Monday, March 8, 2010

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The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Posted by Lilith at Monday, March 08, 2010 0 comments

Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates

The 1983 Philip K. Dick Award and 1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Award winning novel, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is an excellent time travel fantasy book that mixes real historical events and mythical creatures like a werewolf, Egyptian gods and magic.

The Anubis Gates summary

I think it's a really fun time travel adventure. In the book, Brendan Doyle is a quick-witted scholar who accepts an eccentric billionaire's offer to go and meet the famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge by traveling back to the past as a tour group's resident expert on Romantic poets.

Time travel is possible because a mad Egyptian sorcerer, desperate to regain Egypt's independence, had tried to open a gate back to the ancient time when the Egyptian gods were at their peak power. This attempt failed but it did open portals in time at various locations and times.

Through a series of events, Doyle gets trapped back in time and has to survive as bets he can with the sorcerer's underlings after him. I particularly liked the beggars. I can't say more for fear of spoiling your reading pleasure but the beggar scenes were pretty unforgettable.

Doyle seems to be an average kind of guy but quick-witted and with a god survival instinct. He isn't particularly smart, strong or skilled  but he isn't dumb or a pushover. As a character, I felt a bit sorry for him for all the trouble he has all the time but I don't really feel that much for him. The romantic elements are a bit silly, in my opinion, but it is thankfully a rather minor note in the novel.

The Anubis Gates has a little bit of everything in it like time travel, spells, minions, evil sorcerers, secret orders, criminal undergrounds and such. What really stands out here is the lovely and surreal mixture of myth, history, danger and magic. Tim Powers does his research and I must say that the past world in the novel feels very real and not at all dreamlike despite the many fantastic elements in it.

All in all, a standalone fantasy novel well worth reading.

The Anubis Gates Quote

When they'd gone the old man turned around to watch the sun's slow descent. The Boat of Millions of Years, he thought; the boat of the dying sungod Ra, tacking down the western sky to the source of the dark river that runs through the underworld from west to east, through the twelve hours of the night, at the far eastern end of which the boat will tomorrow reappear, bearing a once again youthful, newly reignited sun.

Or, he thought bitterly, removed from us by a distance the universe shouldn't even be able to encompass, it's a vast motionless globe of burning gas, around which this little ball of a planet rolls like a pellet of dung propelled by a kephera beetle.

Take your pick, he told himself as he started slowly down the hill ... But be willing to die for your choice.

The Basics

What it has

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, beggars, monsters,  giants, dwarves, food, wine, London, underground, criminals, time travel, fated love, disguises Egyptian gods, werewolves, hair, revenge, guns

What it doesn't have

vampires, breakfast cereal, wands, spaceships, aliens, light sabers, cute furry monsters, Austin Powers

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

Posted by Lilith at Tuesday, March 02, 2010 0 comments
This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

Originally titled “…And Call me Conrad”, Roger Zelazny’s “This Immortal” tied with Frank Herbert’s “Dune” for the 1966 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

This Immortal is set in a ravaged, post-apocalyptic Earth where most humans have left Earth to live and work with the Vegans, an alien race that is more advanced and wealthy than the humans.

The Vegans tour the Earth, mainly to gawk at how badly a species can screw up their planet, and buy up prime real estate. Conrad Nomikos, a man who has a lot of names and identities and whose age is uncertain, is tasked with protecting a high caste Vegan on an Earth tour.

Mutated creatures abound in this post-nuclear war setting and many of them are straight out of Greek myth. Conrad himself is hinted to be much more than he seems

Although not as good as Zelazny’s Lord of Light, This Immortal  is funny, action packed and heavily layered elements from Greek mythology. Fans of Greek myth (like me!) will love this novel.

It is very short (58,000 words only) and can be read in one sitting. This Immortal was written in the 60s so expect some material which can seem little bit dated. One reviewer noted, for example, that Conrad and the other characters will smoke at the drop of a hat and today smoking in public gatherings is pretty much taboo in polite society so that type of thing will tell you that this is a pretty old book.

This Immortal Quotes:

- The day of battle dawned pink as the fresh-bitten thigh of a maiden.

- Love is a negative form of hatred.

- In attempting to reconstruct the affairs of these past six month, I realize now that as we willed walls of passion around our October and the isle of Kos, the Earth had already fallen into the hands of those powers that smash all Octobers.

The Basics

What it has:

Greeks, Copts, aliens, Vegans, journalists, diplomats, flares, prostitutes, wigs, immortals, mutants, godlike creatures, christenings, infant exposure of deformed babies, poison, rescue, assassins, hellhounds, slings, toothpicks, poets, boxing, bats, fertility rites, letters

What it doesn’t have:
chicks in leather, biker gangs, kings, queens, swords, lions, talking animals, magic wardrobes, fur coats, internet games, facebook, kids, teenagers, high school romance

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