Bearing An Hourglass is the second book in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. By being in the wrong place at the right time, Norton hesitantly takes over the position of Incarnation of Time as its previous holder winks out of existence.
It's a mixed blessing. There are some kewl perks, but also some things that take getting used to. Such as having one's lifetime run backwards to everyone else's. And having to match wits with Satan.
What's To Like...
BAH is similar in structure to the first book in the series, On A Pale Horse (reviewed here). Norton receives some nifty pieces of equipment to go with the office, and goes on some neat quests as he learns the ropes of being Chronos.
Piers Anthony again takes the opportunity to muse upon the aspects of the main topic, in this case it's Time, instead of Death. Things like Predestination, Time Stoppage, and one of my favorites - Traveling backwards and forwards through Time.
You meet some kewl characters, such as Bems ("Bug-Eyed Monsters"), an Alicorn (like a unicorn, but without the cuteness), and a Sword Elf. Thanatos and Luna reprise their roles from the first book, and there is the novel concept of a "ghost marriage". Quantum Physics (the birth of the universe) shows up again (I've been encountering it a lot lately), and when's the last time you met a hero named "Norton"?
Kewlest New Word...
Discarnately : In an immaterial, disembodied state; without a body or form.
"At age two I fashioned a rope out of my blanket and scaled the summit of the playpen wall and went after the cat. I vivisected her after she scratched me for cutting off her tail. So they brought in a werecat who changed into the most forbidding old shrew when I bothered her. She certainly had my number; when I toasted her feline tail with a hotfoot, she wered human and toasted my tail with a belt. I developed quite an aggravation for magical animals." (pg. 4)
",drawkcab gnivil er'eW" she said.
"?eh si lleh eht ohW" the man demanded, glaring at Norton.
",snomed morf gnidih s'eH" she explained.
"-lleW" he began, then paused. "?drawkcaB"
",drawkcaB" she agreed firmly.
"!top eht ffo tog" tsuj I tuB" he said, annoyed.
The woman looked at her unconsumed repast. "?did uoY" she asked, making a connection. "-snaem taht nehT"
"taht toN" he exclaimed. (pg. 238)
"Is that all there is to human life - blasting gunks?" (pg. 280)
The separate parts of BAH are entertaining, but they never coalesce into a coherent whole. Side characters come and go, and you keep expecting them to reappear, to have their fates resolved, but it doesn't happen.
Norton goes on quests, but they don't really contribute to the overall plotline. Our fledgling Incarnation once again thwarts Satan's designs, and while the confrontation is a bit more protracted than in OaPH, outwitting the Ultimate Evil One is still all too easy. And Sning ("Snake Ring") seems to conveniently have all the answers to too many questions, so that there's a lot of telling when there should be more showing. All this may gel at some point further along in the series, but is it too much to ask that each book provide a complete story within itself?
Still, BAH gives you lots to think about (such as inter-species bigotry), and Norton's adventures make for interesting reading. As long as you don't ask it to all fit together. 5½ Stars.