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On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  30,558 Ratings  ·  1,264 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.
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published January 1st 1983 by Turtleback Books
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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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Lyn
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Heather
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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seak
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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David Staniforth
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was the book that got me into reading fiction many years ago, and inspired me to want to write. The reading happened straight away and I've not stopped since; the writing took a little longer to get started, and I see no sign of stopping that now either.

So, reading for the second time many years later, much of the narrative feels a little dated in regard to social references and attitudes, but I enjoyed the story just as much as I did as a young man. Now I feel compelled to reread the rest
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Kate
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
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Laurie Halse Anderson
Reread this for the first time in 30 years. Enjoyed it, but not as much as books by Atwood or Gaiman
Wanda
Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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Rhonda
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Molly McBisterson
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Krissy
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
Chris
Aug 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Chris Salzman
Mar 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Well...

This is an extraordinarily sexist book. Alarmingly so. Women are regularly--approximately every time they are talked about--described by thei
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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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Erika
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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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.
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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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
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Jackie "the Librarian"
Apr 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Christine
Jul 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brianne
Jul 11, 2007 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
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Apatt
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Claire
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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'
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Tracy
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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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
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Sarah Cooley
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Anastacia
Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill
Jan 25, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This was quite good. How could you go wrong with a story about a hapless schmuck who kills Death and therefore must take over his job? It's a quick read, with some truely sentimental moments, a few funny ones, and several interesting ideas on the whole life/death thing.
This is the first novel in the Incarnations series, but this is the only one I was really interested in, so it stops for me here. A recommended fun read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 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)
8516
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
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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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