Lord of Light

Lord of Light

by Roger Zelazny
Publisher: HarperCollins
Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Price: $13.99

"Whoa, man," one can imagine the initial readers of Roger Zelazny's 1967 classic saying. "That was totally a righteous trip."

Sometimes that's all you can say about a book. In this case, it's very high praise, because Lord of Light is a trip, and in its own weird way it's totally righteous.

Earth is dead. The colonists who escaped dispersed throughout the galaxy, and one group made landfall on a planet which they subjugated through their use of technology. They used the technology to make themselves gods, each choosing for themselves an identity from the Hindu pantheon, and ruling as theocrats.

One of them, Sam (short for Mahasamatman), doesn't claim to be a god or not to be a god, but he takes exception to the methods of his fellow theo-technocrats. He believes the common people should have access to technology, and released from the samsara-like wheel to which their faux-deities have chained them.

So Prometheus-like, he takes the Buddhist faith to the people. He reveals the methods of reincarnation and immortality utilized by their human overlords, and eventually trains them to revolt against his fellow crew members.

There's quite a bit of action, including some truly epic swordfights. Zelazny had been a fencing instructor, and describes the duels in great detail using real fencing terms. In fact, there's pretty much everything you'd hope to find in a science fiction adventure story, even one that involves technologically advanced humans pretending to be Hindu deities.

Lord of Light is strange, but very, very cool and really funny. Cool people like the book, too, like Neil Gaiman and Greg Bear (who both write cool science fiction and fantasy in their own right).

It's more than cool, too (not to kill the party mood or anything). Zelazny's novel is as much a reflection on the modern use of technology as it is on the use of religion to subjugate and enslave. Of course, Christians aren't going to accept Buddhism as a true solution to these problems, but the subtle contemplations of Lord of Light are worth pondering.

Also, this is one of my favorite sci fi novels, ever.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Fighting violence, Eastern religion
Summary: A cosmonaut who finds himself reverence as a god on a distant planet seeks to liberate the people who worship him via Buddhism.

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