Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Review: Lord of Light

There's nothing as fulfilling as reading old Roger Zelazny, and Lord of Light is still one of the best science fiction novels written out there. The story starts thus:
His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being wha they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.

The story is science fiction, though that's revealed in dribs and drabs, bits and pieces throughout the story. We slowly learn of the planet's past, and the history of the colonists and the crew that brought them to this world. Having overcome the obstacles and successfully established a colony, the crew of the ship have set themselves up as gods, claiming for themselves the role of gods in the Hindu pantheon and rigging up life on the world in a Hindu society.

Cast in the role of the rebel is Sam, who adopts the persona real life historical rebel against Hinduism, Buddhism's Siddharta. All the technology is couched in mythological terms, right down to the indigenous intelligent beings of the planet.

In any case, the story starts with Sam's reincarnation, and then flashes back, wheel-of-time fashion to past events, and recounts everything that brought the gods to this point. The final part brings everything to a conclusion, and is surprisingly short and quite anti-climatic. On the other hand, perhaps in the modern age, Zelazny would have been tempted to turn this into a 7-book cycle, and one should be grateful that he wrote in an age where one novel was plenty to tell a complete story.

Highly recommended.
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