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Lord of Light [Paperback]

Roger Zelazny
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 13 1986
Imagine a distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Here they have made the stage on which they build a subtle pattern of alliance, love, and deadly enmity. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods who rule the destiny of a teeming world? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. The gradual unfolding of the story -- how the colonization of another planet became a re-enactment of Eastern mythology -- is one of the great imaginative feats of modern science fiction.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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, is his finest book: a science fantasy in which the intricate, colorful mechanisms of Hindu religion, 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. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rules their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons. Lord of Light.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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HIS FOLLOWERS CALLED HIM MAHASAMATMAN and said he was a god. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deep science fiction May 15 2004
Format:Paperback
Humanity defeats the native "energy" beings that populated the orb and establishes a colony on the planet with a Hindu like societal order. Using advanced technology, the crew of the ship transfers their minds into a new body when theirs is near death. They also develop other advances that enable them to form a pantheon with god-like powers. Beneath them are the colonists and even further below in this pyramid of power are the natives. No one bucks the leadership as not only can they technology reincarnate they can convert others into animals.
One of these techno-Gods, preferring to be called Sam rather than Mahasamatman, feels that the mistreatment of others is morally wrong. He thinks that he and his peers should share their technology with the lower strata. His peers insist those beneath them are incapable of dealing with godlike powers and need their hand to guide them. Sam never claimed the mantle and though he hates what he feels he must do, this "fallen angel" leads a revolt against his ruling brothers and sisters as he wants to establish a different world order.
This is a deep science fiction novel with religious and social overtones. The story line is loaded with action, but also takes its time to defend critical arguments set forth by author Roger Zelazny. The cast fosters the concepts of the plot so that development is targeted more towards an idea than a character. Still with all that this is a cerebral tale that will have readers pondering a host of subjects from comparative religions to white man's burden to fostering American style democracy in Iraq, etc. in a clever novel that will require concentration or one will miss a point.
Harriet Klausner
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fading Echo April 4 2004
By JR Dunn
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This turned out to be Zelazny's masterpiece. It wasn't supposed to be that way--Zelazny was the '60s version of the guy who was going to hoist SF into the artistic empyrean. That didn't happen. (It never does--see Varley, John, and Gibson, William.) But he did leave behind "Lord of Light", and a few other works that serve as glowing examples of what can be done within an all-too-often infantile form.
The premise is that an interstellar colony has, so long ago that the events are no more than legend, been turned into an effectively eternal dictatorship by the starship crew, who with the aid of advanced tech have acquired the aspects of the Hindu pantheon to lord it over the poor peasantry. (There's also a dour Calvinist theocracy elsewhere on the planet, but that's another story.) The protagonist is Mahatsamatman, known as "Sam", a man who is not, in fact, the Enlightened One, (though everyone insists otherwise) but is close enough. He decides to overthrow the whole miserable structure, and that's the story in a nutshell. Battles, conspiracies, encounters with alien, and not very advanced, energy beings, betrayals, disasters, and all else follow, in the style of the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata, along with plenty of 20th-century wise-guy prose. (Zelazny was also a student of Chandler.) This is a great roaring monster of a book, of a kind that would have a very hard time getting published today. (It's also *structured* like the Mahabharata, with vast chunks of out-of-sequence narrative--the first chapters occur *after* the ensuing two-hundred-odd pages--which would be guaranteed to drive the current generation of editors out of their minds.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dense but Fascinating Exploration of Power March 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Zelazny successfully weaves a tale of the far-future in which a form of quasi-immortality is achieved by transferring one's mind to new bodies. The ruling elite utilizes a mindreading technology to review the quality of one's life, and this is used to reward or punish a person with either a better or worse form. In effect, science has discovered the means to mirror the Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation.
These technologies are used to solidify the power of the Deicrats, the ruling elite of the planet. Morality is secondary to how well one supports their grip on power. Those who oppose the structure are destroyed. Those who are in power, the ones who hoped to style themselves after gods, are driven by the same dark emotions that have powered mankind through history: ambition, jealosy and greed. This story is about Sam, a man forced to choose between joining with this system of power, or rebelling against it.
While this is a relatively short book (by modern science-fiction standards), it is also dense reading. Slogging through the first chapter and a half is necessary before things really start to click along.
This is a novel that is rich with ideas. It demonstrates the harm that can be caused by caste systems borne out technological haves and have-nots. It portrays the classic theme of "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but also shows that goodness exists within a few humans to oppose corruption. It does both of these against a unique, Hindu-inspired backdrop supported by the necessary science.
Your enjoyment of this book will probably be driven by the type of science-fiction reader you are. If you want something heavy on ideas and milieu, you will probably love this.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Karma Chameleons of the far future
This story is one of my favourites from way long ago when it first came out and I was a hipppie college student who had graduated after doping out dropping acid and flashing... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2012 by Mark Latour
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychedelicized Gita
Sorry but I just can't quite jump on the bandwagon behind this novel. I know I shouldn't be second-guessing a "classic" - and this book does deserve this consideration... Read more
Published on June 15 2004 by doomsdayer520
5.0 out of 5 stars Lord of the Fantastic
Zelasny walked the thin line between Fantasy and SF probably better that any one. This book shows this like no other. Read more
Published on May 29 2004 by Angel Rapallo
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't say I've read anything better in my entire life
Lord of Light is without a doubt, one of the best things I've read (and I've read a LOT, believe me). Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by Kibosh
5.0 out of 5 stars Hi re-read value
The other reviewers pretty much said it all about this book, which justly deserves its 5 out of 5 stars. Read more
Published on April 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Sam, the eternal rebel
I've always considered "Lord of Light" (1967) one of the hardest of Zelazny's SF novels to follow. The story line weaves and doubles back upon itself. Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by E. A. Lovitt
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to be contrary, but...
This book didn't grab me as much as I had expected. The description I got was of a thought-provoking look at religion from the perspective of technology; gods being simply highly... Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2004 by Casual reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but incredibly rewarding classic
This Hugo award-winning science fiction classic turns the usual technological approach to the genre on its head. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2004 by Claude Avary
2.0 out of 5 stars poorly written and confusing
This book has an interesting premise. People have become Hindu gods. They can re-incarnate themselves. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2004 by Anne B.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Work of Science Fiction
This book is the finest example of what Roger Zelazny did best: synthesize fantasy and reality into something truly breathtaking in scope. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by M. S. MAYFIELD
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