In the steampunk classic The Anubis Gates Professor Brendan Doyle accompanies a party recruited by tycoon J. Cochran Darrow to travel back in time to 1810 - and ends up immersed in not just one, but several, deadly conspiracies colliding with one another.
The characters are mostly one-dimensional - and protagonist Doyle rather forgettable - but together they certainly comprise a large and colorful cast, with Doyle's blandness working by letting him play the "straight man" to the dark and at times grotesque weirdness all around him. Tim Powers' recreation of Regency-era London is rich, lively and engaging. Additionally, the novel is densely (and at times head-spinningly) plotted, and once the exposition is through, swiftly paced, with Powers sending his characters leaping through innumerable plot twists with an astonishing lightness of foot. Predictably, the storytelling gets diffuse (with the occasional marring of the flow by a stumble in the often thick description not helpful), and not every plot thread is as compelling, or concludes as satisfactorily, as might be hoped. (One might also add that the author's treatment of the Greek and Egyptian settings is less striking, and that readers led to expect a world created by an anachronistic steam-based technology by the "steampunk" label will be let down - the time travel aside, the considerable speculative element's much more rooted in fantasy than science.) Still, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and Powers succeeds in tying it all up novel's end.
Nearly three decades on, in the midst of a steampunk boom, the book cannot appear as groundbreaking as it did in 1983, but for all its weaknesses it remains such a strange, wild and colorful ride as to be well worth the read.