Stephen's Reviews > On a Pale Horse

On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1413439
's review
Aug 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, 1980-1989, science-fantasy, favorite-ideas, mythstories-and-legends, angels-demons-heaven-hell
Read from July 16 to 18, 2008

Photobucket

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 Incarnations of Immortality series is certainly one that resides in the relatively exclusive group of high quality Piers Anthony books. Along with Macroscope (which I need to re-read soon), it is my favorite of his novels and I found myself impressed by both the general concept of the story as well as his execution of it.

The Incarnations series is founded on the premise that humans assume the roles of 5 of the 7 major supernatural offices called "Incarnations" (i.e., Death, War, Fate, Time and Nature). The other 2 Incarnations, Good and Evil, are permanently held by the Big G and the man downstairs who are engaged in a perpetual fight for the souls of all mankind. All of this takes place in a world similar (though advanced) to ours, except that both science and magic exist side by side (e.g., flying cars and flying carpets, organ transplants and healing elixirs).

As you can guess based on the title, this first book in the series focuses on the Incarnation of Death...DUH!! Zane is a lonely, suicidal man who, while contemplating taking his own life, accidentally kills Death (I know, ironical). Zane is then tasked with assuming the role of Death. I know this may sound cheesy, but it is actually handled pretty well in the story and has some very humorous moments.

Death's role is to send the souls of the deceased to either heaven or hell (or purgatory) depending on the balance between the good and evil present in the soul at the time of death. (QUICK NOTE: yep...turns out a person's religion has NOTHING to do with it and heaven or hell is solely (no pun intended) a matter of doing more good than harm during your life.). Kinda comforting isn't it.

Anyway, good deeds are extremely light. In fact, they are lighter than air and actually float. On the otehr hand, evil deeds have substantial weight and weigh a soul down. So a good person's soul will float up towards heaven whereas a bad person’s will....you get the idea. Finally, when a soul is in extremely fine balance between good and evil, Death is the final arbiter of the soul’s final destination.

That's about all you need for set up. The rest of this very interesting novel involves Zane learning about how the universe is run and coming into conflict with Satan over the soul of a particular person. It seems their is an ancient prophecy that says that this individual will foil Satan’s plans for the world, so naturally ole horn head wants the person dead. In addition to being very entertaining, there are some very neat discussions about the nature of good and evil.

This is Piers Anthony at his best. Taking a “big picture” concept and making an entertaining yet thoughtful examination of it in the context of a terrific story. I have read the next two books in this series and while not as good as this one, they are generally entertaining with “flashes of brilliance.”

Highly Recommended!!
53 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read On a Pale Horse.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely You're a funny guy!

My Goodreads universe will not be complete without your reviews, Stephen. They always make my day! :)

Keep on reviewing! Keep on reading!


message 2: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy I dont believe I have read this. I will but omg my TBR is insane. Great review again!


Stephen K.D. wrote: "You're a funny guy!

My Goodreads universe will not be complete without your reviews, Stephen. They always make my day! :)

Keep on reviewing! Keep on reading!"


Thanks, K.D. It is nice to know they are appreciated.


Stephen Tammy wrote: "I dont believe I have read this. I will but omg my TBR is insane. Great review again!"

I know. I the rate I add book, I think I will need to live until I am 277 years old to get through them all. C'mon science and do your thing!!!


seak "proverbial nuts of quality" - I will definitely use this someday. Hahahahaha. Love it.


David Oh, man, I used to read a lot of Piers Anthony, but I haven't been able to bring myself to read him in years. He has great ideas, but I don't think a more egotistical author has ever lived, and he's skeevier than Heinlein. I always thought the first book or two in each of his series is usually great, and then it starts going to hell as his self-indulgence and perviness takes over. I do remember enjoying the Incarnations of Immortality, but they were no exception.


Stephen I have only read a handful of his books and it has certainly been a mixed bag.


message 8: by mark (new)

mark monday i liked this one. but like so many other series by piers anthony, it went downhill fast. what's wrong with a person who starts out so strong and then flames out, so consistently, over and over throughout his career?


Stephen mark wrote: "i liked this one. but like so many other series by piers anthony, it went downhill fast. what's wrong with a person who starts out so strong and then flames out, so consistently, over and over thro..."

I know. It is really mind-boggling. There is no doubt the man can write well and has some really amazing ideas. I just don't get why the quality never remains consistent.


Ethan I'm not sure if the afterword isn't in certain editions of the book, but he explains that a lot of his more serious books weren't popular with the publishers, so he wrote other, less serious, things to make money in the meantime.


message 11: by Lola (new)

Lola I think just saying hell/heaven is decided by good/bad deeds, basically rules out Christianity since it is found on, how much you believe in God rather than good deeds


message 12: by Don (new)

Don Wolverton The 6th book in the series, 'For Love of Evil', is about the incarnation of evil and is actually very good. Probably my favorite in the series.


message 13: by David (new) - added it

David Dobson I agree - I usually find the first book in each of Piers Anthony's series interesting and well-written, and then they rapidly go downhill as he recycles things or goes cutesy. In this series, I remember being annoyed that subsequent books often covered similar events rather than exploring new ones. Xanth was the same way for me, although I made it farther in those thanks to a junior high school librarian who loved him.


back to top