It was a simpler time, a decade when greed ran rampant, collars were worn in their appropriate upright positions, music was formally introduced to video, and a certain yellowed hued brat could still shock the moral majority by quipping, “Eat my shorts!”.
Let’s go back to the late 80’s, my formative high school years, and the time when I discovered one of my favorite pieces of literature. With my mullet firmly coiffed (don’t hate the player), I still remember scanning the then much smaller science fiction / fantasy section of our local bookstore at the mall. No visit was complete without one and I could spend hours browsing the shelves, reading back pages and searching for that spark to my literary curiosity......
I was looking for something to read while waiting for the next installment in Robert Asprin’s Myth series to come out, I can’t remember in between which books that was now, when I found this particular book. I wasn’t familiar with the title but the yellow cover caught my eye. It was the first time I’d ever seen the grim reaper pictured behind the wheel of a sports car with the landscape of a city sprawled out behind him. To say the least, it spiked my interest and then the title turned it around again, On a Pale Horse. Wait a minute there’s no horse on this cover, what was I getting into here. I’d never read a Piers Anthony novel before but based on that cover and the promised premise, I was sold.
The story was like nothing I’d read to date and it dealt with universal themes that I hadn’t seen explored in novels yet. Anthony stripped down the some pretty big world players and made them seem relatable. I mean, who could kill death, and why would anyone want to take over that gig. He made death seem like a nine to five job as the main character, Zane, learned the tools of the trade along the way and it fascinated me. The mechanics of it all; Mortis – his faithful sidekick whether he was in horse, limo, boat, or car form, the chronometer, the cloak, and the gloves, created a truly original concept of Death for me. Satan, Fate, and Chronos (Time), rounded out the characters’ card and backdrop to a story centered on one ordinary guy thrown into extra-ordinary circumstances. I was immersed in a world that made the big seem small and changed my perspective of how we looked at it all.
The book was published several years before I actually discovered it on the shelf and this was the first in the Incarnations of Immortality series, several of the other books were out by that time, but that novel remains my favorite in the series.
Anthony blended elements of horror, science fiction, and fantasy together in a story that dealt with relationships and self-growth and mirrored perspectives that drew me in as a reader and inspired me as a writer. Dealing with such high-brow players but bringing them down into such palatable concepts of greed and envy and revenge are concepts that have stuck with me as an author and have inspired concepts in my own work over the years, looking at the big picture but focusing on the small dramas that make them come to life.
My new novel, Welcome to GreenGrass, mixes magic and technology in a city trapped under a dome, and the characters are forced into investigating a murder that could destroy their way of life but it’s the personal conflicts that I hope truly drives the story. In my next book, I explore death and moving on, and how it affects those around you, with a cyber-paranormal twist, of course. Expansive themes but small boundaries to keep a personal perspective for readers.
That same bookstore has changed names several times since then and over time I’ve watched that basic premise in Anthony’s work duplicated in multiple other genres, in novels, TV, and movies but it was always the introduction to that world stage, tackling concepts in such an original way, that puts On A Pale Horse in a special section of my personal bookshelf.
S.A. Check is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author. As a kid, he was influenced by comic books, heroes and villains, conflict and cliffhangers. He read which-way fantasy books, science fiction and fantasy series, and classic horror fiction. While earning his degree in English / Writing from Penn State University, he was exposed to poetry and prose, Shakespeare and Albee, anthologies and world lit.
Today he lives with his E.R. nurse wife and tween daughter in Southwestern Pennsylvania and enjoys all the small dramas that come down the path. He’s an active participant over at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturdays, a member of the Pennwriters author group, and has contributed multiple articles to local newspapers. His short story, Tangled Lines, appeared in the charity anthology, Hazard Yet Forward, and he achieved his first published novel, Welcome to GreenGrass with Bedlam Press, an imprint for Necro Publications, the first of what he hopes are many tall tales of his to be told.
Visit his author profile over at Necropublications.com, his blog at sacheck.blogspot.com, Facebook, Google +, Goodreads, or shoot him a tweet @S_A_Check.
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