Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review Double Feature: The Anubis Gates and The Time Traveler's Wife

Today we will be taking a look at two other books about time travel.  I reviewed The Anubis Gates, written by Tim Powers, last year, and I am going to refeature it here because of its relevance.  Also, Heather over at The Maiden's Court has read and reviewed The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which I will also share with you.  So, without further adieu...


Title:  The Anubis Gates
Author:  Tim Powers
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  3.75 out of 5 body-snatching werewolves

The cover of The Anubis Gates touts Powers' novel as a "classic of time travel".  Between this statement and the less-than-subtle inclusion of Egyptian themes, I became hooked and brought the book home.  Does it measure up to expectations?  Yes and no.

The Anubis Gates follows the life of Brendan Doyle as he meets up with an eccentric millionaire and travels back to 1810 to watch a speech made by author/poet Samuel Coleridge.  In so doing, Doyle gets involved with bands of murderous street beggars and ancient Egyptian sorcerers.

In short, The Anubis Gates is so packed to the brim with science fiction and fantasy elements that Powers is sometimes unable to juggle them all well.  My favorite thing about time travel stories is how the characters' muddling in the past affects their present.  And although this can be seen by the end of the book, I was less than impressed with the "time" element for most of it.  The main character time traveled, yes, but then the novel seemed to switch over to simple misadventures in 19th century London.  Instead of going heavy into time travel, Powers introduces theories such as Egyptian sorcery, cloning, and body-snatching werewolves.

Throughout all of these crazy plot points, the character of Brendan Doyle develops in a mostly predictable pattern (preoccupied academic learns that it is better to live life rather than study it) and the villains just don't feel evil enough.

In reading The Anubis Gates, I was certain that I was going to give it a rating of 3 or under.  However, in the end, I was pleased with how all of the seemingly disjointed SFF elements were brought together.  Some of the plot points were predictable, but that didn't make them any less fun to read about.  Ultimately, I couldn't decide on either a 3.5 or a 4 rating for this one, so I averaged them.

Is The Anubis Gates an epic knock-your-socks-off time travel adventure?  Not quite.  Although a fun read, there were too many ideas to sift through to make any one shine.  This one may or may not be worth the time, depending on what you are expecting.

3.75 out of 5 body-snatching werewolves.


The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Paperback, 546 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
May 27, 2004

“When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare's attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler's Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it's about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.”

Henry DeTamble is just your thirtysomething average guy – he’s a librarian, is in a relationship, and likes to go out and have a few drinks – except he time travels at any given moment and leaves a pile of clothes behind, and when he comes back he is absolutely naked!

Clare Abshire is your average little girl – she has picnics in the meadow, goes to school, and lives in a huge house – except a naked older man shows up in the meadow one day and tells her he’s a time traveler!

The first time Clare meets Henry he is time traveling – 14 years later she meets him in his present time. A romance grows between them and Henry and Clare attempt to work out a life together dealing with his time traveling.

For me, this was my first book that really involved time travel. Henry couldn’t control his time traveling and never knowing when it was going to happen always made for interesting occasions. Also, showing up somewhere naked can really put a cramp in trying to go unnoticed - it can also end up being quite dangerous. One of the things that I enjoyed about this novel was that we get to see how time traveling effects those that Henry loves - the fear that comes with not knowing if he will come back ok. I think this is the first time I ever thought of time travel as something where you could get hurt and not return in the same condition in which you left. The time travel aspect was integrated into the folds of the story entirely - it never felt like it was just thrown in there for kicks.

With all of this time traveling, occasionally it was difficult to keep track of where in time he was and what he should or should not know at this time. As stated in the blurb above - Henry meets Clare when she is 6 and he is much older - so she has known him her whole life, but for Henry, time is not linear so he sometimes is very confused as to what he knows.

I was dreading the end of this book as it approached. I became so attached to Clare and Henry that I didn’t want it to end. I must warn you, this book is a tear jerker – at several points throughout the book. I absolutely loved this book. The characters are so real, true events are used, and the basic rules of time travel are addressed as well. The 600 pages just flew by! The book is also written in a humorous way – just wait for the part about Henry’s dreams, I couldn’t stop laughing.

This novel does have many romance elements but it isn’t the main focus and I would recommend this to anyone – men and women alike – everyone will find something to enjoy.

5 out of 5 stars

I hope you enjoyed reading about these two time travel novels!

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