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Earth Is Long Since Dead On A Colony Planet, A Band Of Men Has Gained Control Of Technology, Made Themselves Immortal, And Now Rule 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 This DNF is from way back in the day when I was in high school or college you know, when dinosaurs stalked the earth I tried to read my dad s paperback copy of this book and crashed and burned It was complicated and wordy and I just couldn t engage with it so it bored me I need to give it another shot sometime now that I m older and smarter, or at least well read. 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 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 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. People left the dying Earth and found a habitable planet Thanks to their advanced technology they conquered or subdued local life forms and established themselves as dominant race The highly advanced technology allowed some of them literally play gods using Hindu mythology as the basis We all know the power corrupts, so the whole system became very corrupted very fast Enter a guy who decided to change the way things work His name is Mahasamatman, or Sam for short this is how he prefers to call himself To the simple people he is much better known as Buddha, or Lord of Light Roger Zelazny attempted to create a very ambitious project a science fiction novel basically showing the emergence of Buddhism from Hinduism while preserving the philosophy of the religions He succeeded The novel won a Hugo Award for best novel I saw people call this the legendary science fiction classic just take a look at the cover of the latest paperback edition It also earned Zelazny the status of Master of science fiction and showed his practically unrivaled imagination This is not an easy read at times It is not boring, however by any definition of the world I would not call the novel to be the best introduction to Zelazny s writings, but it is a must read for any person with even the passing interest in science fiction or fantasy 5 very well deserved stars is the final rating of the classic book. I first read this book back in the late 60s, when it was brand new and nothing like it had appeared in SF before I found it brilliant and mysterious, the latter in part because back in my teens I knew so little about the Hindu and Buddhist religions and myths Zelazny was spinning off I am at least somewhat less ignorant nowadays, if not hugely so.I still think the book is brilliant, but not nearly so mysterious It s a bit like looking at faded pictures of your parents, and realizing you are now older than they were then.One of the intellectual pleasures of this book for the reader is the putting together of the world building set up, its mysteries gradually revealed, so any thumbnail sketch of same acts as a pretty big spoiler But I want to make some comments below that depend on them, so I will do the synopsis at the end, and anyone spoiler sensitive to a half century old book can stop reading in time.I was immediately, upon this reread the first in decades, and I think the first since I started my own writing career conscious of the voice, which is omniscient, with its fascinating strengths and interesting abilities to hide weaknesses Omniscient tends to be emotionally distancing, but has the advantage of being able to pack huge amounts of information into little page time, allowing for a lot of rich and relatively, because this is Zelazny, who prudently explains as little as possible detailed world building.The episodic structure, starting the story near its end and proceeding through assorted novella length flashbacks, stems from its being something of a fix up, incorporating stories that were originally sold separately to various magazines, I believe It all pulled together beautifully, however, managing to be than the sum of its parts.The narrator s style might be described as high falutin smart ass , I suppose, florid and often beautiful language undercut by jokes and running jokes, allowing the writer to be poetic without damaging his guy street cred.The sexism fairy has struck this book pretty hard in the intervening decades since my last read, I m afraid I have a high tolerance for this because I remember the original social context, and Lord of Light was hugely better than some other books of the time But the core emotional story is undoubtedly a bromance, where the two generationally dissassociated not quite rivals for a woman s love, Sam and Yama, actually end up with their most important relationship being with each other After the climax they end up off having new adventures free of any taint of domesticity, leaving the female leg of the putative love triangle entirely disempowered and put in her place Grant you, Candi Kali is a well observed example of what I have dubbed the Borderline Personality Girlfriend, which does add complexity Sam is I think correct in his evaluation that any attempt at a long term relationship with her cannot end well, and he speaks from experience But it is very convenient for the narrative that this frees our main guy pair from any on going duties in the matter.It s a very blokey book Most of the chapter climaxes are epic battles, big fights to establish male male bio social dominance, aka politics For a narrative inspired by some of the ur sources of Indo European patriarchal tradition, this is actually spot on Only the few female figures who fight guy style get to share center stage for long, or else are support staff Well, it s a war story this is sort of fair.World building spoilers now The background is this alien and eerie planet was settled many generations earlier by a shipload of mainly South Asian colonists At the same time, technology was developed for electronically magically uploading personalities into new, fresh bodies, conveniently grown to adult size in vats As time went on, mutant superpowers arose among some of the colonists crew, and a cadre of same set themselves up as the Hindu pantheon, controlling reincarnation and keeping all the high tech to and for themselves Sam, our hero and formerly apparently the colony ship s engineer, given his powers over electrical phenomena is increasingly offended by this, and sets himself up as a one man but several generations long revolution against heaven, using Buddhism as his template for resistance His banner is material progress, denied by the gods who go around suppressing any tech that is discovered or rediscovered by the peons So far so good I, personally, am heavily in favor of education, flush toilets, and electricity for all.But to anyone with some biology background, the existence and maintenance of the wide spread reincarnation technology is wildly contradictory to the posited keep the masses ignorant trope I really don t see how this society, were it anything like economically realistic, could have it both ways, except by authorial fiat So the world building falls down at its central conceit.Some of the underlying SF tropes, fun as they are in context, also get the hairy eyeball from me these days The big one, of course, is the denial of biology, reproduction, and death as the substrate of human existence Death is dodged by the reincarnation tech Family and women become unimportant as one buys one s new, unrelated body from a vat, without anyone visible having to do any scut work to make it possible This embodies what seems to me a largely young male SF ideal that imagines the self as generated from one s own forehead at the age of twenty two, without any status draining obligations to any other human beings, especially women, for one s existence Very solipsistic Very common in the genre, and I don t really have a solid explanation of why it is so popular, but it has been popular for a very long time.Despite my mature reservations, I found that bits and scenes and characters and dialogue from Lord of Light have lived vividly in my memory for decades I highly recommend the book as a piece of SF history and a fun read.Ta, L And for another bit of random SF history, I note in passing that one of my copies of the book is from Gordy Dickson s library, sold off after his death.