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Lord of Light Paperback – March 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

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, --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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060567236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060567231
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Claude Avary on February 2, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This Hugo award-winning science fiction classic turns the usual technological approach to the genre on its head. "Lord of Light" reads much more like fantasy than science fiction, and like Frank Herbert's classic "Dune," it's a rare example of a science-fiction novel deeply concerned with spirituality and metaphysics.
It is also a difficult novel. Readers more interested in adventure or hard science fiction will find Zelazny's dense, intricate style tricky to maneuver or concentrate on. The cast is huge, and most characters either go by multiple names, or switch names and bodies as they are reincarnated. This is the sort of novel that requires focus and attention to appreciate. Those who give it the time it deserves will discover a true classic, and a strange experience unique among science-fiction books-even for Zelazny, who lead the field of the new-wave authors of the 1960s.
The story follows the inhabitants of an Earth-colonized planet long after Earth has ceased to exist. The colonial leaders have developed the technology to turn themselves into god-like figures, based on Hinduism, and rule the lesser people in a metaphysical tyranny. The hero, Sam (only one of his many names, such a Buddah) returns from banishment to lead the struggle to free the people and spread technology to make everyone "gods." He finds strange allies along the road, including the original alien inhabitants of the planet, known as Rakashas (demons) in the pseudo-religion invented by the rulers. In a short space, a great deal happens and Sam wages both war and peace against the "gods."
"Lord of Light" is definitely a trip...and milestone in science fiction, but it isn't for the casual fan.
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123 of 131 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on November 11, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first chapter of "Lord of Light" intentionally confuses the reader; Zelazny starts his novel near the end of his tale and provides little in the way of background or explanation. Mahasamatman ("Sam") is resurrected from the ether by the artificer Yama, whose technical skills at reincarnating the human form is unsurpassed among the inhabitants of this alien planet. Yama, with help from the goddess Ratri and from Tak (who is currently banished to the form of an ape), have recalled Sam from eternal peace to help them confront several gods who struggle for control of the world.

From this opening, the books shifts to a series of tales, in flashback form, recounting Sam's past and explaining the history of the battles among the gods. Although these divine rulers share the names and personae of the Hindu pantheon, it soon becomes apparent that the "gods" are simply the original colonists who came from Earth millennia earlier, who keep the planet's present occupants in a sort of medieval fiefdom, and who have acquired immortality by transmigrating from body to body. But there is an ongoing struggle in "heaven" between the Accelerationists (led by Sam), who want to share technology with the rest of mankind, and the Deicrats, those gods who want to maintain their lives of luxury and oppression.

Many of the earlier chapters are told in the form of disjointed legends, but halfway into the book the pace evolves into a continuous storyline. Those readers who argue that "Lord of Light" belongs to the fantasy genre more than to science fiction have a point: beyond the futuristic technology practiced by the "gods" (which is more of a sideshow than a major plot element), the novel's prose style, structure, characters, and action resemble what you'd find in many a medieval saga.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By flying-monkey on November 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Occasionally a science-fiction book is written that reminds everyone why the genre is so important. A book so extraordinary, so inventive, so full of wit, imagination and intriguing possibility that it just shines out of every page.
Lord of Light is such a book.
Here in the UK, it has recently been one of the first books to be re-released in the 'SF Masterworks' series. Not only does it fully derve this title, it stands head and shoulders above most of the other titles on this list and indeed all of Zelazny's extensive back-catalogue.
Put as simply as possible, the story is one of the way in which ideological factions diverge and conflict over the human colonisation of a distant planet,how over a long time the differences within the human society - and between humans and the indigenous inhabitants - become fossilised and reconstructed into a parody or recreation of Hindu myths, and finally how this decadent parody is challenged from within by one of the original colonists - Mahasamatman, or Sam, the Lord of Light - who takes on the form of the Buddha.
Around this central tale, Zelazny manages to weave so many themes. It is a sensitive and compassionate re-imagining of Hindu mytholology, yet aware of the shortcomings and the challenge posed to traditional Hinduism by Buddhist teachings. It is a tale of technologically-facilitated decadence and moral decline, of the way in which technical abilities can become more important than the purposes for which they were developed. It is a fable about how inequality and class division emerge, are structured, fossilized and challenged. It is story of memory and forgetting, of how history can be constantly rewritten -consciously and unconsciously - by the powerful, and lost to the weak.
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