Anubis Gates

The Anubis Gates

The Anubis Gates (1983) is a time travel fantasy novel by Tim Powers. It won the 1983 Philip K. Dick Award and 1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Award.

Plot summary

In 1801 the British have risen to power in Egypt and suppress the worship of the old Egyptian gods. A cabal of magicians plan to drive the British out of Egypt by bringing the gods forward in time from an age when they were still powerful and unleashing them on London, thereby destroying the British Empire. In 1802, a failed attempt by the magicians to summon Anubis opens magical gates in a predictable pattern across time and space.

In 1983, ailing millionaire J. Cochran Darrow has discovered the gates and found that they make time travel possible. Darrow organizes a trip to the past for fellow millionaires to attend a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810. He hires Professor Brendan Doyle to attend and give expert commentary. One of the magicians, Doctor Romany, happens to spy the time travelers and kidnaps Doyle before he can return. Doyle manages to escape torture and flees back to London, now trapped in the 19th century.

Doyle joins a beggars guild and meets a beggar named Jacky. He plans to meet and befriend William Ashbless, a wealthy poet that Doyle has studied profusely, in order to gain a benefactor. Doctor Romany scours the city for Doyle with his legion of murderous beggars, led by the clown-magician Horrabin. At the same time, Doyle discovers that Darrow has remained in the 19th century to search for Dog-Face Joe, a body-swapping werewolf, in hopes of bribing Joe into granting him a healthy new body. Doyle himself becomes targeted by Joe, receiving the poisoned body of Darrow's former bodyguard, but manages to cure himself of the poison before dying.

In his new body, Doyle realizes that he himself is the historical Ashbless. He copies down Ashbless' poetry from memory and deduces his own future from his study of Ashbless' life. Using this knowledge, he continues to thwart the magicians' plans. After Romany discovers a gate to the 17th century, Doyle follows him through and stops his attempt to change the past. Meanwhile Darrow successfully contacts Dog-Face Joe and organizes a deal in which Joe will provide Darrow with healthy bodies and allow him to live forever.

Doyle is kidnapped and brought to Muhammad Ali's Egypt, where the magicians' Master tempts him with resurrecting his dead wife if he will tell them the secrets of the time-gates. Doyle resists and kills the Master. Meanwhile, Jacky discovers Darrow's secret and kills him along with Dog-Face Joe. Doyle returns to London, where the last magician, Romanelli, kidnaps him, Jacky, and Coleridge. In a drugged stupor, Coleridge frees Horrabin's twisted menagerie of monsters, allowing him and Jacky to escape. Romanelli escapes with Doyle to the underworld, but is eaten by Apep while Doyle is rejuvenated on board the sunboat of the god Ra. Doyle meets back up with Jacky and discovers that not only is Jacky secretly a woman, she is his future wife.

Decades later, after living out Ashbless' entire life, Doyle goes out to meet his historic date with death. Doyle discovers that his intended murderer is a duplicate of himself that the Master had made in Egypt. Doyle kills the duplicate, thereby supplying the corpse for his death, and boats away into an unknown future.

Major characters

  • Brendan Doyle - An English professor at Cal State Fullerton, Doyle is still haunted by the motorcycle accident that killed his wife Rebecca. He is a short and unathletic man who is having difficulty getting published. He is fascinated by the enigmatic poet William Ashbless.
  • J. Cochran Darrow - A famous tycoon who is suffering from terminal cancer. His enterprises have discovered the time gates.
  • The Master - The oldest and most powerful magician in the world, now somewhat feeble-minded, the Master plots to rejuvenate magic and restore Egypt by crushing Britain. His unnatural powers make contact with the earth painful for him and his magician followers.
  • Amenophis Fikee - A powerful magician, Fikee is the Master's agent in Britain. He leads a clan of gypsies and wears clogs to avoid contact with the ground. After a magical ritual misfires, his mind snaps and he becomes Dog-Face Joe. Any body he inhabits grows fur, but using a body-swapping spell he flees the curse, poisoning his old bodies to prevent discovery.
  • Doctory Romanelli - A powerful magician, Romanelli is the Master's agent in Turkey and leads a clan of gypsies to do his bidding.
  • Doctor Romany - A "ka", or magical duplicate, of Romanelli created to help Fikee in London, Romany takes up Fikee's duties in his absence. He wears spring shoes to avoid contact with the earth.
  • Jacky - Apparently a mustachioed young beggar, Jacky is actually a woman from a noble family who has taken a new identity to search for Dog-Face Joe, who switched bodies with her fiance and caused her to kill him.
  • Horrabin - An evil clown who leads a pack of murderous beggars, Horrabin magically maims some of his minions to be more profitable. His "mistakes" become monsters that he locks away in the catacombs beneath his lair. He wears stilts to avoid contact with the ground. The "mistakes" eventually manage to kill Horrabin by using thrown mud to weaken him. Then they knock him to the ground and kill him.

Allusions/references to real people and events

As in Powers's later novel, The Stress of Her Regard, The Anubis Gates features a number of the Romantic Poets as characters. In addition to Coleridge, there is Byron (alongside the fictional 19th century poet William Ashbless created by Powers and James Blaylock). Other real people charactrized in the novel are the famous publisher John Murray and the physician who treated Byron for a fever while he traveled in Greece was named Dr. Romanelli.

The novel intertwines a number of real events into the story such as the massacre of the Mamluk beys by Muhammad Ali in 1811 and the failed rebellion by James, Duke of Monmouth against James II in the 1680s.

The ship, Blaylock, that Doyle claims he came to England on is named after friend James P. Blaylock.

See also

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