Bearing an Hourglass

by Piers Anthony
Series: Incarnations of Immortality 2
Reviewed date: 2004 Feb 23
Rating: 3
372 pages
cover art

Bearing an Hourglass is the second of five novels in Mr. Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series (the first is On a Pale Horse, which I reviewed earlier.) Hourglass chronicles the adventures of Norton, newly appointed Chronos, the incarnation of Time. The novel is flawed: first, the author fails to establish the motivations of the main character, such that at times his actions seem pointless and contrived merely for the author's entertainment. Furthermore, the book fails to paint a convincing picture of the importance of Chronos's job. In the first book of the series (On a Pale Horse) one can easily see the importance of Death's job: he must collect souls and determine if they should ascend to Heaven or descend to Hell. However, in Hourglass, Chronos seems to have no real duties at all. All he does throughout the book is to run around through time fixing things that he screwed up through his ignorance. If he had just refused to ever travel through time at all, there would never have been any problems that needed fixing in the first place.

Still, there were some interesting parts. I pronounce my judgment: Bearing an Hourglass is hack fantasy. It's a fun read, but there is nothing particularly compelling, there aren't many intriguing new ideas.

Oh, and one more thing: it is a time travel book, but because it's fantasy we're just supposed to ignore any paradoxes. Because, you know, Chronos is magically immune to paradox. The author makes a big point about that.

In the interest of full disclosure I must mention that I don't much like fantasy. It's too easy for the author to use magic and suddenly change the rules on you, which is cheating. And furthermore, even if you see a contradiction or an inconsistency, the author can just brush it off as a product of magic. Fantasy can be done well, for example, The Lord of the Rings, but for the most part I stay as far away from swords and sorcery as I can. Also I don't like time travel stories.

Wow...I guess I had nothing good to say about that book. It really wasn't as bad as all that. Go ahead, read the book. Expect to be mildly entertained, but don't expect great literature.

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