Let's Read : The Incarnations of Immortality series

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hghwolf

Chicken Warlord
Pronouns
he/him
When I was a wee tot I came upon a book with a cool ass cowboy on the cover, and proceeded to read it; I discovered, to my despair, that cowboys were not involved but I kept reading anyway and fell in love with the setting and characters, despite the heavy Christian worldview bent, and devoured the entire series, as well as the Xanth books by the same author, voraciously.

Almost two decades, and the realization of some uncomfortable truths later, I decided that I would see how well they held up and hey, why not inflict the probable trashfire on my internet friends as well under the pretense of 'content' ?

I don't intend to keep any sort of schedule or go by chapters, rather by 'events' or whatever feels good to me, so it might end up being a bit of a mess, but nevertheless let me begin inflicting on you the first bit of the first book in the series, 'Riding a Pale Horse'.

--- Pages 1 to 12 ---


Riding a Pale Horse begins, as you say, in medias res with the presumed main character, Zane, looking at magic stones in a mall.

Yeah, it's that sort of setting.

Some pishposh is made about a 'death stone' which allows the holder to avert their own death, which notifies Zane of his impending death within hours, and how it is untestable and worthless, as you cannot test it without dying, and Zane feels very smart and logical about figuring this out despite the protestations of the shopkeeper.

Yeah it's that sort of protagonist.

The next stone under examination is a 'wealth stone' which detects unowned money in the vicinity, and we learn that Zane is dirt poor, so there is an obvious attraction to the thing for him, but it is passed over because he has no wealth with which to purchase it.

Seems familiar.

Eventually the uh... sales conversation turns to a so called 'Romance Stone', with which one can find their way to a romance and all you cleverclogs have already figured out where this is going. Zane and the shopkeeper work out a trade; Zane has a romance in his future, the shopkeeper doesn't and if he used the stone they'd all cease working for him anyway for some reason, so the deal is thus :

Zane will have the romance stone loaned to him and find the romance, the shopkeeper will swoop in and take it for himself, and in return Zane receives the wealth stone.
This book has a weird relation to predestination, and it'll only get stranger.

So Zane and the shopkeeper set out into the cloud mall - did I not mention the mall is a cloud ? Well it is - and take two flying carpets down to the city of Kilvarough which the mall is anchored above.

This city is not in Ireland.

We get some worldbuilding and discover that this is a world where Satan and God are known to exist, and the Devil has one hell of a presence and publicity department, largely in the sector of 'vices' of course, with a cute demon mascot duo named 'Dee&Dee', with Zane commiserating how it's all very attractive and that hell has its charms, despite the pitchforks and fire. We also learn that flying carpets are expensive, that inflation is the work of Satan and get a glimpse of the sort of ad Satan runs :

IOI1 said:
Inflation affected everyone uncomfortably, as it was intended to; it was, of course, a work of Satan, who campaigned perpetually and often halfway successfully to make Hell seem better than Earth. Sure enough, the thought brought the reality: a Satanic road sign series, each sign staked to a small, stationary cloud:

SEE THIS OUTFIT? DON'T YOU SCOFF! YOU KNOW WHERE SHE TAKES IT OFF!

What followed was a life-size billboard painting of a truly statuesque young woman in the process of disrobing.
We also learn that there are literal sea-horses and air-horses now, which Zane intends to acquire once the wealth stone has brought him, well, wealth. Some words are spent on worldbuilding, such as how the cloud mall works (it's magic), but it's basically just a 'travel' scene.

Eventually we get this gem :
IOI1 said:
The carpet ahead of him faltered. At the same time, the Love stone flashed brilliantly. Zane had to brake suddenly to prevent his carpet from rear-ending the one ahead.
"Hey, what the-?" he grunted.
He saw that a young woman was riding the other carpet and he did not think much of female riders.They tended to change their minds without adequate warning, as in this case, and that was dangerous in mid-air.
Yep. It gets better though. No I meant worse, sorry.

IOI1 said:
The woman's carpet wrinkled, sagging under her weight. It began to drop. She screamed in terror.
Suddenly Zane realized what was the matter: the spell had failed! It shouldn't have, as this was a truly elegant, expensive carpet, but quality control had been deteriorating everywhere recently.
His eye was momentarily distracted by the blue light before him. The Love stone was shining like a miniature star.
"Mine!" the Pottage proprietor cried.
Implicit women as property and we're not even past the prologue and to the main conceit of the book. It's gonna be a ride, especially once we get to the female protagonists.

Either way, the 'trick' works and the shopkeep gets the girl who turns out to not only be 'comely' but also the heir to the 'Twinklestar' fortune and has invited her saviour for caviar and champagne.

It is here that Zane realizes he dun goofed, and is left behind with the wealth stone that he gave up romance AND luxury for, that he lacks the cash to even take the subway home and we learn that he has opinions about using an artifact like the wealth stone in the 'bad part' of town that they landed it. He also immediately figures that he doesn't need the girl and that once he's rich he'll be able to attract all sorts of women and even purchase several such as 'a compliant female android or a luscious magical nymph'.

You will be unsurprised to learn that Zane is white, pimply and has pretensions of being an artist, situating him comfortably in the 'absolute tool' region.

Next time : Capitalist ghost binding.
 
Page 12 to end of Chapter 1

hghwolf

Chicken Warlord
Pronouns
he/him
This pretty fun actually. The book makes me cringe a lot but the commentary is cathartic. However...

CONTENT WARNING : SUICIDE ATTEMPT

-----

We learn Zane used to have a mother and a girlfriend, a loving one, but his 'stupid impulses' had caused him to lose them in a unspecified way as well as sink him into deep debt. We also learn about why magic is so widely accepted and used, and it's Issac Newton.

Yes really. The reason Zane thinks about this at all is because he's walking home, like a pleb, rather than flying in a technological or magical vehicle.
In this world Issac Newton first did the gravity thing then, rather than count coins, he went on to discover and codify the fundamentals of magic and would you like to suck his dick Piers Anthony ?

IoI1 said:
Here he was, in the ultimate age of magic and science, where jet planes vied with flying carpets, and he was traveling afoot, without the benefit of either.
Magic had always existed, of course, as had science, however limited the benefits of either might be for those who were broke. But it hadn't been until the time of Newton that the basic principles of the twin disciplines had been seriously explored. Newton had made great strides in formulating the fundamental laws of science in his early years, contributing more than perhaps any other man. In his later years he had performed similarly for magic.
Turns out the magical cyberfuture is just as flaccid as the nonmagical cyberpunk one. It also turns out the for some reason magic didn't really get explored and utilized much due to prejudices until a point in history when it suddenly did, and that point is probably 1981 when this book was released, which is pretty convenient isn't it ?

While doing all this thinking Zane has walked for long enough that darkness falls. It is remarked that the streets are emptying, but also that cars are driving very recklessly and do not collide due to charm. The area he's in is known as 'Ghost Town' because...

IoI1 said:
at twilight sometimes the ghost appeared. But it was best not to look, because-
We do not yet learn why it is best not look as we are interrupted by the ghost herself, but it must be unpleasant because Zane ducks into an alcove so as not to be seen by her. The ghost turns out to be...

Molly fricking Malone. Y'know, the shellfish girl in the popular song. Why is Molly Malone, who probably didn't even exist as such, here rather than in, y'know, Dublin ? Well...

IoI1 said:
Her ghost had been conjured from Ireland a century ago to honor Kilvarough, though this city had no seacoast. It had been a publicity stunt that soon palled; ghosts were a dime a dozen. The city fathers had not then been aware of this ghost's special property. But the conjuration-spell had never been canceled, so Molly still wheeled her wheelbarrow through the streets of Kilvarough when conditions were right
Yep, it was a publicity stunt. Not only regular cultural appropriation, literally summoning the spirits of the dead for a gimmick. And this is apparently okay. Cool, cool, I'm not even two dozen pages in and I hate this already.

Zane immediately judges Molly to be posessing of truly excellent legs that require no spiked heels or nylon stockings, so we know where his head is at. Also the wheelbarrow and the shellfish seem to be real rather than ghostly, which is relevant, because it is now that someone tries to mug her for them. To sell. At the antique shop. For a two-day happiness charm.

Well then.

Molly, of course, objects to this in very certainly not brogue because she has lost the accent and acquired a more local one, which is ALSO suspiciously convenient for authors who don't like writing accents. Either way she pleads with the mugger that she needs the wheelbarrow and the shellfish or she will surely perish. The response is obvious.

IoI1 said:
"You've already perished, you stinking slut!" the man snapped, shoving her rudely out of his way.
Which implies that she smells like fish.

Anyway, this triggers Zanes 'M'lady' complex and he rushes to her rescue, unable to see a woman so mistreated and boy howdy does the paragraph bring out the ten quid words

IoI1 said:
It was not that he was especially brave or skilled in combat, but that once he was caught in such a situation he knew he had little choice but to carry through with sufficient dispatch to extricate himself.
Zane gets the gun away from the mugger and, backed by the barrel of the gun, forces him to right and reload Mollys wheelbarrow, after which the vile criminal without a gun slinks off. Zane notes that he appears to have been shot but also that he is unlikely to seek medical attention and thus probably going to die, bringing Zanes bodycount to 1.

Considering the premise... that'll go up, I'm pretty sure.

Zanes brave rescue has the effect that young men without romantic prospects dream of, as does his nice guy act, and Molly is, shall we say, very grateful. Apparently it works if it's dark enough ?

Of course Zane declines, and we contextually learn that there's a 'neverland' where ghosts hang out ? A passing cars headlights banish Molly in any event.

Then Zane uses the wealth stone and... find a dime. And a nickel. You can really tell that Zane is rationalizing to himself that he didn't fuck up by his thoughts about how he'd need to clear the loose change first, and how he'd just need a bit of time and, well...

Another issue turns out to be that the wealth stone only has so much 'charge' to find loose bits of money with, and will need time to recharge; hours, according to Zane.

So there he stands. A useless trinket exchanged for romance and wealth, a room full of photo equipment he has to move out of on the morrow, up to his neck in debt and deeply depressed.

And oh look, the pistol he took from the mugger has chambered a fresh round...

Zane flashes back to the Death Stone that had so painfully accurately predicted his coming demise, and to the 'special property' of Molly; anyone who she takes notice of is soon to die.

As an aside, this has created an interesting fashion where people afraid for their lives would stand in her path, daring her to notice them, and if she did not they would go about their days relieved. Having been noticed by Molly and the death stones flash convince Zane that the time has come so he sits down in his shitty room, with a shitty gun, ready to end his shitty life.

I will post the last few paragraphs in their entirety because they're actually pretty decent and impactful.

IoI1 said:
Now was indeed the time!
As his finger tensed, somewhat reluctant to move rapidly, Zane saw the door to his apartment open. He froze in place, uncertain whether to pull the trigger now, before being interrupted, or to hope for some amazing reprieve. Could Angelica have changed her mind and sought him out? Foolish notion! Or was it merely his landlord?

It was neither. The figure that appeared was garbed in nonreflective black, with a hood shrouding its head. It closed the door behind it silently, then turned to face Zane full on.

A bald, bony skull looked eyelessly at him.

This was Death, come to collect him.

Zane tried to cry out in pointless protest, but his throat locked. He tried to loosen his trigger finger, but it was already obeying the squeeze message and would accept no countermand. Time seemed to slow, and Zane could do nothing to abort the suicide he had set up. Yet the shock of seeing the visage of Death himself had abruptly banished any desire Zane had to kill himself.

His finger muscles would not obey him, but his larger arm muscles did. Zane wrenched the pistol around. The muzzle came to bear on Death' s head as the trigger tripped. The gun seemed to explode, kicking back against his hand.

The bullet smashed into the center of Death's face.

A hole opened. Blood flowed. Death fell heavily to the floor.

Zane stood aghast. He had killed Death.
Well then !

Zanes bodycount : 2
 

Strigix

Verified Xeno
Administrator
Oh, you're doing a let's read of this one, huh.

Guess we'll see how this goes.
 
Start of Chapter 2 - Page 17

hghwolf

Chicken Warlord
Pronouns
he/him
IoI1 RaPH said:
The door opened again. This time a woman of middle age entered. Zane had never seen her before. She glanced approvingly at the fallen figure. "Excellent," she murmured.
Probably not what you expect to happen when you ice the grim reaper.

The woman more or less bowls Zane over and starts stripping Death, all the while informing Zane that he is now, as it happens, the new Death. She introduces herself as Lachesis, the middle aged incarnation of the incarnation of fate.

IoI1 RaPH said:
"At the moment I am Lachesis. You can see I am of middle age without much sex appeal." She was quite correct; her face had the lines of solid maturity, and her hair was nondescript under a tight bun.
She was comfortably overweight, but moved efficiently. "I determine the length of the threads. Now lift his body; I don't want to tear the cloak."
Zane confirmed to have pleb taste in women.

Lachesis is very no-nonsense about the whole process, and lists all the things Deaths garb lets Death do, like walk across water and fire and all that, be immune to pretty much anything, the whole 'cannot be stopped' thing. How did Zane manage to kill death then ?

Well it was because the hood was down, which is so wonderfully mundane.

While wearing his robes of office Zane will also 'enjoy' a sort of social invisibility, where people will not question or even react to his presence, although this has limits as we will discover soon...ish.

Lachesis also unknownigly (?) burns Zane hard over the wealth stone :

IoI1 RaPH said:
"Oh, I see you have a junkstone. You use it to produce dimes for telephones?"

"Something like that," Zane admitted sheepishly.

"I've seen them before. The stone is dirt-grade ruby from India, imported wholesale and sold in fivethousand carat lots for fifty cents a carat. It's technically corundum, but too poor a quality to hold a decent spell. I understand some idiots are deluded into paying gem-grade prices for individual stones."

"True," Zane agreed, drawing the Death hood close about his face so his flush would not show.

"Still, as a cheap novelty item, it's not bad. Once in a while a stone like this will take a better spell and locate dollar bills. But it's axiomatic that such a rock will never produce the value paid for it."

Zane thought again, painfully, of the beautiful, rich, romantic Angelica.
Ahahaha, Zane you massive fuckup.

Zane gets the job explained to him, sort of, and then Lachesis leaves him with only cryptic advice about how Mortis will help Zane, that while he performs the office of Death Zane won't age, and that he will, eventualy be slain by his successor in turn cause that's just how Death do.

She also very strongly advises him to take Deaths bling with him, and I'm only very slightly altering that for humours sake. Zane is a little bitch about taking the items from a corpse, but manages to find his big boy pants and acquires the watch and earring... OF DEATH !

We also learn that there are five of these 'Incarnations of Immortality', who act as field agents between God and Satan, with their mortality and soul held in abeyance while they do so such that they need not worry about it while they perform the office. These five are Death and Fate, who we've met... sort of, as well as 'Time', 'War' and 'Nature'. No real info on what they actually do, except for Lachesis who 'measures the threads of life'.

Until he is killed himself, however, Zane is not expected to personally reap every soul that shuffles of the mortal coil, rather he must act when a soul is so balanced between sin and virtue that it cannot go where it is supposed to itself and oh boy here comes the objective morality based on anglo Christianity. I remember being rather uncomfortable with it even at the time, and am vastly less comfortable with it now; to his credit, Zane won't be super happy with it either. This implies that Zane himself was right on the edge at the time of his attempted suicide, though it's unclear wether the suicide was already 'counted'.

Either way, he really seems to have dodged a bullet there. Get it ? Eh ? Eh ?

...not going to quit my day job I guess.

Furthermore while he is not required to reap them personally, nothing can die until he 'officially' takes up the office of Death At least not human can, it's unclear wether this applies to non-human, and it won't matter.

Zane gets his first taste of the social invisibility as his landlady, concerned for 'Mr Z' - really ? What, too lazy to come up with a surname for the main character ? - enters the room, discovers the corpse of the former Death - who, for plot grease, has taken on Zanes features - and mistakes him for a cop.

Zane reasons this is because a cop is the sort of person she would expect and one that provides safety and secuhahahahahahahahahaha. That aged VERY poorly. Zane then shoos her out and just leaves, while musing that the death stone had been correct after all, as it had not prophecised his death but his encounter with Death. Yes Piers, very clever.

Also Deaths car is subject to the same pseudo-invisibility because, no kidding, it'd be a problem if the Deathmobile got towed, and it has a bad joke sticker :

IoI1 RaPH said:
He walked up to it and around the rear. The license plate said MORTIS. That explained Fate's reference to the name; he had somehow thought she referred to a person, but obviously it was the machine. There was a bumper sticker: DEATH IS NATURE'S WAY OF TELLING YOU TO SLOW DOWN. Just so.
If this is what counted as wit in the eighties I'm glad I didn't experience most of the decade.

Our hapless protagonist is now nominally ready to resume the whole 'people die' thing, but of course hasn't the foggiest about what to actually do.

It figures that being a field agent of the powers that be is like being an intern.
 

Leila Hann

Member
Ah, Incarnations of Immortality. I read this series when I was thirteen and thought it was the coolest thing ever, because when you're thirteen everything seems like the coolest thing ever.

So I remember enjoying these books, but whenever I think back hard enough to remember a specific detail for them it's just OH GOD WHY.
 
Page 17 - 28

hghwolf

Chicken Warlord
Pronouns
he/him
Zane is just blown away by how amazing the Deathmobile is. Alligator leather seats, solid chrome metalwork and whatnot. His social conditioning about how nice things aren't for poor people makes him afraid to even drive it.

Then his watch tells him that he might be Death now but that just means he has even less control over his life; eight minutes to get somewhere and do something, presumably reap a soul, which is a bit of an ask for a guy who hasn't even been on the job for that long. The powers that be seem quite enarmored with the idea of 'sink or swim on the job training', and doesn't that just figure ?

Zane spends two of those minutes coming to the conclusion that Fate had a hand in his predeccesors death, in a way, and wondering if, and if so why, she had beef with him. He also realizes that if Fate had her hand in this whole thing she could just as easily have him iced, so he better get to doing his job.

So Zane girds his loins, hits the ignition and hyperdrives his way to where he must perform his duty. No really, the cars mode of travel is referred to as a 'hyperdrive'.

How does Zane know where to go ? Magic rock... OF DEATH !. You may be noticing a theme with the magic here. I'm embellishing, of course, but Zane does refer to the watch as the 'Deathwatch'. Thankfully no fascist supersoldiers from the grim, dark future of the 41st millenium are involved.

The magic rock of Death guides Zanes to the scene of a car accident outside of what he believes to be Anchorage based on his heading and starting point, and here the true meaning of 'noone dies until you start your job' really hits :

IoI 1 RaPH said:
The man in the truck was half-stunned. The woman in the little car had an enormous sliver of supposedly unbreakable glass through her neck. Blood was gushing out of her, flooding the dashboard, but she was not dead.

Zane hesitated, appalled. He saw no way to save the woman-but what was he to do? Cars were screeching to halts, carpets were landing, and people were converging.

The woman's glazing eyes clarified, momentarily. She saw Zane. Her pupils contracted to pinpoints. She tried to scream, but the blood cut off her breath, keeping her silent.

Someone nudged Zane's elbow. He jumped. Fate stood beside him. "Don't torture her, Death," Fate said.

"Finish it."

"But she isn't dead!"

"She can't die-quite-until you take her soul. She must remain in terrible agony until you put an end to it.

She and all the others who are trying to die during this hold period. Do your duty, Death."

Zane stumbled toward the wreckage. The woman's terrified eyes tracked his progress. She might see nothing else, but she saw him-and Zane knew from his own recent experience how horrible the oncoming specter of Death was.
So yeah. Horrible agony, well and truly mortal injury, most of the way dead... but you can't actually die. A scene like this must be playing out hundreds of times the world over right then.

You uh... you better do something about that Zane.

The woman, very feebly, tries to ward Zane away when he goes to her, which is understandable, and her 'physical and emotional pain' reminds him of his mother when he... we do not learn when what, only that even that wasn't as horrifying.

Then Zane fucks up; inexperienced soul reaper that he is he manages to tear the womans soul as he removes it, the souls physical manifestation being a sort of thin, wispy cloth analogue.

Horrible mistreatment of a human soul aside, he does manage to set things into shape, however.

Fate reminds him that he must now also judge her, which Zane protests, but she tells him to be a big boy and not fuck up too hard, then leaves. If you're trying to make me dislike her, Piers, then you are failing very, very hard.

With his first job... not completely bungled, Zane discovers he has seven minutes to get to the next one.

Death seems like the sort of job that would have been way, way less stressful twothousand years earlier and just never changed with the times. Then again it's kind of odd that even with the 5 billion humans that are alive at the time of the book - 80s anglo author, remember ? What's population growth ? - there are this many people with nigh perfectly balanced souls - inarticulate screaming about objective morality imposed by God goes here - dying for this frequency to be a thing.

Zanes next job is in Phoenix, Arizona. Unsurprisingly the hospital. He learns that he's pants at judging distance travelled in the Deathmobile but reasons he'll get better over time, which indicates that he's accepted his new job... well, we'll see.

His 'client' is an old man who has been rather desperately awaiting this moment and is ready as all hell to get out of his body. I was expecting some libshit about 'but what if mental illness, then we take away bodily autonomy !' here but Zane, surprisingly, is entirely in agreement with the whole 'right to die' thing...

...and it is heavily implied that his mother was in a similar situation and he helped her.

IoI1 RaPH said:
The man smiled again. "It was a pleasure, Death. It provided me a brief respite. If you ever discover a person truly being kept alive beyond his will, you must use force if necessary to ease him. I think you will do that."

Again Zane thought of his mother. "I have done that," he agreed in a whisper. "A person has a right to die in his turn. I believe that. But some would call it murder."

"Some would," the client agreed. "But some are fools." Then his face tightened with a spasm of intense pain. "Ah, it is time!" he gasped. "Do it now, Death!"
This time Zane does a lot better and hooks the soul out clean and swift, leaving a corpse with a smile on its face.

Heaven, by the way, is NOT in agreement with people having a right to die, as we will discover soon. Heaven is rather a big pile of wank here.

The next 'client' won't be for half an hour, which seems more reasonable, so Zane has a sit down and attempts to figure out the whole 'judge of souls' bit, and discovers that it's rather less 'judging' and more 'consign the soul according to the data provided by the analytical tools we gave you'. What you didn't think Death had agency did you ?

It works like this : There's a pair of magic gems which fit into each other. One grows heavier as it passes over the soul and absorbs the weight of sin, the other grows lighter as it passes over the soul and absorbs the uh... weightlessness of virtue ? When the soul has been entirely 'scanned' by both rocks they can be fit together and wether it floats up or sinks down determines wether the soul should be floated up to heaven or dropped down to hell on magic balls of pith and lead respectively.

How delightfully stupid, and Zane agrees. He hopes that he'll be able to update the whole procedure, as it seems rather a callous way to treat souls, which shows us that Zane has never worked for a big corporation like Heaven&Hell incorporated before.

To his relief Zanes tools determine the 'we must be allowed to die if we wish' mans soul, which of course is 'checkered' with sin and virtue because that's the obvious pun the author of the PUNishingly cringey Xanth books would go for, is granted passage into heaven so he ties it to one of the pith balls and sends it on its way.

The whole process took enough time that now Zane only has ten minutes left, so he moseys off again for his next client.

Which is baby. Oh boy the implications.
 
Page 28-37

hghwolf

Chicken Warlord
Pronouns
he/him
Okay so let's actually talk about those implications. Zane knows, or has been told at least, that the following things are 'true' about souls and his job :
1. Souls carry the virtues and sin of their owner, which lifts them up or weighs them down.
2. Deaths job is to reap and send on the proper way those souls who are too balanced in virtue and sin to find their own way to heaven or hell.
3. As sin is something that people accumulate over their lifetime, newborn babies are the closest thing to a true innocent.

IIRC a later book implies that babies fall into Deaths remit anyway, but in the here and now Zane is demanded to reap a baby who, as far as he knows, should not possibly have the required characteristic of 'balanced soul'. Zane is justifieably baffled as to how this can be.

I should note, by the way, that this baby is located in a decrepit farmhouse in some unspecified, rural, medditeranean community. It's mother is deeply sick and injured, but noone seems to care about her, even though Zane hears a bunch of people in the house.

Okay, we get it, evil non-anglos. Sit and spin Piers.

Zane gets out of the situation as fast as he possibly can and attempts to judge the babies soul but he can't. The soul is uniformly gray, the analysis stones return a result of 'not moving chief', so he decides to play around with the Deathwatch instead.

It turns out it has functions to both reschedule the next 'appointment' to a limited degree as well as 'freeze' the death timer, which he reasons is so he can sleep and eat and shit, but which must also play merry hell with the mortals. Zane decides to postpone figuring out the Deathwatch and
instead figuring out how to deliver to baby soul to Purgatory, which he figures is where it should go.

Bit of a leap there my dude.

Then this happens :
IoI1 RaPH said:
He assumed that if Heaven and Hell were literal, so was Purgatory-but where was it?
"There is so much I don't know!" he exclaimed.
"This, too, shall pass," someone answered him.
I'm pretty sure that line and that situation were already cliche in 1981.

The speaker is Chronos, the incarnation of time, and he was summoned by Zanes playing around with the Deathwatch. Time is... poorly explained in these books, and I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the book specifically concerned with him - oh yeah, incarnations are gender locked. Death, Time and War are always men while Fate and Nature are always women, which itself has some fun implications - and I'm unsure if he actually DOES something.

He explains some more of the job to Zane; that his 'buffer' time should not exceed twelve hours or it will be logged against his soul account, that Zane can secure passage into Heaven upon retirement by being a good worker and that incarnations are not bound to but typically will assist one another. He also has a great line about 'Heaven being the last refuge of adequacy'.

And then he tells Zane about why the baby soul is 'balanced' and, well...
IoI1 RaPH said:
"I can clarify the matter. The baby is probably the child of incest or rape, so carries the burden of intensified Original Sin. Such children, conceived in evil, do not commence life with a clean slate."
"Original Sin!" Zane exclaimed. "I thought that was a discredited doctrine!"
"Hardly. It may not be valid in non-Christian parts of the world, but it is certainly operative here. Belief is fundamental to existence, and guilt is very important to religion; so guilt does carry across the generations."
"I don't like that!" Zane protested. "A baby has no free will, especially before it's born. It can't choose the circumstances of its conception. It can't sin."
"Unfortunately, you do not determine the system; you only implement it. All of us have objections to aspects of it, but our powers are limited."
It's like the perfect blend of Christian dogma and liberalist capitalism to cause MAXIMUM FURY

This is the point where any 'good' persons objective should change from 'do my job and reduce suffering as much as I can in the doing' to 'attack
God and topple his throne'. Zane, being a bit shit, decides to consign the baby soul to Purgatory and keep his head down.

He does get a Purgatorial estate however !

Of course he has no idea how to get there still, but Chronos explains 'just ride your horse there, after all Death TITLE DROP'.

Zane discovers that the Deathmobile has a 'turn into a horse' button. No, I'm not joking. It's a thing that exists, and the Pale Horse has a 'turn into Deathmobile' button as well. Cause, y'know, that isn't utterly stupid at all.

It's a pretty cool horse though :
IoI1 RaPH said:
Zane pressed the button-and found himself astride a magnificent stallion. The hide of the horse was as pale as bleached bone, his mane was like flexible silver, and his hooves were like stainless steel. He lifted his great equine head, perked his ears forward, and snorted a snort of pale vapor.
Chronos eventually flies off and Zane gets back to the drudgery. His next 'client' is in a sportsball stadium, and I'll be honest, the description of the play going on makes it sound quite fascinating. It's basically the thing Americans think football is but with magical tricks; headwinds as penalties, super jumps, foul obscuring spells and in one instance a clothes transparency charm.

The teams are female, the 'Does' and the 'Ewes', and I have the sinking feeling this spell isn't used as much in the male competitions. Also the whole thing is weirdly fetishy ?
IoI1 RaPH said:
The Does were pressing hard. They wore bright blue suits whose protective padding accented their female qualities enormously. To Zane it was really too much; even prize-winning milking goats lacked udders as massive as these appeared to be. Maybe he was too close; in times past, watching television, before his set was repossessed by the finance company, he had admired the pig proportions.[/i]
Uh...

Moving right along.
IoI RaPH said:
Suddenly there was a break. The Ewe quarterback launched a desperation toss, buttressed by a levitation spell, that hurtled a hundred and twenty feet. The receiver closed on it-and the defending Doe, Number 69, shoved her out of the way and intercepted the ball.
LeSigh.

Number 69, by the way, is Zanes client; she gets her neck broken a little later, and he realizes this at about the same time the rest of the stadium does, which means he was late in collecting her soul and left her to suffer for a minute longer than she strictly speaking had to because he was so into the game.

Zane, credit to him, realizes he fucked up and berates himself for it.
IoI RaPH said:
Unprofessional? Who was he to fancy himself a professional in this grim business! Still, he did have a job to do, and he might as well do it properly. At the very least, he could do it in a manner that relieved distress, rather than promoted it.
Which, if you disount 'attack god and topple his throne', is about as much as can be hoped for from the Grim Reaper.
 

Leila Hann

Member
Oh yeah, that women's sportsball game. I forgot that that was in the first few chapters of the first goddamned book of the series.

It doesn't get better.
 
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