On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

What if there really were a “Grim Reaper” who rode a pale horse and collected and judged the souls of the dead? What if the same were true for other “immortal concepts” – Time, Fate, War, Nature, as well as Evil and Good? And what if the “people” performing the duties of these abstract concepts were only holding an office or job and the office-holder periodically changed? How would you do in your first day on the job as the new “Death”?

That’s the problem that Zane faces in this book. He was just a down on his luck schlub with money problems, then, suddenly, he’s Thanatos, a.k.a. Death with a Capitol D. How each of these “Incarnations of Immortality” change the person doing the job is different and unique to each one, but don’t worry, I won’t spoil how Zane gets the job. One he has it, however, he must not only learn how to collect the souls of the deceased – all over the planet – but he’s also getting to know his fellow incarnations, and must then foil a master plot by Satan himself to take over the world. Satan, not known for playing by the rules, try to tip Zane’s decision by threatening the life and soul of the woman he loves. The climax of the story is a showdown between Death and Satan not just for the soul of Zane’s beloved, but for the souls of all mankind and whether or not Satan will be able to unleash Hell on Earth – literally.

I first read this book back in college in the early ’90’s and soon devoured the rest of the series (Bearing an Hourglass – about the incarnation of Time – is the next one). I enjoyed them and what the author had to say about how the spiritual world may exist so much that I convinced my Mom and grandmother to read them too (the closest they usually got to Fantasy was Michael Crichton) just so we could talk about them. Many years later I greatly enjoyed this novel and discussing it again, this time with my Sci-Fi & Fantasy book club.

Anthony – best known for his long-running Xanth Series – creates a realistic world where you or I might live, but which is also home to these immortal incarnations, living and working in it, unseen by mortal humans. This entertaining yet thought-provoking Fantasy novel is also available as an audio book, read by the highly acclaimed George Guidall.

Explore Anthony’s unique version of death by finding and requesting this book in our catalog.


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