I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book – “Lord of the Light” by Roger Zelazny. If you are into fantasy or sci-fi, I would highly recommend it. In fact, a friend of mine recommended it to me, and I loved it.
Although “Lord of the Light” paints a distant future, sometimes it seems as if the story is about the Dark Ages. Indeed, the men of the distant future, who have gained unprecedented mental power, have become literal gods on another planet, after the demise of the Earth. They have reincarnated the ancient structure of Indian hinduism, and the First, the men who knew Earth, rule as Gods over their many descendants, who worship them in the many Temples of the Gods. The Gods have monopoly power over mental and technological progress, and they do not share these with the common people, who live in a Dark Age-like world of superstition and fear. However, among the Gods, there is one, who desires to bring down the Heaven and spread their knowledge. His name is Sam, and his quest involves many battles, many foes, many bodies… Along the way, he reincarnates the way or becomes Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, as he chooses Buddhism as the antidote to the Hinduist pantheon of the Gods of Heaven. Also fighting the Heaven is Nirriti, the Black crusader for Christianity, with his armies of zombie-like creatures.
Despite the fantasy elements, “Lord of the Light” is true science fiction with spaceships, guided missiles, divine Attributes of destruction and death, prayer machines, etc. The God of Death, Yama, who eventually rebels against the Heaven, is an outstanding engineering genius, which is apt and ironic at the same time, considering the amazing destructive forces of modern technology. Also, the dichotomy between religious beliefs and technological progress lends the story a very interesting twist. Zelazny’s use of religious philosophies is very interesting, it definitely takes his work to a mythical level. In an another dimension of the story, Sam’s belief in “accelerationism”, whereby everybody should be able to enjoy the fruits of technology and progress, is countered by the Gods’ insistence on the unpreparedness of the people, which sounds similar to the democracy vs. absolutism debate. In the fashion of the great Hindu scrolls, Zelazny has numerous interesting plots and subplots in the story, and they all serve to create one grand epic. As all great epics, “Lord of the Light” has its share of romance as well… A fascinating read.