Lord of Light Paperback – 13 Mar 1986
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In the 1960s, Roger Zelazny dazzled the SF world with what seemed to be inexhaustible talent and inventiveness. Lord of Light, his third novel and the seventh in Millennium's SF Masterworks series, is his finest book: a science fantasy in which the intricate, colourful mechanisms of Hindu religion, of capricious gods and repeated reincarnations, are wittily underpinned by technology. "For six days he had offered many kilowatts of prayer, but the static kept him from being heard On High." The gods are a starship crew who subdued a colony world, developed godlike--though often machine-enhanced--powers during successive lifetimes of mind transfer to new, cloned bodies and now lord it over descendants of the ship's mere passengers. Their tyranny is opposed by retired god Sam, who mocks the Celestial City, introduces Buddhism to subvert Hindu dogma, allies himself with the planet's native "demons" against Heaven, fights pyrotechnic battles with bizarre troops and weapons, plays dirty with politics and poison and dies horribly but won't stay dead.... It's a huge, lumbering, magical story, told largely in flashback, full of wonderfully ornate language (and one unforgivable pun) that builds up the luminous myth of trickster Sam, Lord of Light. Essential SF reading, despite this edition's tiresome typographic errors. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
One of the very best must-read SF novels of all time --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
One of the main strengths of this book, as we have a large set of fully realized characters, each with their own motivations and desires, whose interactions form a complex weave of happenstance and emotional intertwinings, that give the novel a unique order and flow, and are sure to evoke multiple responses in the reader.
The prose style is more than adequate to the task here, sometimes brilliantly, almost poetically descriptive, at other points understated, leaving items just slightly nebulous, ready for the reader's imagination to complete. And the religious statements will burrow into your mind, forcing little cracks of enlightenment and quiet meditation. The story is not told in linear order, which some may find a little confusing, but as each piece of the story is unfolded and wrapped into the whole, it forms a mosaic that layers in your mind, building a tightly interlocked edifice of strength and stature.
Zelazny here has managed to create an archetype, a legend for modern times, with real relevance to the reader's everyday life, with a great promotion of life philosophies without preaching. Sadly, Roger is no longer with us, there will be no more of these brilliant tour-de-forces, but this will stand as one of his finest gifts to the world. A gift that everyone can enjoy and appreciate.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
Those deemed worthy are reborn in new vat-grown bodies while those deemed less karma credit-worthy come back as animals, or sometimes not at all.
The novel follows Sam, who is Mahasamatman, Binder of Demons, Lord of Light, aka Siddhartha; Tagatha; Buddha…etc etc. Unhappy with the decadent behaviour of his fellow Gods he plans a revolt against Heaven to end the inequality between them and their worshippers.
It’s an absurd premise, but Zelazny’s masterful style transforms it into a credible and compelling novel.
It’s written in the language of Myth and Legend – interspersed with relevant passages from the Upanishads – which is occasionally, and sometimes amusingly, dragged into the focus of reality by Sam’s laconic ‘Urath’ wit and terminology.
For all its mythic nuances and Science Fantasy shell, ‘Lord of Light’ is rooted very solidly in Science Fiction. Although occasionally drawn into the psychedelic and fantastic world of Gods and Demons we are always drawn back to the fact that these creatures were once human, changed beyond recognition by what are merely very powerful toys.
Zelazny explores this theme again later in his Amber series, where Corwin (like Sam) is estranged from what is essentially a family of Gods and is forced by circumstance to return to bring change to their somewhat stagnant and decadent society.Read more ›
This is a superbly crafted piece of writing which is a proud addition to the SF Masterworks re-releases. Beautifully written with never a wasted word, 'Lord of Light' works perfectly on every level. Thousands of years ago colonists wrested control of a planet from various dangerous indigenous creatures. With their vast technology giving them the ability to 'reincarnate', these people now wield God-like powers over the planets populace who are ignorant of their origins, kept in a state of technological childhood with advances stamped on by the 'wrath of the Gods' in order to maintain control. With the power the original colonists have at their disposal they model themselves on the pantheon of Hindu Gods, with each God having certain responsibilities within the 'Heaven' they keep themselves in. Enter 'Sam', one of the Firstborn original colonists who now believes the people have the right to decide their own destiny without meddling from the Gods. Sam begins to spread the word Buddha amongst the peoples of the planet, often generation after generation, slowly building a separate following of peoples to those beneath the yolk of the Pantheon, attempting to bring about change through peaceful means. But Heaven sees the threat and acts accordingly.
So much goes on in this book that I can do nothing but lessen it by trying to describe what happens in a couple of paragraphs. The book reads in a wonderfully ambiguous way- by never going into details about the technology you get the feeling that you're reading an excerpt from some 'Hindu Myths and Legends' book, then a certain turn of phrase, or a certain Gods power remind you you're reading science fiction.
This is genuinely that very rare thing- a timeless Sci-fi story!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the first half where the ideas are first presented and the language and writing are strong and lively but thereafter became increasingly bored because fundamentally, I... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Sailor
This is simply one of the best "social science fiction" books ever - certainly in my top 10. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Prof Colin Talbot
Speedy delivery in as good convention as advertised. Very happy with the purchase.Published 9 months ago by Petteri
Gave it as a present, and has become one of the favourite books ever.
Cited in the movie Argo it's the book they use as excuse to create a movie from nothing.. Read more
Definitely one of the best works of Roger Zelazny - and, of course, one of the best works in the field of s-f/fantasy. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Sparrow
Excellent excellent novel. Mixes hindu/bhuddist mythology with some basic sci fi elements, but this book is much more than a sum of those two parts. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Beautiful Beard