Kristjan's Reviews > The Anubis Gates

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
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Oct 22, 2008

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bookshelves: historical-fantasy, book-club-selection, reviewed
Recommended to Kristjan by: GR Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Club
Read in December, 2008

This book was billed as a classic 'Steam Punk' story that helped define the genre ... the only problem here was that there was NO steam [tech:] and there was little or no punk either. In fact, the only way it fits here would be to credit the time period as Victorian (IMHO a useless expansion of the term), before mixing in a tremendous amount of magic in what should be more honestly billed as a time-travel fantasy. That said … it WAS a pretty decent time-travel story :)

The story opens with a magical spell gone wrong which tears holes [gates:] in the time-continuum which serves of the principle mechanism for the subsequent time-travel activities. Powers does a masterful job of weaving two intriguing plotlines … one from the future 20th century and one based in the host 19th century … both of which revolve around the protagonist, one Brendan Doyle, a mediocre 20th century scholar specializing in an obscure 19th century poet (whom he hopes to meet). Not long into the tale, Doyle becomes stranded in the past where he struggles to survive in the dark underworld of London beggars while avoiding capture by the local gypsies who fear he may upset their own schemes. Along the way we are introduced to a system of magic that is at once extremely limited when in connection with the earth and tremendously powerful (the ability to make a virtual army of homunculi, or ka’s, is really over the top IMHO). Stir in a body snatching werewolf, an Egyptian god or two, a secret society, a few elemental spirits, and the real story behind the Punch and Judy puppets for an entertaining mix of odds and ends that keep your interest as the mysteries unfold. The main problem with the story is that Powers touches so many things without really going into much detail … making it hard to leave any lasting impression.
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11/06/2008 page 10
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Sandi I thought that it was a good time-travel fantasy. It just wasn't steampunk. I was disappointed that there wasn't more time spent on the Egyptian part. The ending seemed a bit rushed too.

I liked it, but was a bit disappointed that it wasn't as good as "Declare".


message 2: by Kevin (last edited Oct 21, 2009 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage's Analytical engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.

This is exactly what the "Anubus Gates" consist of.
I know we read the same version!?


Kristjan Kevin wrote: "Steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely u..."

I am aware of what some people are CALLING steam-punk. I thought I made it clear that I disagreed with the way it was generally used as a replacement for a given time period (aka Victorian) when simply CALLING it Victorian would do. Compound terms should have SOME relation to each of the words used. As you stated ... the Steam should have some correlation to some form of antiquated or fantastical TECHNOLOGY. In addition, PUNK has a very specific anti-authoritarian aspect.

In this case ... name ONE example from the story that highlighted technology at all, much less alternate or fantastical technology. I don't believe that you can. What you see in this book is MAGIC. That is a totally different genre (or it should be). Neither is that any real encounter with state authority ... so where is the PUNK? The only elements I see are Magic, Mystery, Alternative History (Victorian) and Time Travel ... with the only element which appears to qualify this as steampunk being the fact it happened in the appropriate time period ... an element that really has not solid connection to the terms used.


message 4: by Kevin (last edited Oct 21, 2009 05:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Who cares about a label given to any genre of book?

{In this case ... name ONE example from the story that highlighted technology at all, much less alternate or fantastical technology. I don't believe that you can.}

The quote above is only one example of what can be deemed as steampunk, there are many other aspects to this book that fit perfect.

For example: The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy.

So whats WRONG with magic?!

Example: Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken.

This could be a multitude of things which happen in the book.

Darrow was tinkering with science when he discovered the gates.

A QUOTE from the book: "Now I came across these when I was ... well, trying to accomplish something science failed to do, and I was trying to find out, when and where magic might work.I found that these magic-yes-machinery-no fileds are all in or around London..ect."

He found the magic through science!

If that's not enough, mathmatecal equations where used judiciously to discover where the gates may occur.

The word "PUNK" can have many definitions, and the one you give is not the one used on the streets. LOL



I think you have to consider all the elements, not just aspects that fit your definition.


Kristjan Kevin wrote: "Who cares about a label given to any genre of book?

{In this case ... name ONE example from the story that highlighted technology at all, much less alternate or fantastical technology. I don't b..."


I think it fairly obvious that I care :)

Nothing wrong with magic ... except that magic is not technology. In fact most people seem to put these points at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Darrow was tinkering with Science IN THE 20th Century. And he did not find magic through science ... science was used to explain a physical phenomena that was caused by magic (definition of magic by the way) and Darrow never USED that magic. He is simply a displaced 20th century character using 20th century science. Sorry ... that doesn't come anywhere close to what steam punk should be about. That is simply time travel. Nor is the use of mathematics even remotely close to science (it is a tool of some science, nothing more; it is also a tool of Roman merchants, who are most certainly not steam punkish).

Sure ... Punk can have many definitions ... except that the term is very specific in literature (not the street) as an "anti-the man" or anti-establishment kinda thing. I don't find much "anti" anything in this story. How it may be used on the street today has no bearing on the correct usage of the term.


message 6: by Kevin (last edited Oct 22, 2009 01:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin I'm amused that labeling a genre of books moves you to the point of banter.

I stand by my claims.

I dont think you or anyone else can lay claim to what "STEAMPUNK" should be, you may have an opinion on what it should be but so do others. This may not be a perfect example of "Steampunk' but it does fit many of the categories.

I dont care when the science was used, but it was used, and propels the story forward. Your earlier claim was that this wasnt so, science had no part of this book, It was all magic,

And yes, science was the reason the holes were found.

Darrow may not have conjured magic but he did use the gate. So,if the gate isnt magic but science, then the science is used in 1810 as well. The gate is a study of time. Quantum Theory couldnt explain the holes so a new language had to be devised, part Euclidean geometry, part tensor calculus and part alchemical symbols. SCIENCE.

If you feel the study of time is not science, I would like to point you to a book written by Paul Davies, "About Time".


Darrow did find magic through science! He was transported to a place where magic is used freely.

You claim there isnt a counterculture portrayed in this book. The beggers battling over street turf prove your claim to be wrong. "Horrabins" group of beggers pitted against "Copenhagen Jacks".


I stand FIRMLY by my statements.

I have little more to say about this.

We could break the book down chapter by chapter if you like. Im just about finished with it, so it is very fresh in my mind.

The term "PUNK" is not specific in literature. The word is simply used at the writer discretion, as are all words with various definitions.

"STEAMPUNK" is nothing but a silly label attached to speculative fiction. The Same is said for various genre labels.

There is no correct usage of the word "Punk" as you claim. "Punk" happens to be a slang term.

What we have here is an inexperienced young man in 1810, so the definition fits.

Keep in mind the book was full of street punks begging and fighting over turf, so your definition works also. There is a strong counterculture here which goes against the grain of aristocracy.

The closer I examine the book, the better I am liking it. I was thinking 4 stars, now I'm not so sure. After sharing this bit of banter with you I feel I can write a strong paper about this book and the labels people attach to works of fiction.

PUNK DEFINITION:

PUNK: Slang.
A young person, especially a member of a rebellious counterculture group.
An inexperienced young man.
Music.
Punk rock.
A punk rocker.

Slang. A young man who is the sexual partner of an older man.
Archaic. A prostitute.
[Origin unknown.:]

punker punk'er n.

punk2 (pŭngk)
n.
Dry decayed wood, used as tinder.
Any of various substances that smolder when ignited, used to light fireworks.
Chinese incense.
adj. Slang
Of poor quality; worthless.
Weak in spirits or health.


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