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Lord of Light (1967)

by Roger Zelazny

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,7501051,937 (4.03)164
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.… (more)
Recently added byejmw, fratres, dcsch, private library, Linkmeister, Anthony4182, allanahk, liate
  1. 61
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  2. 20
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» See also 164 mentions

English (103)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
Another book from the SF Masterwork series and this one was published in 1967. This highly regarded novel is more fantasy than science fiction and seems to have been timed perfectly to appear in the year of the 'Summer of Love'. India was all the rage and the Beatles were off to India to meditate with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in February of the next year, maybe one of them had a copy of this novel in their suitcase, which is based on the myths and legends of the Hindu Gods.

Sam the enlightened one sometimes known as Buddha, Tagatha, the binder of demons etc.... has been summoned/released from a prison in the sky by Yama the deathgod. They along with other re-incarnated deities are planning to battle with the city of Heaven where Kali, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh all live in the celestial city. There are also the Rakasha or demons who Sam had defeated in battle during a previous life: they are whirls of light that can take the form of a human, there is also a zombie army led by the Dark One who like the other groups wish to see Heaven destroyed. The Gods of course have special powers as do the Rakasha and take great delight in carving paths through the luckless humankind who are merely canon fodder. Much of the book is a flashback filling in the complicated history that led to the imprisonment of Sam. The new group is preparing for the final battle with the Gods of the celestial city.

I don't know if the heat was getting to me (the second heatwave of the year - temperatures up to 41 centigrade), but my eyes were glazing over whilst reading this. It did not really hold my interest, it all felt too much like a marvel comics battle of superheroes. This was not the fault of the author who writes good prose and holds the story together well. This reader could not relate to the attributes or the aspects of the gods or the demons, it was all too much fantasy. I felt no connection to the events and just wanted to know how it all finished. When I read the plot summary on the wiki page it said that The Lord of Light is set on a planet colonized by some of the remnants of vanished Urath or earth. The crew and colonists from the spaceship 'The Star of India' found themselves on a strange planet surrounded by hostile indigenous races and had to carve a place for themselves or perish, I presume the crew of the spaceship became the Gods living in Heaven. I do not remember reading any of this in the Masterwork edition that I read. I do however remember eating in many restaurants called the Star of India, but this did not help me much.

Not my kind of book and so 3.5 stars. ( )
  baswood | Jul 18, 2022 |
Zelazny has a way of plunging the reader into a world which is confusingly familiar and unfamiliar. This book is no exception. The plot of this book is fairly straight forward. However, this book is not really about the plot. It is a novel whose meaning shifts like a kaleidoscope depending on what you currently believe the motivations and true beliefs of the characters to be. I suspect that I could read this book multiple times and each time come to slightly different conclusions about who Sam, Yama, and others really are and what they really are not.

I also appreciate how this novel ages better than many from the same period. Largely, this is because the technology that undergirds the world is intentionally only presented at the level of magic. Thus, you don't have any moments of "They anticipated galaxy travelling spaceships but not smartphones?"

In this day and age, it is worth addressing the fact that if this novel were written today, it would almost certainly be decried as a massive cultural appropriation because of its use of Hinduism and Buddhism. I think that it escapes that accusation because the book makes clear that it is the characters within the book who are appropriating religion to their own selfish ends. Whether or not it was Zelazny's intent--and he was writing in the late 60s, so I could see it going either way--this reads more as a commentary on abusive cultural appropriation. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
Delightful and light, [puns intended].
What is missing in all prior reviews, is that the movie script for "Lord of Light" was purchased by the CIA and renamed "Argo." ( )
  DromJohn | May 13, 2022 |
Utterly brilliant. SF meets hinduism, with buddha as the hero. Work that out. ( )
1 vote hierogrammate | Jan 31, 2022 |
September 24, 2017
This is the first Roger Zelazny book that I've attempted. It'd been on my to-read list for a long time, and I cannot recall why I chose this particular book over any of his others. I don't know what I was expecting, but I'm at 14% (Start of Chapter 2), and I can't take much more of the 60's-vibe mysticism. I just labored my way through Dune, and I'm just not up for reading another book which is probably only enjoyable while the reader is high.
  KrakenTamer | Oct 23, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (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 (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zelazny, Rogerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, George R. R.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary 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.
First words
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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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.

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