Roger Zelazny:Lord of Light

I remember when Author Polls were being conducted on the Usenet written SF newsgroup. Most of the time, the results were a bit scattered, but once or twice there was a book that was voted head and shoulders above the rest of the author's work. Lord of Light was that book for Roger Zelazny. At the time of the poll, I'd read little more than the original Amber books, but I decided that if so many people liked it... (Of course, I didn't care for The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, which got similarly high scores...)

I needn't have worried.

The book takes place on a colony planet where the original colonists, and a few of their descendants, have given themselves the powers of gods. They had perfected a technique by which a "soul" could be transplanted from one body to another, even upon the death of the original, and as such were virtually immortal. They patterned themselves after the Hindu pantheon, of Kali, Yama, Krishna, Shiva, et al. (It's not necessary to be familiar with them before you read, since they are introduced gradually, but no doubt one would pick up on a few things someone less informed might miss.)

They were divided, though, on whether, and to what extent, their technology should be shared with the rest of the colonists. The decision was made in favour of the "gods" keeping their technology to themselves; the other faction, the Accelerationists, were purged.

Except for one of the first-generation colonists, Mahasamatman, who preferred to go by Sam, who had been absent. He decided to strike back, first by introducing the religion of Buddhism, and then by forming an alliance with the Rakasha, a native race who were forms of pure energy.

The one problem I had with the book was the timeline. After the first chapter, the story moves back quite a few years and doesn't return to the starting time until quite near the end. This in itself, I have no problem with, but there were few clues to the regressed timeline, and every chapter I had to check carefully to determine whether we had returned to the "present" or not. Your mileage may vary.

It does live up to its hype, though. If you like anything else by Zelazny, you will probably like this book.

%A Zelazny, Roger
%T Lord of Light
%I Avon
%C New York
%D Copyright 1967
%G SBN 380-00187
%P 319 pp.
%O Paperback, US$0.95

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