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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 26 May 2015
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..
Still, forget Argo, and buy the book if you love sci-fi.
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on 14 September 2017
Unreadable - pretentious but great ideas/concept
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Zelazny was a very bright shooting star when he first appeared on the fantasy/SF radar some 35 years ago, a new writer of power, originality, insight, and depth. Lord of Light was his third novel, and it exemplifies all these qualities in grand style. Combining the Hindu/Buddhist mythos/religion with the science-fictional concepts of true re-incarnation via technology-enabled body swaps, set on world dominated by those who have access to the technology, and are thereby effectively real gods, this book is a powerful statement of character, philosophy, and morality.
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)
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on 10 April 2004
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!
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on 28 June 2008
Hard to follow at first, but worth persevering with. The story itself is nothing special, and could do with the confusingly named characters and objects being explained better, but the sheer quality of the writing more than makes up for it. In places, it's more like poetry than anything else.
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on 8 April 2008
My all time favourite. I've read many SF and fantasy books but Lord of Light tops them all. It's not merely the inventive and multi layered story or the enigmatic and intriguing characters, but also the author's brilliant style of writing that makes the book almost perfect. Roger Zelazny was (he died in 1995) a man of very few words, so you have to read his books very precisely, absorbing every word, in order not to miss anything.
Lord of Light is basically about Sam, a renegade 'god' and his resistance against the rule of the established gods. These gods are, in fact, former crew members of a star ship, which crashed on a distant planet millenia ago. After a fierce battle, the crew managed to defeat the planet's indigenous inhabitants and confined them to a far-off place called Hellwell. They adopted the identities of Hindu gods and developed a technique to 'reincarnate' in new -artificial- bodies. They conveniently kept all technical know-how involved in the complicated reincarnation process to themselves, as it proved a highly effective means of keeping their offspring under their thumbs.
Lord of Light is not an easy read, particularly because the story is written in a non-chronological order. At first, this may be quite confusing but it will soon become clear that it is the only way to get the essence of the story properly across. The story itself may seem pretty straightforward, but it is certainly not a linear narrative. There are various aspects woven into it; religious, social, and political matters are dealt with in an almost casual, but awe-inspiring manner. The story's protagonist Sam, a man of many names and identities, is an inspiring individual, a leader and a teacher. His initial opponent and later ally is Yama-Dharma God of Death, a cold, cynical and arrogant man, who's character is probably even more important to the story as Sam's. The author himself once put it this way: my first intention was to let Yama die at some point in the book, but then I realised that the strength of Sam's character would be seriously weakened by Yama's death, so I decided to keep him alive.
Zelazny must have made an in-depth study of Hindu culture and religion before he wrote this book. Many of the names, Aspects and Attributes of the self-proclaimed gods, especially those of the most important ones, are actually based on the characteristics of present day Hindu gods and goddesses. As a result, the book allows you a pretty good insight in Hindu religion and culture, and, although it's a bit o.t.t now and again, the story never loses any of its credibility.
Mandatory reading for fantasy and SF fans! A bit of advice: read the book at least twice for a better understanding.
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on 26 July 2017
My notes on Lord of Light:

the book is good, and has an very interesting premise balancing a difficult story between sci-fi and fantasy. Its end is more pleasurable than its beginnings as the many characters intentions and factions are at least recognizable. Overall the book is not so easy to follow due to its language , use of scissored narrative technics and specially a latent world building. I read so many other reviewers here mentioning that they read the Wikipedia page in order to understand the book properly that I tried myself to see what I was missing. By reading the Wikipedia page for the Lord of Light I am sure that that information is an amalgamation of other book related sources than the actual story itself. The world building and the narrative of space colonization is beyond subtle, it is only hinted occasionally. Each reader could easily come with very different conclusions about what the book is about regarding its sub-plots and world design. Perhaps that is a good sign rather than a weakness. However the ambiguity in the characters role in the world does not help to make that a strong moment mind wondering by the reader but enhances the feeling of 'how far is worth reading.'
The book however pick up speed towards the middle with the many gods interacting in battles and plots against one another. I was very enthusiastic and satisfied when I finish the book, but the book I was happy about was not the same book I thought I would find in the narrative of the Lord of Light. It appease to me as an adventure where gods battle and decided the fate of humanity out of their own selfish schemes instead of displaying more clearly the contrast and tension between one of the gods divine and human qualities in a world between technology and divine attribute.
Between 3 and 4 stars I went for 4 for its entertaining and unorthodox proposition even though I would like to have seen more of that flesh out.
If you a fan of sci-fi and a patient reader I do recommend this book.
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on 4 August 2017
With prose to die for, this is easily one of the top five speculative fiction novels ever written, it defies classification into the normal fantasy/sci fi genres, spanning both sectors easily. Zelazny has a masterful imagination, and a way with words that is equal to the greatest english language novelists. I read this at 16 years old, and still gain enormous pleasure from re reading one of the classic works of fiction.
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on 8 January 2017
One of the standout novels of its time. A mixture of Buddhist and Hindu deities (in reality the crew of a starship) and their millions of descendants fighting a war of freedom, domination and liberation . This has a place on my 'keep it' shelf
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on 12 February 2003
From the Nineteen Sixties comes Zelazny’s imaginative and psychedelic vision of a human colony run amok on a distant planet. The settlers, endowed with fantastic technology, are given powers which allow them not only to take on the roles of the Gods of the Hindu pantheon, but to make reincarnation a reality.
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.
This novel, however, has more to do with Absolute Power Corrupting Absolutely, set against a background of a war of ideologies.
It’s an interesting point to make in Late Sixties America where Anti-government protests were at a peak. ‘Sam’ after all, is a euphemism for the spirit of America itself so maybe there is a case to be made for seeing this as Zelazny’s allegory of American society rising up to change the status quo. The Sixties of course, also brought us a fascination with all things ‘Eastern’ (as the Twenties did with all things Egyptian) and Zelazny certainly exploits that here.
Interestingly, one of the seminal SF novels of the Sixties, ‘Dune’ follows a remarkably similar plot line, in that an exiled member of the aristocracy – thought to be dead – joins the common people and rises up against a decadent system of government.
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