On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

This book somehow had escaped all my searching for a new and exciting titles. The only reason I came across this one was because a friend of mine did a podcast and mentioned it, curiosity got the best of me and I had to check it out. The title was mysterious, just like I like them and also had me intrigued as I knew the story dealt with the personification of Death. All of these elements had me hooked and I knew that I had to check this one out.

Piers Anthony has created one of the greatest bibliographies I have seen for a writer. While they might not all be best sellers, his body of work is extremely impressive. There is so much to say about Piers and his wonderful career, but who better to tell it than Mr. Anthony himself. Check out my interview with Piers Anthony here.

Down on his luck Zane is in a magic shop, a real magic shop, spending that last of his hard earned money trying to buy a magic stone. He is choosing between a love stone or a money stone, one will bring the bearer true love while the other will bring fortune. He makes a deal with the shop owner that once he realizes what he has done truly regrets his decisions like so many others in his life. In doing so he decided to commit suicide because he is angry with how his life has turned out. Before he pulls the trigger Death himself shows up at his doorstep to take his soul, this scared Zane and he accidentally kills Death. In doing so now he must take up the mantle of Death and fulfill the office. From there Zane is left to figure out his duties while trying to understand his strange new job while meeting the other Incarnations Fate, Time, War, Nature, as well as the Eternals God and Satan. In the end Zane is fighting against the forces of pure evil to try and save the mankind from eternal damnation, and more importantly also trying to save the women he loves. It seems he has found much more life in Death.

First, let me say that I am not a big fan of magic in stories and for the most part think it is silly. I think for me at least it has its place and that place is in the fantasy realm like LOTRs series or I always loved to play the video game Diablo, man, I spent so many hours playing that one. Anyways when you mix magic and the “modern” world I kind of find it silly. BUT with all that being said, I loved this one and all the aspects that were involved including the magic in the story. As always I knew very little about this one other than the story involved the man who killed Death. I had no idea that there was this whole world of magic and basically anything you can imagine. So at the beginning I had to adjust my mindset of how I thought the story would go as well as everything else that was thrown in.

This one was not quite what I expected for the reasons I mentioned above, but despite that, it was still an awesome read. There are so many fun and exciting aspects to this story that I do not think they can simply be discussed in one review. I like stories that discuss supernatural beings such as Death as real things, to me I find that extremely fascinating and just plain fun. Anthony built an entire world around this idea and the fact that not only is Death a real being, Fate, War, Time, and Nature are as well. I love that idea and the way Anthony portrays these characters is amazing and makes for a spectacular read.

While Death always sucks, Anthony tries to make light of the situation and put it into perspective, which is comforting. Also Zane is a very compassionate character and a compassionate Death, that is something that is interesting to watch as the story progresses. Another thing I enjoyed was the philosophizing that took place in the story. I mean, what do Death and War talk about, they certainly have some things in common, but what do they talk about? What would these two beings, if they were real converse about? Same with Fate, and Nature, and Time. It is so cool, in my opinion, to see these beings talk and interact with one another. Something else that I loved was how Death talked to his clients, or those that were about to pass to the next life. Some of these conversations were very deep and added so much more to the story than just a fun read. The story would have been fine without some of these conversations, but the fact that they were included was just extra. They added depth to the story and the character of Death as well.

The only small complaint I have with this one is that it is a bit wordy. While I say that it honestly hinges on the boarder of just right. I think that if Anthony were to cut down the description it would possibly hinder the story, so I think there is slightly more than just enough. Again this is always a fine line with me so I don’t think many other readers will have this complaint. And I will play devil’s advocate, there could be a strong argument that there is not enough description when it comes to certain aspects of the story. There is so much explored that the book could easily be 100 pages longer and still be great. When you have a world where it seems that almost nothing is out of the realm of possibility the only limit is your imagination. So given the circumstances of the story I think Anthony did an excellent job all things being equal.

Something else that makes this book great is the authors note at the end. Plenty of books have these but few are 20 plus pages long. With that being said when I saw how long it was I dreaded reading it as it added more time to this particular novel that had nothing to do with the story. Well, this is just another reason that I am glad I have that fear of missing out when reading (FOMOWR??, perhaps that is a thing but I doubt it). I am glad I have this because I would have certainly missed this little gem. I have said before that I love reading the story behind the story, basically what drove or inspired a writer to write a particular story, and this authors note tells the events that led Anthony to write this novel. He also talks about how he writes, which I think is genius, his workout regiment, dinosaurs, his family, and some great views on life and its meaning. As much as I enjoyed the book, in a mere 20 pages, I think the authors note is worth the extra time to read it. My only real regret is that I did not wait until after I finished the book in its entirety to send him the interview questions, but I have certainly learned my lesson.

I have read quite a few stories that are in a series but usually just the first book. Long ago this use to bother me as I felt somewhat bad for not finishing the series, again the FOMOWR, but I soon realized that trying to read entire series would be near impossible given my massive list of what else I wanted to read. Also the fact that I read extremely slow played a part in that as well, so that guilt quickly faded. Today I am 50/50 when picking up a new book that is in a series, I am not fond of it, but it also does not bother me that much. I am not sure I realized this one was a series when I bought it, but I will honestly say that this may be the first series that I will read from beginning to end. I do not take that sentiment lightly but I think this series has some of the coolest ideas and aspects that are just right up my alley. Another reason I fully intend to read this entire reason is that it seems that each story is just set in the same world and not necessarily builds on the previous book. If that is the case then it is really making it hard for me to not read this series. Damn you Piers, just take my money, take it!!

I highly recommend this book, it is an older title, about 30 years old, but I think it is one of the those that has somewhat been forgotten. It has almost everything and while somewhat out there, seems to flow together so well that while reading it seem real and almost normal. That is the power of a true master of the craft, to take the unbelievable, even the unimaginable, and make it not only real but normal. You have to check this one out if you have not, truly a great read.

Manik

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