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4.7 out of 5 stars
On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 1999
This book was suggested to me by a very avid bookworm. I read the whole book in less than two weeks. I could not put it down. The way Anthony develops Zane, and how Zane is thrust into the role of Death by the Magician and Fate, was fantastic. The fact that it presents the Seven Incarnations (Death, Time, Fate, War, Mother Nature, Evil,and of course, Good) as "Offices" and people and not just abstract ideas, was definately something to think aboout. I say it is the best of all the seven books in the series. I still read the novel frequently!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 24 December 2009
I've had this book on my to read pile for at least six months now, and haven't rushed to read it because I wasn't expecting anything all that special from it. Boy was I wrong!

The summary on the back of the book (and the cover art itself) gave me the impression that On a Pale Horse was a light and quirky story about a guy that accidentally takes on the role of Death. I hadn't really expected anything more than that, and in truth, I only picked it up off of my to read pile because I was in need of something to tide me over until the book I'd ordered from Amazon arrived.

I don't want to give away any more details than those already stated by other reviewers. All I will say that whilst this book does have a "quirky" side to it (Death riding around in a car, for example) there's a very strong theme of death throughout that's really interesting, and made me think a lot. And whilst there are certainly many a quirky moment, this is excellently balanced by the serious nature of the book's subject: death. I think the contrast actually really works well to enhance the effectiveness of some of the darker, more serious aspects of this story.

There's a lot more to the story than just a simple tale about a guy who takes on the role of Death. The setup of the story is established within the first few chapters, and from then on we follow the main character, Zane, as he discovers his new job (though of course, the plot soon begins to thicken!)

I wouldn't say the writing is anything special, but it works effectively. There's not a huge amount of description, but everything that needs to be described is described very clearly. The plot is what really won me over with this book. And the characters, I never thought I would find Death to be so interesting!

Final opinion: Buy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 1998
Once I finished with "Pale Horse" I had to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series. There are a total of seven volumes in the Incarnations of Immortality series: On A Pale Horse, Bearing An Hourglass, Wielding A Red Sword, With A Tangled Skein, Being A Green Mother, For Love Of Evil and ...And Eternity. Anthony's sequels are as good as the first book of "Incarnations". I couldn't put them down. Piers Anthony's writing style makes you feel like you personally know the characters in his books. If you like something "off the wall", On A Pale Horse is must read material.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 1998
This was the first Piers Anthony book I had ever read and I read it in one night. It was absolutely amazing! The storyline itself was imaginative and entertaining and kept you interested all along. But beneath the storyline there are deep values and beliefs being explored. It makes you rethink your views of life and death, good and evil, and really makes you question what your religion and beliefs. And I can say exactly the same thing for all five Incarnations of Immmortality books (Yes, I know there are seven. I haven't read the last two yet, but am looking forward to it). Each book builds on the previous and draws on the next, for an overall effect that leaves you wishing for more at the end of each book, only because you want to read more about the adventures of each of these very original and very different characters. If you've never tried Piers Anthony, I recommend starting it off with this book. And even though everyone says the books are good on their own, they are so much more together in a series. Read them in order from Death to Nature (and Satan and God too) to get the full effect Piers Anthony intended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 1998
I think that this book and the entire series are excellent novels. Piers Anthony is a fantastic author with many great ideas that he manages to put on paper. If you or I had that skill we'd be rich. I am a sk8er, or for you older folks that's skateboarder, and I don't read or write much at all. This book captivated me and I couldn't put it down. I had to read the entire series after that. it was good enough that I asked my girlfriend to read it. She's enjoying the series and is on the second book. She said that it really makes her think. Well, if you're reading this then you must be at least partially considering getting it so I should stop talking and let you come to your own conclusions.
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on 23 June 1997
This book had an interesting premise, and if I'd read the story outline and situation,I probably would have said this would make a great satirical fantasy. However, I like to read either hilarity OR satire, I find when an author tries to mix them the novel ends up only going halfway and thus only being half as good as it might be if he tried to go all-out in one of the styles. Am I making sense? This is the first book I've read by Piers Anthony, and I'd heard he was terrific, so perhaps I was expecting too much? I don't know. I guess I was expecting something as hlarious as The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Series. I understand that this wasn't what he was trying to accomplish, but then, I didn't like what he was trying to do. I don't like his puns very much either. Puns are funny in comic strips or on Bugs Bunny cartoons, but to get bashed over the head with them over and over in a novel makes me sick after a while. But I think what really got me annoyed was the characters. They were BORING. I could barely finish the book, because I didn't care about them (I also hated their names, which always turns me off from the beginning). The situation was interesting, like I said, a good premise. But I didn't enjoy the way it was told. Though obviously somebody out there must enjoy Piers Anthony's style of writing, or he wouldn't be such a good seller, now would he? I might try another of his novels, though, one more chance couldn't hurt.
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on 26 November 1998
On A Pale Horse is a great start to a wonderful exploration of "possibilities." Easily one of the "strongest", if not the strongest book in the series. Although I'm not usually drawn to fantasy, some friends felt I would appreciate this series because of the concept of the "offices of immortality." They were right!! The different methods of attaining the various offices was consistent with the characteristics of the characters. Particularly intriguing was how each new office holder had to struggle to determine his or her strengths, limitations, and purpose--something we must all do every day. I found Thanatos and Satan to be very compelling characters. The treatment of these two by the author is decidedly different from what we've come to believe of such nefarious personifications. Although not all the books in this series maintain the same level of anticipatory immersion by the reader as this one; and some seem to wander endlessly while trying to explore some thought-provoking concepts, this series will get you involved and make you "think." I found I couldn't wait for the next installment. A wonderful experience!!
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VINE VOICEon 2 June 2010
Set in an alternate version of Earth, where magic is used, flying carpets are a popular mode of transport and Satan advertises Hell on billboards as the place to be.

When Fate pushes Zane to the verge of suicide, he finds himself given a very rare job opportunity - to become Death.

Reading this book, reminded me a lot of Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller, and also the US TV series Dead Like Me - Season 1 [DVD] (which I later learned was loosely based on this book). I enjoyed both of those, and found this book enjoyable too. The characters were believable and the plot moved at a nice pace. The meeting with Nature confused me, and I read it a couple of times before it made any kind of sense, but apart from that it was very easy to read.

My only problem with this book, and it's only a small one, is the all too frequent use of "baulk" or "baulked". I have no idea exactly how many appearances it made, but I'd put money on it being in the top five used in the book.

I would recommend this book, especially to Tom Holt fans - as the style is very similar in my opinion.
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on 30 July 2015
I read much of this series nearly 20 yrs ago as a college student and loved it. Picked it up recently and was a little disappointed. First, it's been a while since I read piers anthony and I'd forgotten how he sneaks sick little sexual stuff into what otherwise would be pretty decent preteen fare. Caught me off guard and left me feeling, we'll a little dirty. Second, I'd remembered loving the world and being fascinated by the science/magic pieces, but this time through I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe because I've since read some truly excellent world and magic system building such as the Harry Potter series and anything by Brandon Sanderson. Finally, and saddest of all, I wasn't feeling the characters. Couldn't relate to them and felt they weren't developed enough. They did interesting stuff, but I didn't really care about them the way I do about characters in, for example, Stephen King or Cormac McCarthy novels. Ah well. Still a fun yarn that's worth a read, but the 4 and 5 star ratings need to be reserved for the truly excellent books out there.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 1999
Piers Anthony is one of the most prolific authors of our time and he knows how to do it right every time. From the Xanth series (VERY punny), to the Apprentice Adept books to the Incarnations of Immortality series of which this is one, he continually comes up with fresh, original storylines and great characters. This book is (marginally) my favorite of all of his works, as I don't think I have ever seen the Grim Reaper portrayed more sympathetically or with more humor. What makes this book even more attractive is that it's a VERY easy read. The story just carries you along to the end and you just don't want to put it down. No big words, no extremely complex concepts to comprehend (wow! Alliteration!), just a good old-fashioned read. Most of the books that I read nowadays are very rich in prose and dialogue and plot and words that you have to look up in the dictionary. Piers doesn't inflict that on you, he just tells it like it is and with style. I like that. Makes a good break from my usual reading. I'm sure it will for you, too. Read it, it's good!
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