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Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Lord of Light is widely regarded as the magnum opus of Roger Zelazny(author of the popular Amber Saga), and I agree. It blurs the line of fantasy and sci-fi, though it is classified as sci-fi because 'fantasy' wasn't really the term you would use.I could've sworn it was written in the last few years, not in the 1960's. The plot is so intriguing and original that Zelazny could've hired a four year old as a ghostwriter and I wouldn't care.


The Hindu gods reign supreme in a Dark Ages-esque world. But as the plot unfolds, it is revealed the gods are nothing more than the First: the original passengers and crew of the colonizing starship The Star fo India that settled on this world millenia ago. Technology had advanced to the point they had veritable Reincarnation machines and could put their 'spirit' into new host bodies. They use these machines to keep the populace in check as well---if you displease the gods, you may find yourself as an ape who has to work off its negative karma in the wild jungles, or as a 'gelded water buffalo', or in a diseased old body.

The main character, Sam (Manjusri, Buddha, Lord of Light, Mahasamatman, Binder of Demons, etc., but just call him Sam), is one of the First, but he refused godhood and is the last Accelerationist: that is, he wants to spread the advanced technology to the people. When the populace develops bifocals and the printing press and toilets, the Hindu gods smash them down. Their reasoning is that humans need to come upon this knowledge by themselves: what if you gave the power of the gods' weapons to infants? And when they do make these new technological leaps, it's because they're remembering old myths and stealing the idea, not creating it of their own accord.

So he ressurects Buddhism. Though he doesn't believe in it himself, other people take on the ancient teachings, and a real Buddha even emerges. Battle an active, suppresive religion with a passive, non-violent religion. Accelerationism is reborn. Technology is thriving.

Then, he leads a war against heaven. Not with the Buddhists, of course; he's recruited some rather strange friends to help...

Many people are confused because the chronological order is strange...it begins with the God of Death, who appears to be Sam's nemesis most of the book, bringing Sam back from a literal 'nirvana'---that is, his spirit has been caught in an electric field around the planet. This is so they can renew their battle against the gods. Then it goes into a flashback of Sam from the very beginning of his rebelling and then to how he came into the literal nirvana.

Some of the scenes are merely breathtaking...for instance, Sugata The True Buddha and his duel with the God of Death. The philosophical reasoning behind it and the outcome are breathtaking. The encounter and chase from Agni, the Lord of Flame---who with his wand of flame scorched the surface of all three moons---is just pretty damn amazing. Sam and the gods have special powers, developed with the use of advanced treatments to 'mutate' their minds. For instance, the death-gaze, which can kill a person if you look at him long enough. Their weapons, developed by the genius deathgod Yama, amplify their powers substanially. Agni's power is that he can look at and object and if he wills it, it will burst into his flame; the fire wand amplifies his power to the point he can destroy palaces with a single blast.


The philosophical debates are also very well played. No side is completely dominant in their arguments. They aren't preachy. Sam knows full well that is he an imposter and not a true Buddha.

As a little side note, I love the term "the tall man of smoke who wears a wide hat". I didn't figure out what that meant until I picked it up off Wikipedia.

Lord of Light quickly became one of my favorite books, if not the best. It had been out of print too long, but now it's back up for the benefit of the new generation.

Great stuff. Highly recommended. Was left open for a sequel, and it's unfortunate Roger Zelazny never expanded on it.