Bearing an Hourglass is book two of the Incarnations of Immortality series. In this book series, every book introduces a mortal man that becomes an incarnation of one of the basic aspects of the universe: Death, Fate, Time, Nature, War, Evil and Good. Better yet, all seven books deal with the same story – so we can see it from the various incarnations’ perspective. In addition, this particular story is self contained, so it is possible to enjoy the book without reading any of the others (in fact, out of the seven, I only read four or five and I don’t feel compelled to read the remaining books).
In Bearing an Hourglass, we are introduced to Norton, a mortal human who has lost his true love, and consequently, feels life is pointless. In an odd turn of events, Norton finds himself receiving a weird offer: take the office of Chronos, and effectively become the incarnation of time (replacing the previous holder of the title in the process). But this great power comes with a price: Norton lives his life backwards, a price heavier than it might seem at first, since he can only have very limited interactions with other people.
As Norton quickly finds out, Satan, the father of lies, is trying to take advantage of his lack of experience (something Satan does in all other novels, by the way). Thus, Norton finds himself in a conflict with both Satan and the other incarnations.
Bearing an Hourglass is a classic Piers Anthony novel: extremely imaginative, but very weak in character development and shallow at some points. In general, I really like the setting, and the premise of this particular novel. However, the novel itself is not very good as its execution is poor, and strangely, at times the story doesn’t appear to make sense – or just becomes stupid. Not to mention the unexplained obsession with sex.
Despite these criticisms, I think Bearing an Hourglass is generally a fun read. What makes it particularly memorable is the time perspective. From Norton’s perspective, the story goes backwards; this offers many interesting plot twists. For example, immediately upon becoming Chronos, all of Norton’s friends already know him for many years, whereas he’s only introduced to them towards the end of the book (which is chronologically the beginning).
As a side note, if you liked this book, I’d recommend reading the first one in the series as well. ‘On a Pale Horse’, the first book, deals with the incarnation of Death (though to be honest, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Mort’ – which deals with exactly the same concept – is far, far superior).
In summary: a very light and yet a fun read. If you don’t expect too much from this fantasy novel, you’ll probably enjoy it.
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Tags: Fantasy, Incarnations, Living life backwards