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Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny
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Lord Of Light (original 1967; edition 2006)

by Roger Zelazny

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,353721,620 (4.1)111
Member:andyl
Title:Lord Of Light
Authors:Roger Zelazny
Info:Gollancz (2006), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:science fiction, nebula shortlisted, hugo winner

Work details

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967)

  1. 61
    The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (storyjunkie)
    storyjunkie: Both books carry a philosophical weight to their world-saving. A similar atmosphere to their protagonists, worlds, and occupancy of a more soul-searching lot in the science fiction spectrum make them nicely complementary to each other.
  2. 20
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (WildMaggie)
  3. 20
    Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny (PMaranci)
    PMaranci: Another award-winning novel by Roger Zelazny in which science fiction and classic Earth mythology intertwine.
  4. 00
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    Silverlock by John Myers Myers (boneslv)
    boneslv: It also has many famous literary characters in it.
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» See also 111 mentions

English (70)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
One of my all-time favorite books. I love his ability to switch from formal to informal language. I love the plot. I love the philosophy. I love his smart imagination.
  LauraMarkowitz | Aug 11, 2014 |
I think this is as good as RZ ever got. Are we dealing with Hindu Gods? or Science nerds? Who are better, the Gods or their devoted worshipers? A Fun read. ( )
  DinadansFriend | May 30, 2014 |
I haven't read this book in years, and I probably won't. It overwhelmed me when I first read it, but those were different days, and a different world. I'd prefer to keep that amazement, and not have it lost by revisiting. I'd recently read Hesse's Siddhartha (something I do every few years), and encountering this sudden reinterpretation kept my attention from the moment I picked up the book. When it came out in paperback, I bought my own copy, and read it all over again.

I still love this book, but some things are best left to memory. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 17, 2013 |
Interesting mix of science, religion and progressivism.
  pdow | Nov 11, 2013 |
Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment at the foot of the Bodhi tree and became the Buddha: his teachings swept across India, striking at the roots of decadent Brahmanism. The Hindu priests were understandably alarmed, but were helpless against the doctrine of the eightfold path as the stale air inside a room against the tempest raging outside. So they did the clever thing: after the Buddha's passing, they assimilated him and made him an avatar of Vishnu (in fact, they licked him by joining him). Perhaps this is the fate of all reformers!

This much is history. Roger Zelazny takes the bare bones of this story, adds the exotic ingredients of Indian myth and legend haphazardly, seasons it with the spirit of Prometheus who moved against heaven, and serves it up as a science fiction novel. For people who have not tasted exotic and spicy Indian dishes (at least not regularly), this is extraordinary fare indeed: alas, for my jaded palate, this is quite ordinary.

Zelazny writes superbly. The novel is structured imaginatively-as Adam Roberts says in the introduction, the author deliberately wrong foots us with the flashback. The language is rich and lush and a bit cloying, like India at its exotic best (or worst), seen from an “Orientalist” perspective. In an age when characterization was almost nonexistent in SF, Zelazny gives us rounded characters who behave consistently. The SF elements are also well developed and consistent with a technology so far advanced that it is “indistinguishable from magic” (to borrow from Arthur C. Clarke).

That the author is well acquainted with India is obvious. He knows the names of a lot of Indian gods (not only the Vedic pantheon – Murugan is a Tamil god). From the way the Kathakali performance is described in detail, I am almost sure that Zelazny has travelled in Kerala (my native place). The way each god’s “Attribute” defines him or her is more or less consistent with Hindu mythology – and it has been translated into scientific terms quite convincingly. And the way the “Rakasha” (the Rakshasa s and Asuras of Indian myth) have been described as elemental spirits of the planet, subdued and imprisoned by the human colonisers, closely parallels the real origin of these demons in folklore.

But once all the bells and whistles were removed, I found the story of a renegade god moving against the celestial dictators quite ordinary. If the whole Indian pantheon were not in the story, if it was just the tale of a plain “Sam”‘s rebellion, I do not think this book would have merited a second glance at the awards. It was sold under the label of exotic India, like many other orientalist offerings. One might argue that this was Zeazny’s intention, and that there is nothing wrong in it: I would tend to agree. His vision of using Indian myth to flavor a science fiction novel was (at the time of its publication) a bold, path-breaking move. Only thing is, I am not one of the intended audience!

I have one more caveat: Zelazny mixes and matches the gods and their attributes with a free hand (especially towards the end). Since these are not true gods but human beings who have taken on these attributes, this is technically OK, but it soon becomes a pot-pourri very difficult to follow. Also, in the process, he saw many of the gods only single dimensionally (this is most notable in the case of Krishna, who is seen only as a lecher).

I would recommend this book for people unfamiliar with Indian mythology. I am afraid those who are well-read in the same may feel disappointed.
( )
2 vote Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
As opening lines of novels go, Lord of Light's are among the best I've ever read, and based on how many people have quoted them to me in the last few weeks, the best a lot of you have ever read, too. In twenty-five words, they capture the best-loved aspects of the book — the seamless blend of antiquated cadence and insouciant modern vernacular, of modest sincerity and dry humor — and more, they tell us, in part, what the story is about.
added by lorax | editio9, Josh Wimmer (May 9, 2010)
 
Fantasy disguised as science fiction disguised as fantasy: Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light
added by sturlington | editTor.com, Jo Walton (Nov 9, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roger Zelaznyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, StevenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walotsky, RonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Dannie Plachta,
of friendship, wisdom, soma.
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It is said that fifty-three years after his liberation he returned from the Golden Cloud to take up once again the gauntlet of Heaven, to oppose the Order of Life and the gods who ordained it so.
Quotations
Names are not important... To speak is to name names, but to speak is not important. A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying, 'What is it like, this thing you have seen?' So he tries to tell them. Perhaps he has seen the very first fire in the world. He tells them, 'It is red, like a poppy, but through it dance other colors. It has no form, like water, flowing everywhere. It is warm, like the sun of summer, only warmer. It exists for a time upon a piece of wood, and then the wood is gone, as though it were eaten, leaving behind that which is black and can be sifted like sand. When the wood is gone, it too is gone.' Therefore, the hearers must think reality is like a poppy, like water, like the sun, like that which eats and excretes. They think it is like to anything that they are told it is like by the man who has known it. But they have not looked upon fire. They cannot really know it. They can only know of it. But fire comes again into the world, many times. More men look upon fire. After a time, fire is as common as grass and clouds and the air they breathe. They see that, while it is like a poppy, it is not a poppy, while it is like water, it is not water, while it is like the sun, it is not the sun, and while it is like that which eats and passes wastes, it is not that which eats and passes wastes, but something different from each of these apart or all of these together. So they look upon this new thing and they make a new word to call it. They call it 'fire.'"If they come upon one who still has not seen it and they speak to him of fire, he does not know what they mean. So they, in turn, fall back upon telling him what fire is like. 'As they do so, they know from their own experience that what they are telling him is not the truth, but only a part of it. They know that this man will never know reality from their words, though all the words in the world are theirs to use. He must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. Therefore, 'fire' does not matter, 'earth' and 'air' and 'water' do not matter. 'I' do not matter. No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words. The more words he remembers, the cleverer do his fellows esteem him. He looks upon the great transformations of the world, but he does not see them as they were seen when man looked upon reality for the first time. Their names come to his lips and he smiles as he tastes them, thinking he knows them in the naming. The thing that has never happened before is still happening. It is still a miracle. The great burning blossom squats, flowing, upon the limb of the world, excreting the ash of the world, and being none of these things I have named and at the same time all of them, and this is reality — the Nameless.
I have many names, and none of them matter.
It is said that fifty-three years after his liberation he returned from the Golden Cloud, to take up once again the gauntlet of Heaven, to oppose the Order of Life and the gods who ordained it so. His followers had prayed for his return, though their prayers were sin. Prayer should not trouble one who has gone on to Nirvana, no matter what the circumstances of his going. The wearers of the saffron robe prayed, however, that He of the Sword, Manjusri, should come again among them, The Boddhisatva is said to have heard...
His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.
It was in the days of the rains that their prayers went up, not from the fingering of knotted prayer cords or the spinning of prayer wheels, but from the great pray-machine in the monastery of Ratri, goddess of the Night.
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A new trade paperback edition of the late science-fiction master's Hugo Award-winning classic, telling of a band of men who through technology made themselves immortal.

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