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On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1)

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  24,045 ratings  ·  974 reviews
When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.
Paperback, 327 pages
Published October 1986 by Ballantine Del Rey (first published October 1983)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen
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4.0 stars. Piers Anthony is a MIND-NUMBING ENIGMA to me. He is capable of writing extremely thought-provoking, imaginative stories that are both original and speak to fundamental aspects of the human condition. The mystery is that he does so infrequently, despite being one of the most prolific authors in the speculative fiction. Wait....on second thought, maybe that is the answer. Quantity of production slamming right into the proverbial nuts of quality.

Well this first novel in the Incarnation
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Heather
This is the first in the Incarnations of Immortality series, and probably the best of the batch. I believe I read somewhere that Anthony originally intended only to write the five (Death, Time, Fate, War, and Earth), and I think he probably should have stopped there, because while With a Tangled Skein is probably the best book of the series in terms of pulling the other books together, they did (as Sci-Fi series so often do) start to drag quite a bit towards the later books, and ended up just pl ...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

When the grim reaper shows up a few seconds early, Zane shoots him instead of using the gun on himself as he’d planned. Now, instead of being dead, Zane is Death. He has to take over the office, riding around the world in his convertible pale horse collecting and measuring the souls of those who’ve committed equal amounts of good and evil during their lives — those who are “in balance.” In his new guise (complete with all of the accoutrements: scythe, hood
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Seak (Bryce L.)
Maybe a better title for this book would be, "Euthanasia Rocks!"

I honestly thought I would like this book a whole lot more. It doesn't help that the impetus for my reading this book was a good friend's rusty memory of reading this in high school. I feel that would have been a great time to read it, now ... less so.

My main problem was the annoying protagonist. I don't know if this was something that was a rule for fantasy writing in the 80s, but what is with the protagonist who's characterized as
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Rhonda
Death does ride a Pale Horse but that Horse can be so much more if that is what the job calls for, or at least that is what Anthony will have us believe.

A friend of mine in high school pushed this series on me and I reluctantly started to read it. Have I mentioned that science fiction really isn't my favorite yet? Because yeah, it takes something special for me to really delve into science fiction.

Anyway, I started to read this book and was drawn in quickly. I think the basis is what did it for
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Molly McBisterson
On a Pale Horse is the best book Piers Anthony's ever written.

Sadly, that's not saying much. Anthony has some very creative ideas, but his prose is mechanical at best and plainly clunky at worst.

Even so, some of the ideas are worth the slog. The Incarnations of Immortality series, though it fades at the end as all of Anthony's series do, is a clever and occasionally inspired look at religion, spirituality, and morality. In different hands it might have been pure art (see also, Good Omens by Prat
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Chris
Piers Anthony is an author who is more conceptually innovative than literary. His writing is like puff pastry and not very substantive, but his characters are likable and the plots engaging. He has moments of preachiness mixed in, and sometimes a puerile sense of humor, but if you don't mind these things (or indeed, revel in them) you should give him a try. None of Anthony's books takes long to read, and you'll be able to tell by the first 100 pages of a series whether you're into his concept.

Th
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François Declercq
When I met my girlfriend back in March, we soon got on the subject of books and being both fantasy aficionados, she asked me whether I'd read anything from her favorite author, Piers Anthony. I hadn't so she went on to describe how good his novels are.

A couple of days later, we meet up and she pulls out a present for me from her bag. A copy of Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse. When she left, later that day, I began to read the novel and was immediately submersed into Anthony's universe. The story
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Ben Babcock
I’ve long been a fan of anthropomorphized versions of Death. This is probably not surprising, since we have been doing this for thousands of years to varying degrees of sophistication. And some do it better than others. I’m a big fan of Julian Richings’ portrayal of Death on Supernatural. He captures the eerie, inhuman quality of Death as a force of nature older than God so well, managing to appear suave and completely cold at the same time. (Plus, he kind of looks the part.)

In On a Pale Horse,
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Angela Conley
I first read this series in high school. I loved it! Sometime toward the end of my college career, I bought the series and began reading it again. I loved it a little less.

Let's start with the major problem I have with this series. Piers Anthony writes almost every single female character as some crazy or weak person that needs a man to come save the day. How insulting! As if women can't be just as tough, reasonable or resilient as men? I don't know how I missed it the first go round - maybe I f
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Jackie "the Librarian"
Apr 10, 2008 Jackie "the Librarian" rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of humorous fantasy
Shelves: fantasy, humor
This is the only Piers Anthony book I really liked. For once there's enough actual plot to distract the author from his usual preoccupations of breasts and bad puns.
The premise is similar to "The Santa Clause", but instead of the jolly old elf, it's the Grim Reaper who kicks the bucket. Erm, gets shot to death by the protagonist. It's an ACCIDENT, okay!
Now the protagonist has to take his place, and figure out all the gadgets Death uses to find the souls he collects. There's a cool car/horse, an
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Erika
One summer while in Jr High, my brother handed me a book. The cover was yellow and depicted Death driving a very nice looking sports car. I loved the book, and unlike Anthony's Xanth series, Incarnations is still very readable for me today. I've heard the argument that many feel that Anthony has far too many sexual scenes in the Incarnations books. I guess I never really latched onto those scenes as being particularly offensive. There are worse books than these out there for that.
The books thems
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Christine
I decided to reread this series when I learned there was an eighth book. I could probably go straight to the eighth book no problem, but I remembered liking this series and I still do. The concept is very clever -- that each of the incarnations is a regular person fulfilling a job. Death becomes Death by killing the former Death. Afterward, he has to learn the ins and outs of his job -- making sure the souls that are roughly in balance end up going to the right place (haven or hell). And Satan, ...more
Brianne
This was the beginning of my Piers Anthony kick a couple years ago. This series was very interesting. It is called the Incarnations of Immortality, with this first book being the best of the series. The others were interesting. The premise is that regular people take on the mantle of Death, The Fates, Mother Nature, Mars, Father Time, etc. There are a total of seven books, so you can guess who the 6th and 7th are. I never could get ahold of the 6th book and I'm not one to skip on to the last wit ...more
Olethros
-Innovador y poco común en su tiempo, curioso en la actualidad.-

Género. Narrativa Fantástica.

Lo que nos cuenta. En una realidad en la que tecnología y magia se han desarrollado juntas haciendo del siglo XX su Edad de Oro y en la que Cielo e Infierno son dos conceptos que marcan el comportamiento de las personas y su destino, Zane es un hombre con poca suerte que mata a la Muerte cuando trata de llevar a cabo su propio suicidio y es obligado por Destino a tomar su puesto. Durante los comienzos de
...more
Marian Willeke
Apr 07, 2008 Marian Willeke rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fantasy involving human deity interaction
Recommended to Marian by: Eric Willeke
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I very much enjoyed this fantasy book that focused on the office of Death and it's coorelation with the other Incarnations. It's cause and effect logic was always sound and infuriatingly obvious after reading the explanation of the logic.

The author did a great job keeping the reader's emotions on par with the protagonist (Zane), even feeling the frustration and eventual enlightenment that he experienced.

One more note: Mortis is awesome!
Mike (the Paladin)
In my opinion this is the best of the incarnations series. Interesting where the guy discovers he's "become" the new incarnation of Death (and of course how he became "Death"). I think this was a pretty good book and it's one of only a few Anthony books I really like. I read a few others of the Incarnation Series, and incidental other Anthony books. Not in general a fan of his.
Tracy
The gospel according to Piers Anthony is mismanaged and a little boring. We're compelled to wade through half a novel of false doctrine before hitting actual storyline. Every chapter plants a seed of what's to come, but it is slow and tedious until the last few chapters. Had I read only the second half of the novel, I think I might have enjoyed it. It is a wildly creative story, embedding future, fantasy, and religion.

Piers Anthony is thoroughly self-absorbed. This novel embodies his great love
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Claire
I have mixed thoughts about this book. Anthony's writing at times is amusing, but is equally often stilted and forced. In the Author's note at the end, Anthony acknowledges that he wrote the book not only to be entertaining as fantasy, but as a satiric commentary on the ills or evils of society. The world that Anthony constructs in this book is amusing and creative - it's in the details (the situations, characters, and dialogue) where Anthony doesn't live up to the potential of the world.

I don'
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Sarah Cooley
Aug 31, 2007 Sarah Cooley rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys a good Sci-Fi or Fantasy novel now and again
It is the outstanding first book in the Incarnations of Immortality series recommended to me by my father who read it when he was my age.
The series questions the nature of life by having mortals take on immortal offices which they can execute in whichever way they so choose... for the most part anyway.
This book in particular follows the story of Zane and then Luna. His soul is fairly balanced between good and evil... or at least enough so that he has to be attended to by Death himself when he tr
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M.J.
While Piers Anthony’s "On a Pale Horse", the first book in his Incarnations of Immortality series, has an interesting central premise, this is completely overwhelmed by the fact it is juvenile, sexist, lazy and (the highest crime of all) not very well written.

I had read and loved these books when I was a young teenager—the principal audience for Anthony’s work, I imagine—and was far more forgiving and less discerning in my tastes in general in those days. Now, revisiting the series decades later
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Michael
Pros: Interesting characters and conflicts, with pacing and action you just can't put down. Death served as a solid everyman figure with underdog appeal and really served as a good introduction to the setting. The very ending (although not the circumstances that lead up to it) is quite good.

Cons: The fantasy/tech mix is kind of lazy and the setting seems like window-dressing but with a weird moral outlook crammed in, it treats women like objects, the protagonist's internal monologue is often whi
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Jim
This was a neat new take for a fantasy subject & blended some light SF as well. I really enjoyed it, although the series got a bit redundant for me after several books. I did finish & keep the series. I reread it a year or two ago & would recommend it.
Crystaline
Possible the best book that I have read. This is a straight-faced comedy about a man who, by accident, kills death. I think that I read it all in one day. Great story.
Rachel Coles
I remember reading Piers Anthony as a kid. The book I had read was For Love of Evil, which I'd like to re-read at some point. But I had never read about his incarnation of Death.

I am fascinated by points of view of normally feared characters, like Death, or the Devil. I think that there is always more than one side to a story, and I love exploring that. So On a Pale Horse was like catnip for cats, to me.

I liked his very human characterization of Death. I liked that Death made mistakes, very funn
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Chak
Jan 03, 2011 Chak rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of pulp fantasy, looking for a vacation book
Recommended to Chak by: YMCA share-a-book shelf
On a Pale Horse has a quick beginning. The reality of magic and science being equally forceful on Earth is established quickly, as is the plot. Zane is a loser who has wrecked his life to such an extent that he sees no other choice but to kill himself. Death came to collect him a little early and Zane ended up killing him, forcing Zane to replace him in the office of The Incarnation of Death. The tales of death, as seen through the perspective of Death are interesting, as is the Satanic plot tha ...more
Matt Guion
I think many, if not most, readers have that one author who they really, really enjoy reading, or enjoyed reading at one time, but looking at him objectively, realize that he's a very problematic author. For me, that author is Piers Anthony. He can be an incredibly imaginative writer when he wants to be. Some of the worlds he’s created and some of the ideas he’s written about in his novels are just brilliant. He can also write the most meandering, dull, preachy, and nonsensical stories ever put ...more
Michael Self
I think that Piers Anthony's creativity is laudable. The book is about a man who becomes Death, and has to deal with his views on the one subject most would rather not think about. This book was actually a great concept, and obviously has meaningful implications in how death should be interpreted. It makes you think.

The drawback to this: It also makes you think about how important serious revision, i.e. rewrites are. I found myself (as an aspiring writer) wanting to take some of his better scene
...more
R
If you had asked me 40 pages into the book I probably would have rated it 5 stars. 100 pages into the book it was about 4. 150 pages into the book it was 3...you get the picture here? I honestly can't say what exactly caused this book to deteriorate so much over the course of the plot. I think a lot of it had to do with the actual plot. The plot was extremely jumbled, as though the author had decided he needed every element—romance, humor, religion, sci-fi, science, and horror. Basically, imagin ...more
Michael R.
As a writer wannabe, I thought the concept of this story was fascinating. Death comes to claim a suicide victim (Zane), but after many years in the position of Death becomes a little sloppy and allows the victim sees Death right before killing himself. Zane freaks out, and in a panic fires the gum at Death instead. Succeeding in killing him... Death!

Now... Zane must pick up the reins and take over... Becoming Death himself! An intersting take, and very tongue and cheek as Zane learns the job and
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Gaming Mommies: What did you think? 1 14 Apr 29, 2013 05:06AM  
The Whole Series 28 195 Feb 01, 2013 08:18PM  
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Though he spent the first four years of his life in England, Piers never returned to live in his country of birth after moving to Spain and immigrated to America at age six. After graduating with a B.A. from Goddard College, he married one of his fellow students and and spent fifteen years in an assortment of professions before he began writing fiction full-time.

Piers is a self-proclaimed environm
...more
More about Piers Anthony...
A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth, #1) Castle Roogna (Xanth, #3) Bearing An Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality, #2) The Source of Magic (Xanth, #2) With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality, #3)

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