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On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1)

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  28,733 Ratings  ·  1,155 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.
Mass Market Paperback, 325 pages
Published September 12th 1986 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 1983)
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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
Aug 20, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 14, 2014 seak rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, 2014
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
Kat  Hooper
Sep 02, 2010 Kat Hooper rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
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
Laurie Anderson
May 26, 2016 Laurie Anderson rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Reread this for the first time in 30 years. Enjoyed it, but not as much as books by Atwood or Gaiman
Jul 14, 2015 Wanda rated it liked it
Recommended to Wanda by: NPR list of science fiction & fantasy
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

I can see where I would have been really into this series if I’d read it as a teenager. I was just busy reading at that point in my life and not very much into evaluating what I was taking in. It is a very male-oriented story, with women being mostly objects that they compete for and fight over. The male characters evaluate women by their age and attractiveness, although Zane/Death comes to grudgingly admire Luna’s strength, intelligence, and morality. If I had children,
May 07, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it
This was the first book I ever read of Piers Anthony and I was hooked.

Original, imaginative and told by a true story-teller, this was a gem. And best of all, this blended good science fiction with pure fantasy elements to make a very enjoyable read.

A man accidentally kills Death, an incarnation of Immortality and - shades of Tim Allen in The Santa Clause - he must don the black mantle and ride the white horse. It turns out to be a white car and a pretty cool gig when all is settled. That is un
Dec 01, 2008 Rhonda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: future-fantasy
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
Molly McBisterson
Jul 28, 2007 Molly McBisterson rated it really liked it
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
I think this is a case of it's not you it's me. This is a very popular book but everyone that I personally know that has read and loved it say they read it way back in the 80's or 90's. I wonder if they would still feel the same way if they read it for the first time today. I've just read too many outstanding fantasy novels this year so this book had big shoes to fill. Unfortunately it fell short. I'm not sure why but I went into this book expecting it to be funny. I was actually looking forward ...more
Ok, I think it's time to delve into my long-evolving and conflicted feelings about this series and about Piers Anthony. Especially since I changed my rating for this book from a 5 to a 1.

When I was young, I loved this series. It was on my favourites list throughout high-school. I was also pretty obsessed with the Xanth series, and would get new books from that series for many christmases and birthdays. These series, and Piers in general, go into my adult category of things-I-can't-believe-I-didn
Aug 08, 2007 Chris rated it really liked it
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.

Apr 13, 2016 Tisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Death came with friendly care"

My God I love this book (pun intended)!!! This is the third time I have read this book. The first time, probably in the early 90s, was my first book of this genre. I was a very reluctant reader of fantasy but an ex-boyfriend told me I would love it. That was the only thing he got right! Haha!

Trying to recollect, but the only other book I can come up with that I read three times is Pride and Prejudice. Well Mr. Anthony you are in very good company with Ms. Austen!

Mar 26, 2008 Erika rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Chris Salzman
Jun 28, 2015 Chris Salzman rated it did not like it
I first read this book back when I was 13 and loved it. Immediately tore through the rest of the books in the series and would regularly bring up the series in conversations about books worth reading. A few months back I found a paperback copy of On A Pale Horse at a book sale for 50 cents and picked it up thinking it'd be fun to revisit the series.


This is an extraordinarily sexist book. Alarmingly so. Women are regularly--approximately every time they are talked about--described by thei
Althea Ann
Book One of Incarnations of Immortality

The story of a 'regular guy,' Zane, who after a run of bad luck, decides to commit suicide - but instead, as Fate would have it, is picked to assume the office of Death. The job comes with any number a perks - a shapechanging Deathhorse, a manor in purgatory, and who knows what powers - Zane needs to figure that out as he goes along, collecting the sould of those whose lives are in balance, neither good nor evil, to be sorted out and sent to hell, heaven, o
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,
Angela Conley
May 06, 2012 Angela Conley rated it liked it
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
Jackie "the Librarian"
Apr 10, 2008 Jackie "the Librarian" rated it really liked it
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
Mar 12, 2014 Christine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Jul 11, 2007 Brianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: previouslyread
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
Marian Willeke
Apr 07, 2008 Marian Willeke rated it really liked it
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!
Nov 14, 2014 Olethros rated it liked it
-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
Sep 05, 2011 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In retrospect this book reminds me a little bit of Terry Pratchett's Mort, though On a Pale Horse predates it. The idea of Death as an office rather than an entity was very original at the time and the adventures of the protagonist in this book as a rookie Grim Peaper is a lot of fun. The main difference between this book and Mort is the tone, the emphasis of this book is on action and adventuires rather than comedy. This is the first of Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series and is ...more
Jul 30, 2009 Tracy rated it it was ok
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
Dec 12, 2012 Claire rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
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'
Sarah Cooley
Aug 31, 2007 Sarah Cooley rated it really liked it
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
Jun 01, 2016 Anastacia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites, magic
Besides the fact that Piers Anthony is still -oh-so-sexist- (though not as bad as in the Xanth series), and the fact that he can't write female characters to save his life, I still do enjoy this book. Others have said that this one is the best of the series, and I think I agree, though I also really enjoyed #6 (though most say the last two books suck). I definitely enjoyed the re-read and I am definitely looking forward to reading the next one, but I'm going to try to take a break from Anthony f ...more
Feb 19, 2014 M.J. rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, sf, nostalgia
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, #4)
  • Myth Conceptions (Myth Adventures, #2)
  • King Javan's Year (The Heirs of Saint Camber, #2 )
  • The Mirror of Her Dreams (Mordant's Need, #1)
  • Issola (Vlad Taltos, #9)
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Elric, #2)
  • Chicks 'n Chained Males (Chicks in Chainmail, #3)
  • Sign of the Unicorn (The Chronicles of Amber #3)
  • Damiano (Damiano, #1)
  • Spirits of Flux and Anchor (Soul Rider, #1)
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 about Piers Anthony...

Other Books in the Series

Incarnations of Immortality (8 books)
  • Bearing an Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality, #2)
  • With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality, #3)
  • Wielding a Red Sword (Incarnations of Immortality, #4)
  • Being a Green Mother (Incarnations of Immortality, #5)
  • For Love of Evil (Incarnations of Immortality, #6)
  • And Eternity (Incarnations of Immortality, #7)
  • Under a Velvet Cloak (Incarnations of Immortality, #8)

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