Tag Archives: #Egypt

Peters, Elizabeth: The Ape Who Guards the Balance (Amelia Peabody 10) (1998)

I had read one other story in the Amelia Peabody series before I read The Ape Who Guards the Balance (The Ape).  The Ape occurs before my previous read. As each story solves its mystery, that was not a problem. Nor did I have difficulty jumping into the overarching story of the Emerson family.

Elizabeth Peters writes about the adventures of the Emerson family and their friends, servants and enemies. The family consists of Amelia Peabody Emerson (matriarch) and Radcliffe Emerson (patriarch). Both Amelia and Radcliffe have been with the series from the beginning. Walter (Ramses) is their son and Nefret their ward. In The Ape we also have Lia, the daughter of Radcliffe’s brother and sister-in-law and their ward, David. All six travel to Egypt for the 1906-07 excavation season.

Their adventures begin before leaving England. A mysterious man appears at a suffragette picket that Amalie and Ramses attend. This man later turns up in connection with a break-in and hauls away a large collection of Egyptian antiques. Shortly after, the stranger also seems to be involved in a kidnapping attempt of Amalie. The entire family suspects an old “enemy”, Sethos.

Once they arrive in Egypt, Ramses and David go on an adventure including a stolen papyrus, mysterious strangers and a blackmailing Nefret. The Professor is livid when he finds out what the threesome has done. But he is also intrigued. Then a mysterious bearded man turns up in Egypt as well, and it is not Sethos.

The Emerson family is egalitarian for the time it is written for (and for many families and places today). Nefret has just finished her clinical practice and Peters show us what a feat that was for a woman:

“Acquiring that training had been a struggle in itself. Over the violent objections of its (male) medical faculty, the University of London had, finally, opened its degrees to women, but the major universities continued to deny them, and the difficulty of obtaining clinical practice was almost as great as it had been a century earlier. Nefret had managed it, though, with the help of the dedicated ladies who had founded a woman’s medical college in London and forced some of the hospitals to admit women students to the wards and dissecting rooms.”

Lately, I have begun wondering whether I read male and female leads differently. Many of the comments on The Ape seem to be consistent with comments on strong women both in fiction and real life. A woman as strong as Amelia Peabody will be dissed for being strong but not perfect.  In The Ape she certainly shows that she is far from perfect. Her own bias surprised her when David and Lia announced their engagement. She and Emerson are peas of a pod when it comes to stubbornness and a sense that their opinion is the only correct one, even if that opinion changes later on. Both see the other as emotional, adorable and hot. The words used to describe these qualities are different for each of them, further cementing both the standards of the time and the continued power language has today. We do get a taste of what it would be like if language was equal for both men and women in this thought from Amelia:

“… it was time for me to take charge of the discussion, which had degenerated into a series of emotional exchanges. This is often the case when men carry on a conversation.”

Gender is far from the only topic discussed in The Ape. Racism and classicism are very much present in the Victorian English who come to Egypt to loot the graves of ancient rulers and take their loot back to England. Peters points out the difference in the handling of this loot. Sometimes graves were completely vandalized by so-called archaeologists. Others, at least, tried to maintain both loot and their chambers as intact as possible. The Emersons’ are of the last category.

Issues and mystery are both weaved together in an enchanting story in the Agathaian (Agatha Christie) style. I definitely recommend The Ape Who Guards the Balance.


Reviews:


Translations:

Stewart, Michael F.: 24 Bones (2009)

24 Bones - Michael F Stewart
Cover art by Martin Stiff; Hieroglyphs by Manfred Klein

This cover is stunning. Those green eyes and the light together. Wow.

I laugh a little when I see someone has picked up both Assured Destruction and 24 Bones because they are so different. And perhaps my apprenticeship is over and it’s time to choose a genre.

Nah! Take your time. Why ruin a good thing?

I arrived early at the Great Pyramid, and for a special few minutes I was the only one inside. Within the King’s Chamber I noticed that every sound reverberated strongly…soo powerfully. I had researched the resonance of the chamber but being there was entirely different. So, checking over my shoulder, looking down into the grand gallery to ensure I was alone, I then clambered inside the rose granite sarcophagus, and began to hum.

I really enjoyed 24 Bones. Not at first. Not when I was wondering if this was going to be a conversion attempt by Michael F. Stewart. Thankfully, Stewart wasn’t that kind of annoying author. What I had thought preaching was instead an in depth comparison between the Christian (Coptic) godhead and the Egyptian Osiris/Isis/Horus legends. I knew some of this stuff but hadn’t realized how many beliefs the two systems had in common.

24 Bones is kind of about good and bad, except not really. The person who apparently serves evil doesn’t really. The character who seems to serve good does but also faces his demons. Then we have the third person. I’m not really certain how to describe him. Maybe as some one who looks for the easy way out? In other words, regular people.

David, Sam and Faris are tools of a prophecy that comes to fruition every 500 years. All of them access something called Void or Fullness (a kind of magic). Fullness (order) is waning and Void (chaos) is on the rise. The ideal is a balance between the two.

Balance is something the world lacks. There is always some species threatening eco-systems around the world. We humans just happen to do so all over the place. Power is possibly one of the greatest motivators for making the world chaotic. Pharaoh has power as his main goal in 24 Bones, and with it he is going to do what all power-hungry maniacs have tried to do throughout history: topple existing power-systems and take over the world. History and today show just how power-hungry countries/leaders/people can be and what they are willing to do to achieve ultimate power.

There was plenty of action, strange people and strange animals. Egypt is an interesting country. I have only been there on a two-week holiday and there was never a sarcophagus around that I could climb into. I am thankful that there are people like Michael F. Stewart who will do that kind of thing so my reading experience can be more authentic.


Reviews:


24 Bones on: Smashwords


… all author proceeds to go to charity, more particularly to the people of Zimbabwe (MobilReads)