On A Pale Horse

This book was originally posted on the Dragon's Den forum, oh, months ago. Then some dickless hacker crashed the site, and the review was lost forever, or so I thought. Amazing what will turn up when you clean your apartment.

The review is posted nearly as-is, with a few spelling corrections, and the addition of rating the book on the one to five scale.

After listening to the interview with Piers Anthony, I decided to try one of the books in his Incarnations of Immortality series. The first book in the series is titled On a Pale Horse.

The book is about a down on his luck photographer named Zane. In his desperation, he allows himself to be swindled out of the love of his life by an unscrupulous magic dealer. Afterwards, alone in his apartment, he decides to end it all, and puts a gun to his head. As he is pulling the trigger, the Grim Reaper enters his apartment to oversee the death. And Zane, instead of shooting himself, shoots death right between the eye sockets.

Zane has killed death. And there's a catch. Now he has to take his place.

It's kind of like The Santa Clause, only cool.

What else happens? Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, monsters, chases, escapes, torture, revenge, true love, miracles, talking horses.

You know, like The Princess Bride meets Mr. Ed, with a big fight - Death vs. Satan to cap it all off.

So much for what the book is about, is it worth the $7.99 plus tax?

As I was reading the book, two thoughts kept coming back to me. One: Piers Anthony comes up with fantastic stories. Two: Unfortunately, he doesn't tell them that well.

And that's the rub. As much as I want to like Piers Anthony, I can't stand his writing. Several years ago I tried reading his novel Firefly, and couldn't make it past twenty pages. I think the fact that I enjoyed his first Xanth novel many years ago must be a fluke.

First of all, Anthony writes bad dialogue. Worse than bad. Worse than worse. It was actually physically painful to read at times. I almost put the book down at one point when a common thug actually used the word "Hark!" I realize that written dialogue is different from spoken language, and that nobody speaks like a book. But good written dialogue, though not actually like spoken language, should seem like spoken language. Anthony's characters speak b-movie dialogue.

And as for description, Mr. Anthony must never have met an adverb he didn't like. If you removed all the "Tom Swifty's" from the book, it would be five pages shorter. I mean, come on - "She grimaced prettily"? Bleh.

And finally, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, more annoying than knowing what's going on, and waiting for the protagonist to catch up.

On a Pale Horse is the first in a series. Other incarnations have books dedicated to them, i.e. Nature, Time, Fate, etc. But I think this is my last Piers Anthony novel. Not enough Rolaids in the world to go through that again.

Rating: 2 out of 5

On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
Published by: Del Rey; September 12, 1986
ISBN: 0345338588
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Webpage: www.hipiers.com

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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