrabin. Jacky soon discovers why: it is occupied by horrible creatures, some of which may once have been human. Horrabin's dwarfed servant Dungy frees Jacky in exchange for a promise to help him kill Horrabin, but she is attacked by some of the denizens of that dark place. She flees into a magical cave, part of the underground river channel that carries Ra's Boat through the twelve hours of the night. Doyle finds a way, he thinks, to get back to 1983, which he is still determined to do. He meets an acquaintance from the 20th century, who shoots what appears to be an ape right in front of Doyle. Actually, the creature is a cast-off body that had been inhabited by Dog-Faced Joe, who is none other than Romany's former partner, possessed by the demented ghost of Anubis and cursed by Anubis with ever-growing fur. Joe uses magic to trade bodies when the fur gets ahead of the razor, and poisons the bodies he leaves behind so they can't tell tales. Joe tries the trick on Doyle, but the latter is more sophisticated than Joe's usual victims, and he eats charcoal, which is the antidote for the strychnine Joe ate before trading bodies. Analysis: This is, in my opinion, Powers' finest novel to date. Its fast pacing, one of Powers' hallmarks, never lets up from beginning to end, and marvel is piled on plot twist right up to the last page. Some highlights are further insights into the nature of magic that was first outlined in The Drawing of the Dark, a truly enchanting form of limited time travel, and one of the most bizarre underworlds ever penned. Powers' theory of magic includes some very engaging twists on old myths. For instance, the power of a mage's real name presumably derives from its reflection of his inner being. Thus, when a sorceror undergoes a major personality change, his true name changes as well. A common theme in Powers' fantasies, as in many fantasies (e.g., Niven's The Magic Goes Away) is the gradual fading of magic. In Powers' schema, magic fades before the bright light of Christianity. As the last strongholds of magic-working religions are overwhelmed during the 19th century, magic gradually vanishes. As part of this process, the universe is actually transformed from a magical world to a scientific one. For instance, up until 1810, the sun was actually carried by Ra underground in a fabulous boat. However, by the end of the story, the underground channel has hardened into rock, and the sun has become the giant ball of burning gas that it is today. This is a delightful way to work the paradigm shift, and it is most clearly expressed in this book, although the same basic magical explanation is used in The Drawing of the Dark and On Stranger Tides. A similar theory underlies the magic in The Stress of her Regard, but in Powers' sixth novel, Last Call, he uses a different paradigm involving the tarot and non-fading magic. Interestingly, the name assumed by Doyle, William Ashbless, is that of a poet invented by Powers some years before he wrote The Anubis Gates. Because the book is about Powers' imaginary poet, it is tempting to suppose that more effort went into writing this one. Certainly Powers brought the grotesque simile, another of his trademarks, to fantastic heights in this book. "...his blank smile returning to his face like something dead floating to the surface of a pond." The plot formula of The Anubis Gates is very similar to that of nearly all of his other novels. The protagonist encounters a problem, struggles against it, gives himself up to drugs and denial when the going gets tough, but pulls himself together for one last try in the nick of time. As in all of Powers' novels the protagonist has a lost love; in this book, as in Last Call, the lost love is a dead wife. One of the interesting facets of this book is the treatment of immortality. The Master of Romanelli and Fikee is more than 4,300 years old -- and senile. His two servants, millennia old themselves, continue trudging through the same ruts they seemed to have occupied since they reached adulthood. Extended life does not bring enhanced wisdom, and one is compelled to pity the doomed sorcerors even while loathing them. J. Cochran Darrow, the wealthy sponsor of the time trip, has personal immortality as his ultimate goal. This obsession destroys him in the end, and we are able to pity him too. A sinking-ship metaphor appears several times early in the book; in connection with the Egyptian sorcerors and with Darrow; a foreshadowing of their eventual failure to achieve their aims. This is linked to William Ashbless by a "quote" from his poetry at the beginning of the book, and to the higher workings of magic by Ra's Boat of Millions of Years.