The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

Original Release Date: 1983
Publisher: Ace Books
Author: Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, is a very complicated novel that deals with the concept of time travel and is also considered one of the foremost classics of contemporary steampunk fiction (though I’m not one-hundred percent why that is, seeing as there really isn’t any steam or punk) .

The story is set in 1983, after a brief introduction that takes place in the 1800’s. The protagonist of the story, Brendan Doyle, is asked to a meeting by a millionaire named J. Cochran Darrow because Doyle is a poetry expert and is noted for being very intimate in his knowledge of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a poet (created by the Tim Powers for the novel) named William Ashbless…and the romantic poets in general.

Darrow has apparently figured out the secret of time travel, in which there are multiple windows through time (able to be calculated mathematically) in which someone can just pop in for the duration, which varies from entryway to entryway. Darrow is charging people one million dollars each to go back in time and see a lecture put on by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. During the trip, Doyle is kidnapped and misses his jump back  to present-day and finds himself living on the streets of London in the 1800’s, reduced to panhandling and other money-making schemes in order to survive long enough to find a way back or at the very least live out his days in comfort with his knowledge of the future. Along the way, he meets many incredible characters such as Lord Byron, William Ashbless, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a magical and sadistic clown named Horrabin, Muhammad Ali (not the boxer…the Ottoman commander in Egypt in the 1800’s) and an evil shape-shifting werewolf serial killer named Dog Face Joe.

Yup.

Tim Powers is great at setting the scene. He uses authentic phrases and language that I actually had to look up to know what it meant. If I hadn’t looked it up, I still would have been able to glean what it meant due to his use of context, so it was sort of fun to have that choice. An example of how he did this is during a conversation between gypsies at the beginning, where two men are conversing and it goes like “Will you eat some dinner? They’ve got a hotchewitchi on the fire, smells very kushto.” Hotchewitchi is hedgehog/groundhog and Kushto means “good”. I had to look those both up but then later on it was alluded to in context and I figured out I most likely wouldn’t have had to look them up in the first place.

The characters are all very memorable and I really enjoyed getting to meet Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The setting was very detailed. We saw London through the eyes of a modern man seeing what had changed from 1983 to the 1800’s. It was really neat.

There were a few drawbacks, such as some pacing issues (I felt, anyway) toward the end and some confusing shifts in time where we miss entire swaths of Doyle’s shenanigans.

Overall, if you like Steampunk or Sci-Fi, time travel or fantasy (especially all of the above) then check it out. It’s a good read.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check out a preview of the book for free, HERE

 

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Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (2009)

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (2009)

Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Tor Books
Author: Cherie Priest

I just recently started writing and reading steampunk so after Tim Powers’ novel, The Anubis Gates, this was the novel I chose to tackle next.

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, is a steampunk adventure set in the 1800’s in a semi-fictitious Seattle. There are two main characters; a mother and her son, their names being Briar and Ezekial Wilkes. Briar’s former husband, Leviticus Blue, was commissioned by Russian prospectors to create an invention that would be capable of drilling through Alaska’s thick ice in search of gold. On a test run, the machine that was created (called Boneshaker due to the fact that it produced bone-shaking rumbles as it was running) tore open the earth and unknowingly released a toxic gas that was later named The Blight and turned normal folks into zombie-like creatures called Rotters.

Fast forward to when Ezekial is a teenager and wants to clear his father’s name of any wrongdoing. He goes into the now-walled portion of the city the blight was emanating from in search of any clues as to his father’s innocence and meets lots of crazy steampunk characters on the way.

The enduring image that will stay with me of this world is that of a dirty dish sponge, yellowed and decaying on the rim of the sink as it’s forgotten and sitting in a corner while a new one is used. That dirty sponge would be the Seattle of this story; largely ignored by the Federal government as the Civil War rages on. A large portion of the city has fallen underground after Boneshaker knocked out entire city blocks by crumbling its foundations in its maiden voyage. A wall surrounds this devastation as the blight gas continues to seep from the cracks in the earth, coating everything in a yellow-brown, coffee-stained color. People live underground, struggling daily just to survive.

Cherie Priest was consistently good at one thing during the entire novel, and that was imagery. While being a novel set in a world of darkness and suffering, Cherie’s tone was fairly light and she had an underlying current of hope in her prose and her characters which carried through to the end.

I liked the novel and look forward to reading the other books in Priest’s series, but I hope the next ones are a bit more character-oriented and I also want to see way more steampunk aesthetic aside from just the goggles and airships.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Check out an excerpt of Boneshaker for free HERE

Audiobook Excerpt For Boneshaker