Author: Tim Powers
Details: (c) Tim Powers 1983; Pub Triad Grafton 1986; ISBN 0-586-06550-4
Verdict: The Anubis Gates is entertaining and exciting.
Reasons for reading it: Sorry to be predictable, but lethargic_man recommended it to me.
How it came into my hands: lethargic_man gave me a copy.
I really enjoyed The Anubis Gates; it seems like a sort of grown-up version of the kind of thing I loved as a kid. It's an adventure story, pure and simple; it doesn't care about realism, or complex morality, it's just exciting. But like the best examples of the genre, the characters are completely plausible even if the situation is wildly speculative. Also, the fantasy struck me as solid and internally consistent, which is pleasing.
The big difference between this and the kiddie version is that the protagonist is somewhere between flawed and despicable, whereas in most children's adventure stories the hero tends to be annoyingly perfect. Doyle seems thoroughly believable, and his arrogant optimism throughout fell just short of alienating my sympathy for him in his various predicaments. I think that had tAG been a children's book, it would have been done from the point of view of Jacky; her character veers a little towards the 'plucky little heroine' type, endlessly resourceful and too likeable to be quite true, but given that she's a secondary character, this doesn't matter.
Actually, in general I liked the range of different viewpoints in tAG; it's not a technique I would have expected when there's such a clear heroes and villains set-up, but the various characters ring true, and all help to maintain the excitement of the plot; tAG never descends into mere jumping around between viewpoints for the sake of it. Though on the negative side, I did feel that the authorial voice was too loud in amongst these multiple viewpoints. There were some sections where tAG seemed to be practically at the pantomime level, with the narration being so heavy-handed in providing information to the reader that the characters failed to spot that it seemed to be expecting me to shout 'he's behind you!'
Various cute ideas; I liked the thing about sorcery causing practitioners to lose their connection with the earth, culminating in eventually being drawn up into the moon. I was also quite taken with the werewolf arc, it seemed to hang together pleasingly on its own terms. The Colerige cameo was most endearing, too. And the time-travel aspect was nicely handled and never allowed to hamstring the plot at the level of, well, the plan must have succeeded because had the characters failed to change history, they wouldn't be in the situation they are in currently. Though I was a little disappointed with the 'thank heavens I'm now free from knowing my own fate' bit at the end; too obvious, for my taste.
The Anubis Gates strikes me as a rather unexpected beast: a good melodrama. Fun.