I’ve read my fair share of historical novels over the years, and a good number of these have been set in ancient Egypt. However, I hadn’t yet ventured very far into the world of self-published novels, so when a friend recommended Jerry Dubs’ Imhotep to me, I popped along to Amazon to check it out. Of course, one of the risks you take when buying self-published work is that you don’t know what you’re going to get: will the book be littered with typos and poorly constructed prose? Will the characters be well developed and believable, or will you be slapped in the face with the ramblings of someone who just hasn’t got what it takes to spin a good yarn?
However, having been published in Kindle format, Imhotep was selling for a mere 77p (and considering the length of the book, that’s an absolute bargain!), so I thought to myself, ‘Hey, why not?!’
After a brief prologue, the story begins with our main protagonist, the troubled and heavy-hearted Tim, on holiday in Egypt.
Having seen an American couple disappear into a tomb at the pyramid complex of Djoser and then fail to reappear, he follows them in and finds himself transported 5,000 years back to Old Kingdom Egypt.
The story then follows Tim and the American couple, Brian and Diane, as they come to terms with their new home and their attempt to integrate themselves into a vastly different society – each of them experiencing Egypt in a different way.
Tim, quiet, pensive and unable to recover from the loss of Addy, finds solace in the simpler lifestyle of ancient Egypt; Brian, at first glance a mindless college jock, makes the best he can of this bizarre situation with great gusto (and also became my favourite character in the book); and Diane, a fiery redhead, the least adaptive of the three, struggles to come to terms with her strange twist of fate.
The author seems to have had a lot of fun exploring how people from our time might fit into life 5,000 years ago. He compares the two dichotomous cultures and addresses issues such as the age at which a girl was considered to have reached maturity, attitudes towards sex and relationships, and how the Egyptians dealt with problems such as disease and violence.
I was a little unsure at first at how the author portrayed the ancient Egyptians; when Tim, Brian and Diane first appear out of the tomb, stepping into the distant the past, they’re assumed them to be gods and the Egyptians were made to look a little primitive with what I can only describe as a rather ‘colonial’ attitude. This was, however, mercifully brief and the rest of the novel saw the Egyptians cast as intelligent, thoughtful people (or scheming and politically driven, in some cases).
There were a few issues I had with historical accuracy; for instance, Tim, Brian and Diane were put on camels when they first arrived in the past (camels were not used regularly until much later in pharaonic history; donkeys would’ve been a better choice) and the author used the ancient Egyptian word hwt – which he spelled ‘hewet’ – when the Egyptian characters were referring to their homes (hwt was a word used in relation to temple buildings; pr would’ve been the more appropriate term to use). But these were only minor quibbles.
I really enjoyed Imhotep; it was a lot of fun to read, and both the plot and the characters felt well-crafted and polished. I could identify with the protagonists – Tim and Brian in particular – and the author really brought ancient Egypt to life. His descriptions of the land, of festivals and of the people themselves really made me feel like I was there alongside the characters. The story flowed and developed well, I didn’t find the few historical inaccuracies spoiled my enjoyment, and – importantly for me – my reading wasn’t disrupted by annoying typos.
In my opinion, Jerry Dubs is a talented writer, and I would be pleased to see him get snapped up by a publisher. If you have a bank-breaking 77 pence spare to swap for a trip back in time to ancient Egypt, then I thoroughly recommend this book (you can click on the picture at the beginning of this post to get to it on Amazon UK).
If you’ve read Imhotep, or do so after reading this review, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it. Don’t be put off if you don’t own a Kindle; there are free Kindle apps available on Amazon’s website for most smartphones and tablets. If you don’t own any of these, just grab the desktop Kindle app instead and read it on your computer.