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Fantastic mix of the ancient and the futuristic,
This review is from: Lord Of Light (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
I am inclined to like to read science fiction which engages in speculative futurism but of the kind which involves appraisals of the uses of religion, norms and mores over vast timescales or considering how their development or considering what possible purposes they serve. Especially so where one may think, with super advanced technologies such as space flight operating in the background, that they would be totally anachronistic. I believe this is why I enjoyed Dune, also part of the masterworks series, so much as it featured "space fuedalists" and things such as the "zen sunni" or "orange catholic bible". Zelazny takes things even further than Dune and it is a total joy to read it if this is your particular niche.
Whereas the conflict playing out in Dune was between rival fuedal houses the conflict in Lord of Light is between "deocrats", those invested in the perpetual rule of a caste of deities, and "accelerationists", those committed to an accelerated social development among the population inhabiting the planet upon which the story unfolds, in the process dispensing with or at the very least changing the status of the deities. The Lord of Light himself, who has been part of the pantheon himself, one time buddha and prefers to be known simply as Sam is one of the most relatable characters I've read in some time, the faith and hope he inspires in the characters within the novel he interacts with, including some which really should have nothing but enmity for him, is something which is easily shared by the reader.
The book does go in and out of a sort of mystical narrative style of writing, which is necessary considering the role that the same sort of thinking and belief systems play within the novel but there is enough in the way of returns to, for want of a better phrase, objectivity or "reality checks" to keep the underpinning story moving along. The pace and style established by Zelazny is good, I did feel that the story moved around a little and was not linear in a way that I am altogether used to or prefer but it doesnt spoil the book by any stretch of the imagination. For instance the nature of the Gods, what is meant by "aspect" or "attribute" and how those things function is revealed gradually, at this point and then at another, how characters are literally capable of the transmigration of the soul etc. is not revealed in singular speeches or pieces of narration but throughout the whole storyline in dialogue between the characters. This is never a laboured process or point either, which is also very good, the reader has enough to go on while they anticipate or await the next revelation as the story progresses.
It is hard to fault many of the books picked for inclusion in the sci fi masterworks series, even when I have read books by authors and thought they could produce rubbish aswell as great works of fiction, like Silverberg has, the actual books choosen for the series itself are generally pretty flawless. That said there are some of them which are stand alone classics, even succeeding in putting the others in the series in the shade and I have to say this is one of them. Highly recommended.