Literature / The Anubis Gates
The Anubis Gates
is Tim Powers
' breakout novel, first published in 1983.
Literary scholar Brendan Doyle is hired by reclusive millionaire J. Cochran Darrow to provide color commentary on a sight-seeing expedition into the year 1810 through one of the eponymous Gates, a series of gaps through time accidentally created in the 19th century by a cadre of Egyptian sorcerers attempting to overthrow the British Empire. The expedition attracts the attention of the sorcerers, who kidnap Doyle to find out where the travellers come from and how they found out about the Gates. He escapes, but not until the expedition has returned to 1983 and the Gate has closed, leaving him stranded in 1810 London and having to deal with the Egyptian sorcerers, the Body Snatcher
Dog-Face Joe, the mystery of the reclusive poet William Ashbless, and the discovery that there was more to the original sight-seeing expedition than he was told.
This novel provides examples of:
- And You Thought It Was a Game: Coleridge plays an important role in the climax of the story, all the while convinced he's just having a particularly vivid drug trip.
- Anti-Magic: The Antaeus Brotherhood have a technique for diverting magical attacks away from themselves.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge become entangled in the magical goings-on.
- Body Snatcher: Dog-Face Joe
- Body Surf: Dog-Face Joe has to do this, because any body he stays in too long will start growing hair all over.
- Cast from Hit Points: Trying to use serious magic in the 19th century tends to have severely deleterious effects on the physical health of the caster.
- Chekhov's Gun: Powers sets up a lot of dominoes in chapter two. Some of them are pretty obvious (rumours of a body-surfing serial killer running amok in 1810? No way Doyle will somehow solve that problem); others, a lot more subtle.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Happens to Doyle twice. The second time is strongly implied to be horrific and mostly happens offscreen except for the screaming.
- Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit: Averted by Darrow's plan. Scheming to travel into the past and invest his wealth there, he also intends to become immortal and watch over his investment, taking full advantage of his economic foresight, rather than trust in compound interest alone.
- Counterfeit Cash: One of several plots by the Egyptian villains has them trying to throw the UK into crisis by pouring counterfeit money into the banking system.
- Creator In-Joke: When Tim Powers and James Blaylock were in college together, they invented a fake poet named "William Ashbless" to satirize the quality of their college's literary magazine. In The Anubis Gates, he appears as a major character and turns out to, himself, be a fake identity adopted by the past-stranded and body-swapped protagonist.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: The fate of Doctor Romany after having been damaged, defeated, and marooned in the (further) past.
- Cue the Sun: The boat of the sun god Ra emerges from the tunnerls into the Thames, turns to the east and dematerializes, leaving behind a miraculously restored Ashbless, just as the sun peeks over the horizon.
- Designated Bullet: Jacky is out to avenge Dog-Face Joe's murder of Colin Lepovre by shooting Joe with the same gun that killed Colin.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Eyes Never Lie: Beth Tichy recognises a monster as her fiancé, transformed, by the expression in his eyes — just after she shoots it.
- A Glass in the Hand: Subverted: the protagonist tries to break a beer mug in his hand to show how tough he is and intimidate his way out of an awkward situation, but discovers, to his embarrassment and onlookers' amusement, that he isn't quite strong enough. Still defuses the awkward situation, though.
- Goldfish Poop Gang: Doctor Romany. He's not a nice guy and neither are his aims or his means, but after watching all of his increasingly-desperate plans come apart on him, it's hard not to see him as a little pathetic.
- Grand Theft Me: Dog-Face Joe does this, and Darrow plans on doing it (with his own son, no less).
- Historical Fantasy
- Historical Hero Upgrade: James Stuart, Duke of York, albeit offstage. His enmity leads to...
- Historical Villain Upgrade: The Duke Of Monmouth
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: How Doyle overcomes replicant mindslave Byron. While he thinks that what he wants to do is obey his master's sinister commands, Doyle knows what he really wants to do is write poetry.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Implied of Horrabin.
- I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference: A character adopts the alias "Humphrey Bogart" in early-19th-century London. A variation in that the character is not himself a time traveller, but picked up the name from another character who is.
- Laser-Guided Karma: By the end of the book, every single one of the villains is dead.
- The Magic Goes Away: A massive magical event in the backstory seriously damaged magical potency, and it's steadily faded ever since.
- Manchurian Agent: The protagonist foils a plot of this nature.
- Monster Clown: Horrabin
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: The protagonist has been mugged by men who think he's a sorcerer moments before he was supposed to return to the present; when he wakes up, groggy and thinking he's in 1983, he demands that he get a phone call to his boss.
- Our Homunculi Are Different: The magical substance paut can be used to create living humanoid beings. Horrabin makes very small servants called the Spoonsize boys for various acts of espionage (and also to serve as the "puppets" in his Punch and Judy show), and the full replica of a human called a ka is fashioned from the same stuff.
- Power at a Price: Prolonged use of sorcery causes a mystical realignment from the Earth to the Moon. For most of the sorcerers who appear in the novel, the main effect is that it has become physically painful to come into contact with the ground, requiring various inventive methods of locomotion such as swings, stilts, or special shoes. Their leader, who's been at it for centuries, is now more strongly aligned to the Moon to the Earth, and has to stay indoors when the Moon is above the horizon to avoid being sucked away into space.
- Prophecy Twist: At the beginning, Doyle recalls what he knows about Ashbless, including the discovery of his corpse. At the end, having become Ashbless, Doyle heads out to where he's supposed to die. However, earlier in the story, the villains made a replica of him - which Doyle encounters there and kills in the same manner that Ashbless was supposed to be killed. He leaves the body there to be discovered and walks away, much more optimistic.
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone
- Public Secret Message: Time travelers in the early 19th century get each other's attentions on busy city streets by whistling Beatles songs.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Richard, the old gypsy who works for Doctor Romany, is very much in on all of his evil schemes, but pretty much a decent guy. Early on in the book, he merely watches as Romany tortures Doyle for information, but when he himself recaptures Doyle later on, he decides to let him go rather than turn him back over to his boss. He also interferes with the attempt to murder Byron in cold blood. When Romany is eventually exiled to the past, his reaction is pretty much relief, and he merely gathers up his people and leaves.
- Right in Front of Me: The scene in which William Ashbless is introduced to his wife-to-be, immediately after saying something he would have worded much more carefully if he'd known who she was.
- Secret History: How Doyle gets around You Already Changed the Past. Since he turns out to be the only source for Ashbless' life, he doesn't need to do what the history books say; he just has to remember what the history books say so he can recite them as Blatant Lies later.
- The Slow Path:
- One of the villains gets stranded in the past and has to come back the long way, winding up as a mad old coot who appears in the story before the fateful time journey, making incomprehensible prophecies and mocking the ambitions of his younger self.
- Another villain deliberately strands himself in the past (having come up with an unpleasant but effective plan for remaining youthful), with the intention of using his historical knowledge to accumulate wealth and power on his way back to the present.
- Spooky Sťance: In a Noodle Incident, a seance was being conducted at the site of one of the gaps in time. As these gaps cause magic to start working in their vicinity, this seance presumably got results; just what result, no one knows, as the participants were all found dead the next day, sitting around their ouija board with horrified looks on their faces.
- Stable Time Loop
- Sweet Polly Oliver: The fiancée of one of Dog-Face Joe's victims adopts a male persona and infiltrates London's underworld to hunt him down.
- Take a Level in Badass: Doyle, roughly about the same time that he accepts that he's stuck in 1810.
- Time Travel via the titular gates, a harmonic series of episodic fissures that appear up and down the time stream from an initial temporal accident like the ripples resulting from a rock thrown into a pond.
- Tongue Trauma: Dog-Face Joe mutilates his own tongue whenever he's about to abandon a body, so that his victim can't go talking about what just happened in the brief time remaining before the poison he takes at the same time does its work.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Effectively what happens when kidnappers attempt to put opium-addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge out by spiking his tea with laudanum. Instead of falling asleep, Coleridge briefly becomes a Badass Bookworm.
- Tricked Out Time
- Unusual Euphemism: Jacky describes the events of the climax as "surviving the condensed works of Dante".
- Write Back to the Future: The protagonist sends a message from the past to himself, jotting a note on a book in Pig Latin. This isn't so much an attempt to convey information — he'd already seen the note, and been surprised by it, at a previous point in his time-traveling adventure — so much as a way to self-seal a Stable Time Loop and ensure his earlier self will pay attention to that particular book.
- You Already Changed the Past: Played with.
- Your Days Are Numbered: Doyle tells someone he cares about the exact date and cause of her death in a drunken argument. He finds it very hard to live with himself afterwards. However the brave way in which she faces her fate gives him the courage to face his own fate later.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Any attempt to change history will result in, at best, a case of You Already Changed the Past. (But what history says about your fate doesn't always mean what it seems to mean, because history is sometimes misguided, never comprehensive and momentous shifts often hinge on tiny actions that no one either noticed at the time or bothered to record later.)
- You Will Be Beethoven: "William Ashbless" is actually Doyle.