This a story I read between 20 and 30 years ago. The protagonists are the supernatural powers in the Christian mythology: God, Death, Satan etc. I think somewhere at the beginning, a man is about to die: Death comes for him, but he shoots and kills Death - and becomes the new Death himself. Later on it turns out that God is, not dead, but unreachable - incommunicado or something like that, and the 'Powers' decide to replace him. For this, they all need to donate some of their greatest powers; I recall the Devil being reluctant to give his Curse.

I know this is vague - I wasn't good at noting down these things in my younger days. Does anybody recognise the story? I believe it was a novel.

  • God being incomunicado is made explicit in book 6, 'For Love of Evil'. I don't remember any giving up powers being involved in the replacement of the Incarnation of Good; the difficulty came in finding someone on whom all the other Incarnations might agree. It's a while since I read them though. – AakashM Nov 27 '19 at 12:49
  • FWIW, the sixth book was the accepted (by comment) answer at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/154995/… – FuzzyBoots Nov 27 '19 at 15:12
  • Really this whole question is a spoiler for the series climax :-\ But I can thoroughly recommend the series, read in order. – Criggie Nov 28 '19 at 8:54
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    @Criggie From what I have already read by Piers Anthony, knowing the end doesn't detract from the enjoyment - there is probably a lot to like on the way. – j4nd3r53n Nov 28 '19 at 8:57
  • That's not really for a question-writer to decide though. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 28 '19 at 19:25

This is On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, part of the Incarnations of Immortality series of books. The first book covers the hero's transformation into the incarnation of Death as a result of some inadvertent gunplay.

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

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  • I'll accept this as an answer, but only partial - I must have mixed up two stories. This one is exactly what I remember, but it doesn't seem to have the part where God is replaced; I'll post that as a separate question - thanks for this one, though. – j4nd3r53n Nov 27 '19 at 12:10
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    Incidentally, the "fancy gunplay" is a little overstated. He tries to commit suicide via pistol, death comes in a bit ahead of his cue, and Zane manages to move the pistol as his finger is squeezing the trigger, plugging Death in the head. It's later pointed out that there are several things that should have prevented this, and the prior Death failed to use them, either from overconfidence or as a form of suicide. – FuzzyBoots Nov 27 '19 at 15:06
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    @j4nd3r53n if this question is not about God being replaced, you should change the title. In fact it looks like FuzzyBoots' answer is perfect. – theonlygusti Nov 27 '19 at 22:58
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    @theonlygusti No, the title is right, and I've got two very good answers. This first one didn't explicitly mention the book in which God is replaced, but I very quickly found that by looking in Wikipedia. And then came the second answer. – j4nd3r53n Nov 28 '19 at 8:30
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    @j4nd3r53n: You might want to change the accepted answer, then. – Ilmari Karonen Nov 28 '19 at 13:57

I think you're combining two books in the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony. The first book, On a Pale Horse, does chronicle Zane taking over the mantle of Death after killing the previous incarnation, and it is mentioned that God is inaccessible, but it's the seventh book, And Eternity, that covers the replacement of God.

After an overwhelming succession of tragedies, life has finally, mercifully ended for Orlene, once-mortal daughter of Gaea.

Joined in Afterlife by Jolie -- her protector and the sometime consort of Satan himself -- together they seek out a third: Vita, a very contemporary mortal with troubles, attractions, and an unsettling moral code uniquely her own.

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    For Love of Evil, the ominous 6th book mentioned by @AakashM is indeed the sixth book of that series. So we have three people thinking they recognise the story and all three point towards the Incarnations of Immortality. (Just posting this for people who want to get all pieces together.) – user1129682 Nov 27 '19 at 13:19
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    This just keeps giving - now I have 7 books to look forward to. – j4nd3r53n Nov 27 '19 at 14:08
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    @j4nd3r53n: Technically, there are eight... but stop with the seventh one. You'll thank me for it. – FuzzyBoots Nov 27 '19 at 14:32
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    @FuzzyBoots Personally, I would stop at Book 5. The first 5 were fantastic. The last two were...not. I haven't bothered with number eight. – TimothyAWiseman Nov 27 '19 at 23:43
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    @TimothyAWiseman sounds like the Artemis Fowl series... – Xavon_Wrentaile Nov 30 '19 at 8:16

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