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  2. On a Pale Horse
  3. Behold a Pale Horse (Sister Fidelma, #22) by Peter Tremayne

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 Ok, I think it's time to delve into my long-evolving and conflicted feelings about this series and about Piers Anthony. These series, and Piers in general, go into my adult category of things-I-can't-believe-I-didn't-realize-were-sexist. As an adult, I started to revisit some of my favourite series from childhood just to see if they'd hold up.

Animorphs, which blew my mind and changed my entire life from grade 4 onward, does not hold up, writing-wise, but the stories are still good and still pretty mind-blowing as the introduction for a year-old to serious for a year-old sci-fi. The Giver does hold up magnificently. Piers Anthony just ends up being a sexist old man writing juvenile screeds couched in sci-fi and fantasy. And unfortunately, I still like his stories and ideas.

There's a lot in there that's good. Alas, there's so much that's bad that it's really not worth it. For example, in the very first scene of this book, we meet a gorgeous rich woman who will fall in love with any person who saves her life. This is not even the point of the scene: the point is that the crafty magic stone peddler stole the poor dupe's true love What does true love even mean if you can just swoop in and steal it from someone?

Is this woman's mind so empty of her own thoughts and feelings that she counts adrenaline as love? That's about where I stopped reading and started skimming. The series as a whole and Piers' writing as a whole is filled with gorgeous women who all look exactly the same - big eyes, small noses, long hair, ample bosom but not too ample, just the perfect amount of ample, small waists, and above all, as young as possible without being creepy though he sometimes just says "fuck it" and goes with creepy. There are, of course, middle-aged women, women with large noses and small eyes, and sometimes they even have brains but it's always despite their looks.

Hey, a women who has been living for 20 years on her wits in exile, I wonder what she'll say first when she meets someone from her home? What wonderful and interesting things are you thinking about right now? Piers, you have captured a woman's mind perfectly. I AM always thinking about how my nose could be more pert, and am also constantly looking for validation from men that they find me sexually attractive. Literally every second of every day. On the other side, it is exceedingly rare for a male character to think about his own attractiveness.

Instead, he is also always thinking about the attractiveness of his female companion. I would really love for someone to re-write the Incarnations of Immortality so that I could enjoy the stories again while cutting out all the bullshit sexism and frankly poor character development. I think that Piers actually believes he is writing strong female characters, which is pretty scary. The prospect of actually re-reading all of these books is scary too, so I'm just going to spare myself and remember the stories fondly. View all 14 comments. Aug 20, 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 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 plain silly by the end of the seventh book in the series, And Eternity.

All that said, On a Pale Horse being the reader's first look at this world, it is an original concept for a novel. As a 16 year old, at least, it was a very engrossing read, as was the rest of the series as a whole. View 1 comment. Sep 02, Kat Hooper rated it it was ok Shelves: audiobook. Now, instead of being dead, Zane is Death. This is a fun premise and I expected Piers Anthony to do a lot with it, but unfortunately I found On a Pale Horse to be mostly illogical, trite and, worst sin of all, just plain boring.

It tries to do all three it should have been possible , but it fails at all three. The comedy, as usual for Piers Anthony, consists of puns, allusions, and light black humor. The love story is juvenile, too. Zane meets and immediately falls in love with Luna, whose main attractions are that she is beautiful, well-dressed, serious, and likes the same kind of art as Zane.

The humor and the romance are silly, but the thing that really killed On a Pale Horse for me was that it tries to be thoughtful and enlightening as Zane attends a variety of deathbed scenarios that illustrate the unfairness, loneliness, guilt, relief, grief, and ugliness of death. This sophomoric philosophizing might work better in a YA novel, but On a Pale Horse, with its succubi and other sexual references, is marketed to adults. I was beyond bored with On a Pale Horse and the only reason I managed to finish it was so that I could thoroughly review it.

The reader, George Guidall, wonderful as he is, actually seems to slow down during the introspective scenes I guess so that I can have time to process the heavy material? The whole point of Christianity is that Jesus paid the price for sin, so souls are not measured by the balance of good and evil deeds, but by whether or not they belong to Jesus. In order for this to work, Christ must be excluded, but in that case it seems that it would be better to not use CHRISTianity as the basis for the story because it forces the premise to fail.

Anthony knows that, he knows we know it, and he wants us to just wink it away so that his story works with all of the clever Christian puns and allusions. For this reason, On a Pale Horse would have worked better as strictly a comedy. View all 4 comments. Shelves: reading-project , read-in , fantasy , speculative-fiction. Actual rating: 2. 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.

If I had children, Actual rating: 2. The female characters often say some very chauvinistic things, as if Anthony believed it was acceptable to be prejudiced as long as the female characters voice those thoughts e. The writing is acceptable; the morality is extremely black-and-white. Having characters like God and Satan included in the list of characters plunges the reader very much into a Christian universe and there is no escaping that uni-religion slant. Since I attended Sunday School as a child, I was conversant with the details of that worldview, but I wonder how many modern young people would be?

It might be interesting for non-Christian readers, although I would hate for them to get their Christian theology from Anthony, or it might be off-putting. Not my favourite author, although I can understand what others may see in his work. View all 15 comments. Feb 02, David Staniforth rated it it was amazing 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 This was the book that got me into reading fiction many years ago, and inspired me to want to write. Now I feel compelled to reread the rest of the series. Highly recommended, especially if you already like fantasy.

View all 5 comments. Mar 25, seak rated it liked it Shelves: audio , Maybe a better title for this book would be, "Euthanasia Rocks! 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 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 Maybe a better title for this book would be, "Euthanasia Rocks! 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 being intelligent, but who's as dense as a rock throughout the entirety of the book.

In just about every situation, the author draws out the explanation, whether it's magic or a plot complication, because the protagonist is the last person to understand. Obviously, this is for the benefit of the reader, but I can tell you I'd much prefer the protagonist who knows, but doesn't let the reader know.


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At least it's according to character. I can't be too harsh, because I enjoyed the ideas presented and thought it was done in a capable manner. There were plenty of inconsistencies and points where disbelief just could no longer be suspended, but it was also kind of cool to be in a world with magic alongside technology. And I know you're not supposed to do this in a review, and that is tell the author how to do something, but I feel like there was a huge oversight in making a hilarious character out of the "pale horse," Mortis.

He was dull, though horse-like I guess. Come on, where's the wise-cracking buddy? I don't think I'll be reading further in this series. I enjoyed parts, but I was mostly annoyed and rumor has it this is the best installment. No thanks. View 2 comments. May 26, 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.

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Mar 26, 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 I first read this book back when I was 13 and loved it.

Women are regularly--approximately every time they are talked about--described by their physical characteristics. And Anthony clearly has a type, which basically boils down to just past the age of consent and sometimes just before it too. Older women are referred to as hags, or otherwise sexually disgusting.

They are prized for their sexuality, and then looked upon as broken if they've "used" it. It's deeply alarming. The rest of the story is shallow despite being about the balance of Good and Evil. Eternity and the supernatural are broken out into Richard Scarry like job descriptions. Death, in this case, is tasked with helping people on to the afterlife. It's rough re-reading a book you loved and realizing how problematic it's always been.

What lessons or perspectives did I inadvertently take from it? Probably more than I'd like to admit. At one point I remarked to my wife how terrible the book was and how I remembered it being much better than it was. She astutely said, "Maybe you changed? Jul 28, 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 Pratchett and Gaiman. As it stands, however, it's merely a moderately entertaining read. The first books of Anthony's series, before he overextends himself, tend to be the best see also, A Spell for Chameleon , and On a Pale Horse is no exception. Zane's confusion and flawed humanity in the both sought-after and feared face of death and Death makes this book rise a bit above the common run of Anthony's work.

Nov 26, 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.


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Not that this is science fiction per say but more like an alternate Earth with some futuristic ele 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. Not that this is science fiction per say but more like an alternate Earth with some futuristic elements because science and magic work together there.

Anyway, I started to read this book and was drawn in quickly. I think the basis is what did it for me. How could I not love the idea that Death was an office that regular people wound up performing by chance? Sure it is a kinda futuristic world but the character portrayal is what takes center stage, not the world they are in.

All in all this is a wonderful start to a great series! Nov 19, Krissy rated it it was ok Shelves: audiobook , cover-color-yellow-gold , audible-library , pgs , buddy-read , cover-car-or-truck.

On a Pale Horse

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 I think this is a case of it's not you it's me. I was actually looking forward to a humorous book.

It did pick up a bit in the second half once Zane went on strike and started fighting off everything Satan was throwing his way. But by then I was only semi-invested in the story. View all 3 comments. Aug 08, Chris rated it really liked it Shelves: mindcandy , fantasysci-fi , youngadult. 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 pages of a series whether you're into his concept. Th Piers Anthony is an author who is more conceptually innovative than literary. Though my least favorite of his series, this group is fun enough.

Often hapless humans take the "jobs" of Greek gods The first book benefits from the novelty of Anthony's concept, and For Love of Evil is the most interesting, character-wise. Other than that, the books are just mindless entertainment. May 02, Valyssia Leigh rated it did not like it Shelves: published-decades , did-not-finish , fantasy , author-male , protagonist-male , format-audio.

Okay, I'm done. I made it 2 hours and 47 minutes into the audiobook, and this just isn't good. It starts with one of the most most blatant cases of the trope 'women as rewards' I've seen in popular fiction and just keeps piling them on. It's gross. I stopped just after the female football team with the invisible protective gear and mammary glands likened to those of goats.

How that's sexy, I'm not sure, but Piers Anthony didn't spare the adjectives. He took several passes after the 'goat udder' Okay, I'm done. He took several passes after the 'goat udder' comment to clarify that the lady footballers had large bosoms. I remain unclear as to whether these remarkable organs were on their bellies or their chests, but that's okay. I understood his key point. This is some sexist bullpoop. Moving on. Sep 16, Melissa rated it liked it Shelves: read , rc-mount-tbr.

I liked the play of good verses evil and all the grey areas, the exploration of original sin, and what if bad things are done for good reasons. It was a bit too simple in some places, but overall interesting read. 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. 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 , Death is slightly less ineffable. Zane, having been bilked out of his savings by an unscrupulous merchant in enchanted stones, commits suicide out of despair for his position in life. His soul is balanced—his good deeds and bad deeds cancelling each other out—requiring the person of Death to retrieve his soul and weigh it manually. Except Zane accidentally kills Death, and in so doing, becomes Death. This is where the whimsy of the writer takes over and transforms an idea into a breathing work of fiction. Some writers could take the description above and create a gritty, noir thriller.

Piers Anthony writes with a sort of dry, tongue-in-cheek consideration toward how a society steeped in both science and magic might work. Satan buys advertising on billboards and the radio; people use enchantments and stones regularly even as they drive cars, fly carpets, and ride airplanes.

Purgatory is an intense bureaucracy with sassy computers and bored receptionists. It is very surreal and, considering that Anthony, although born in England, moved to the United States as a child, oddly British in texture and tone. Although I can easily praise the world Anthony depicts, enjoyment of On a Pale Horse probably lives and dies with how much one enjoys the protagonist, Zane. On one hand, he has much to recommend him: despite being so manipulated by the other Incarnations, he often takes risks and is dedicated to fulfilling the office of Death in his own way.

He is his own person, and that is admirable. On the other hand, especially in the beginning of the book, Zane is a whiny and indecisive moron. So, you know, your mileage may vary. Yet in retrospect it seems very appropriate to the world Anthony has created, where various forces of nature are incarnated. These forces, while having plenty of leeway in how they perform their duties—Zane spares many people by persuading them not to take their lives and directing them to get back on track—are bound by certain rules.

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Zane only personally collects those souls that are in balance; he can only affect so many people. Often, with pantheons, I get frustrated by the very arbitrary division of powers; I think Anthony makes the right call in limiting the number of incarnations and their roles to only a small amount. Zane is an interesting case when it comes to free will, because he is essentially set up. A magician pays off Fate to get Zane into the position of Death, because he wants Zane to protect his daughter, who has personally attracted the attention of Satan.

But he still feels bound to protect her, such as he can. What does it mean to be moral? Most organized religions impose an absolutist, external system of morality on their adherents and, alas, on the rest of the world. Some people take an opposite stance and claim that morality is entirely relative this also has its dangers. On the surface that seems like a neat plot device, a way to give the person of Death something to do. These are not so much flaws in the book and its world-building as they are questions raised by how Anthony portrays society in On a Pale Horse.

Anthony portrays women—and the attitudes of men toward women—in ways that are very problematic. Zane pays for the former by using the latter to find his intended love, then letting the merchant make the connection instead, thus essentially treating the woman as an object lucky to be wooed. Later on, we learn that even more powerful lovestones can actually inspire their users and targets to lust after each other.

The proposition itself is rather untestable, but the divorce rates in the United States and Canada indicate that either it is false or we, as humans, are spectacularly bad at finding our one true loves. Luna is a very capable character who somewhat mitigates my above gripes. Anthony is very much drawing from traditional, Western ideas about the afterlife, Death personified, etc.

There is, essentially, a missed opportunity to deconstruct those ideas that I could easily see happening in this decade by another, more subversive author. Finally, On a Pale Horse has a very dense narrative style that just did not work well with my reading habits and inclinations. There is a lot in here, in terms of content and reflection, and I think that could appeal to many readers.

Behold a Pale Horse (Sister Fidelma, #22) by Peter Tremayne

For me, however, it took a lot of focus. Fortunately that did not happen here. I am ambivalent about continuing the series—something tells me it will be a lot more of the same. View all 6 comments. Sep 29, Sara rated it it was ok Shelves: tv-shows-i-have-seen , sci-fi-fantasy , series-i-will-never-finish , novels-and-shorts , horror-supernatural. Well, I enjoyed the author's note.

That was entertaining. I read he does that at the end of all of his books. As for the book, itself, I'm not too sure. What I liked: The idea of the story - Death as a real man, unwittingly thrust into the role, and having to figure it out as he went. I liked Satan advertising on billboards that Hell is actually a Fun place to be! I was a big fan of Dead Like Me and was so bummed when they canceled that series. Here it is much more subtle. The place drives the guards to casual sex and drinking. The psychological toll of constantly murdering others is evident.

This is the second book featuring Schlegel and Morgen, the first being The Butchers of Berlin , and various things, such as the sub-plot with Sybil the Jewish seamstress, would have been clearer had I read the earlier one. The two men have come to Auschwitz to investigate stolen gold being sent through the post, but become targets themselves as many of those in power are just fine with the way things are. This is an uncomfortable, dark and thought-provoking read which examines a terrible part of history from a very different angle.

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