Title: Lord of Light
Author: Roger Zelazny
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: 3.5 / 5
This was a book my mom gave me years ago, and I know she loves it. I had a recent burst of spring cleaning energy and I was axing books from my shelves left and right. I wanted to give this one back to my mom but I also wanted to read it first since I know how highly she thinks of it.
It’s a hard book for me to rate. At first I wasn’t really into it, and I decided to give it 100 pages before throwing in the towel. On page 95 it finally hooked me. And there were several parts where I couldn’t put it down. I think in summary I would say Roger Zelazny is a good storyteller but kind of a subpar writer.
The concept of this book is really fascinating. I finished this book a few days ago, and often when I finish a book I don’t really continue to think of it. But I’ve been thinking about the concept of this book a lot–humans leave a ruined Earth and when they come to a new planet, with the technology to basically reincarnate, they rule the planet as a pantheon of gods. But, there are politics and disagreements and schisms, so despite the power that they continue to grow and that they wield over their human subjects (who are also their descendants, from various bodies they’ve inhabited) all is not necessarily well in Heaven. In this story, the people are ruling as gods from the Hindu pantheon, when one of them decides to basically reenact the emergence of Buddhism, with himself as the Buddha.
However the book falls short for me in several areas. One is character development. There are just so many characters in this book, and very few of them are given much time to really understand them. Another drawback was that it often seemed unnecessarily confusing. Now, I don’t read a ton of sci fi, so maybe within the genre that’s standard, but there were a lot of things that were not explained and my confusion over them detracted a bit from the story. The writing also, in my opinion, left something to be desired–I thought it was a bit bland; however, I may just be picky, because other reviewers say his language is lush. I think my main gripe, though, is that Zelazny was trying to do too much in just 300 short pages. I wanted to see more of the story of the people-gods–after all, they’re humans on a completely new planet and what does ruling as a god and having the powers of a god through super advanced technology, and the lifespan of a god (they switch bodies indefinitely) do to the human condition? How do people adapt to it? How do they bear it? Unfortunately we only really get the barest glimpses.
All in all, it was a thought-provoking read that could have been much more so. I’m glad I finally read it so that I can get it off my shelves and talk to my mom about it. It was a fun and mostly satisfying read, once I got into it.