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Bearing An Hourglass (1984)

Bearing an Hourglass (1984)

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3.93 of 5 Votes: 3
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0345313151 (ISBN13: 9780345313157)
random house ballantine del rey

About book Bearing An Hourglass (1984)

Book two in the Incarnations of Immortality series is about the Incarnation of Time. Now, if you know me, you know that I love stories about time and time travel. My favorite book is The Time Traveler’s Wife, my favorite movie is Back to the Future. This storytelling idea holds a great deal of fascination for me. Bearing an Hourglass features the Incarnation of Time, someone who can travel to any point in time, can bend time to his will, and who freaking lives backwards. This should be a book of endless fascination, one of my favorites in the whole series.This book bored the ever-loving snot out of me.Even as a kid, when I first read these books, this one was my least favorite. 1, 6, and 7 were favorite, I liked 3 and 5, 4 was okay, and 2 I read because it was part of the series and I felt like I had to. Many series suffer from what I like to call “Second Book Syndrome,” where the first book sets expectations so high that the second book is just a complete disappointment, either because the first book was just too good, or because after achieving the publishing success he needed with the first book, the author doesn’t feel the need to try as hard on the second book. And I’ll admit that the expectations set by On a Pale Horse do factor into my opinion of Bearing an Hourglass.On a Pale Horse used the personification of Death to give us a deep, multi-faceted, and unique look at the concept of death and dying, helping us see it in ways that we, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. Anthony’s intentions at the time, stated pretty early on, was to do a book for each of the five incarnations (Death, Time, Fate, War, and Nature), so my expectation was that this would be another idea-driven book like the first one, this one exploring the nature of time, the perceived passage of time, cause and effect, and many of the other things that are usually pretty deeply explored in time travel stories like The Time Traveler’s Wife and Back to the Future. Unfortunately, the only things that were really explored were the technical details of how the hourglass--Time’s magical artifact which allowed him to travel--worked, which were mind-numbingly boring, and the fact that Time, or Chronos, lives backwards, which Anthony tried to explain so often and so thoroughly that not only did it leave nothing to the imagination, but it ended up making the idea way more confusing than it needed to be. In short, rather than exploring time from a philosophical perspective, Anthony just explained and explained and explained and (my God, shut up already!) EXPLAINED! how time worked in his own particular universe.In lieu of an idea-driven story, I would have settled for a character-driven one. Those I will always accept. But if Anthony’s writing has one weakness (and it doesn’t. It has several. But this is one of them) it’s his characterization. He has one male protagonist and one female protagonist that he writes about constantly. Yeah, he’ll change the names and appearances (kind of) and maybe add a few personality quirks, but that’s all they: quirks. Fundamentally, they’re the same. And Norton, the man who becomes the Incarnation of Time, is no different. He’s bland, boring, and absolutely forgettable as a character. Yeah, he has this tragic romance at the beginning that he has to come to terms with, but even that’s just glanced over, just this little side story that doesn’t really go anywhere. None of the characters left any impression on me whatsoever. Even the office of Time itself is uninteresting, which is really something coming from me. The first book gave us quite a bit of detail on what exactly the Incarnation of Death does, how he does it, and why it’s important. But even after reading this book at least twice, I have no idea why the Incarnation of Time is even needed or what exactly he does, aside from travel through time and sleep with Fate.Finally, given what an interesting story Anthony set up in the first novel with the war between God and Satan, and given that this story is taking place twenty years after the first, when some major blow is supposed to be struck against Satan, I would have been perfectly fine with a purely plot-driven story. But even though I can tell that Norton defeated Satan and won the day, it really feels like absolutely nothing was accomplished. So little happens in this story, because when it comes right down to, there IS NO PLOT. There are a bunch of little subplots, but absolutely no main plot. There are whole chapters in this book that contain nothing but pure distraction, offering only minimal connection to the story. In fact, the story in this book offers only minimal connection to the overall story of the series. There is no reason why you can’t completely skip this book. You would lose nothing in the overall story.I really feel like this was a book that Piers Anthony felt obligated to write, but he had no idea what to do with it. I think this really illustrates that Anthony’s strength lies in fantasy, not science fiction. The sci-fi elements he does have in here are either poorly explained or overexplained . . . or in many cases, both. There is nothing driving this book, not ideas, not characters, not plot, and it really shows. I’m willing to admit that my expectations were set pretty high by the first book, but it really feels like Anthony wasn’t even trying on this one. It’s just a bad book, plain and simple.Worth rating: Worthless

Bearing an Hourglass was a disappointment. On a Pale Horse was a hard act to follow. Hourglass was off to a quick and compelling start, but once Norton became so downtrodden that he was easy to manipulate into accepting the Office of The Incarnation of TIme, the book started to unravel for me. He was a well-developed protagonist who was easy to root for, and the idea of Time living his life backward was a good one (in fact, it was this idea that got me to pick up the first three books of this series) but I was annoyed by the clunky explanations of the physics behind it all (though I appreciated the effort) as well as the transparently elementary nature of Satan's tricks and how Norton's playing a part in them was insulting to the intelligence of his character. Also, Norton's debates with Satan paled in comparison with Zane's debates with him in On a Pale Horse, which were more thought-provoking and morally ambiguous. I will go on to the third book in the series, however, because I'm still intrigued by the story and love the fact that these novels can be read as stand-alone books and probably can be read in any order (except that On a Pale Horse does establish the reality of Earth a little bit in the beginning, but it would be easy to pick up no matter where you started). I forgot to mention in my review of On a Pale Horse that I LOVED the Author's Note at the end (and loved it in this book as well). Anthony lets you into his entire world - the personal world of his family, his life, his writing process, the publishing business, pretty much everything that went on in his world while he was writing the book. That was even more fascinating than the book for me. The Note at the end of each book is long, but very worth reading.

Do You like book Bearing An Hourglass (1984)?

An audio book, from the Humble Bundle, this is the second in Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality fantasy series. Its a series that explores the supernatural "jobs" (Fate, Mother Nature, Death, etc) and how they are ordinary people who are given, win, take the job from the previous owner (think Dred Pirate Roberts). This story centers around Chronos, who is the incarnation of Time.Chronos lives his life backwards and has, as his tools of office, a cloak that makes him invincible, an hourglass that helps him control the flow of time and his Jiminy Cricket, a snake, who turns into a ring and can only communicate in Yes/No squeezes (in ring form) of Chronos' finger. This story is a wild ride where in the end Chronos has to defeat Satan and his nefarious plances to take over the universe (basic pulpy stuff here)Time and the story flow in different directions at times and at first it was a little bit confusing. But once, I got used to it, things started to click and I enjoyed this trippy tale of time.S: 10/2/14 F: 10/23/14 (7 Days)

Piers Anthony’s second book in his Incarnations of Immortality series, “Bearing an Hourglass”, is, in short, not a very good book. While there are moments when it seems a step above its predecessor, its second half pulls it quickly down. Among its crimes are flat prose, weak characterization, eye-rolling dialogue, nonsensical plot elements—and, unfortunately, I remember this being one of the stronger entries in the series.As in “On a Pale Horse”, the story is built on the interesting conceit that magic and science co-exist in an alternate Earth and that the central guiding forces—Death, Time, Fate, War, and Nature—are offices held by humans. In each of the first five books, it is about a human taking on one of these offices and doing battle with the Satan, the Incarnation of Evil, as he tries to tip the balance on Earth to his favour.At first, Hourglass appeared as a slight improvement over Pale Horse. Certainly the characterization was still flat and dominated by stilted monologues, but the stereotypes seemed to be less egregious. Yes, the sexism was there again, but was somehow a bit more muted and/or guised as character traits this time. Hopes that this was book was actually an improvement were gone the moment the actual "plot" took over. From the moment Satan, the principal antagonist, arrived in the narrative, the book was broken into two types: 1) painful conversations filled with nonsensical exposition and pseudo-philosophy; and 2) hokey pulp science-fiction and fantasy scenes overly-reliant on the stupidity of the central character that were clearly designed to pad out a too-short narrative. Sometimes these types also overlap. An enjoyable time this does not make.The writing is pure Anthony, I’ve come to realize. Stilted dialogue and prose, with a half-formed plot of stringed-together vignettes that rely too heavily on poorly defined characters and unearned realizations (that are themselves of questionable validity).“Bearing an Hourglass” was the first book I read in this series when I was a kid and I loved it (and the series). Revisiting it as an adult, from a box of old books stored away, has been a disappointment to say the least. The fact that this was, in my recollection, one of the better ones (along with Pale Horse and For Love of Evil) in the series has convinced me to give up attempting the remaining books any more.

Time Warp for your brain: This is the second book in an increasingly complex twist of plots. In itself it can stand alone as a good read, but is better read in sequence. Piers does a good job of trying to explain the complexities of living backwards to the normal space-time continuum, although you need to re-read these explanations to fully understand it. The characters in this and other stories are very believable as you recognize yourself in them to a certian degree. It is worth reading the authors notes at the end, as these explain his thinking at the time of writing, and are very thought provoking. It does leave you questioning certain factual aspects of his view of space-time and also your view on the comos being run by supernatural forces that humans interact with. However, you do feel for Norton, and his plight and that of his lover, Orlene. But all works out well by Book 7 in the series. Not a classic, but a jolly good read.

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