Top positive review
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Entertaining and thought-provoking
on 7 September 2003
In brief: Science fiction meets Hinduism in one of the most surprising, intriguing and enjoyable books I've come across in a while. Highly recommended.
The story centres on an off-Earth colony which has come to be utterly dominated by its founders, who rule with the names, personalities and even the attributes of Hindu gods. With the injection of SF technology, social and political control pivot upon Hindu tenets with a futuristic twist. Reincarnation functions through personality-storage and cloning, allowing effective immortality for the gods, and some very bad karma for any who oppose them. The populace is held in a permanent low-tech state to ensure it continues to need its gods; innovations that might benefit mortals, such as the printing press, are swiftly eradicated.
Stylistically, too, it is brilliant. The whole thing takes the form of a Hindu epic, in terms of both language and structure. The hero, Sam, rebels against the gods by (literally and figuratively) taking on the Buddha role, preaching against the priesthood and the oppressive rituals and strictures which bind society. And through this, Zelazny brings out some of the most interesting implications of his blend of SF and myth, exploring how the 'gods' have merged with their masks to truly _become_ their mythic roles.
Finally, and importantly, _Lord of Light_ also contrives to be a truly entertaining read. Deservedly a classic.