Monday, April 16, 2007

Love my way, it's a new road

Steve has long promoted Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. Having found Zelazny's Lord Valentine's Castle (EDIT: as a commenter points out LVC is by Silverberg, so I made a double mistake -- .) ,a bore, I was more than a little leery of Steve's recommendation. Silly me, Lord of Light is one of the most interesting science fiction novels and despite being published in 1967 it feels as fresh as if it was released this year. The content, structure and style of the story set the book apart.

Although the initial characters appear to a mix of Hindu and Buddhist divinities, the reader quickly learns that these are enhanced Earth refugees on a new planet. Some of them have used technology to gain powers and have taken the names and roles of the Hindu pantheon to rule the rest of humanity. They even develop technology to move consciousness into new bodies, allowing for re-incarnation. One of the powerful, named Sam, opposes them and he takes the role of Buddha, so as to use ideas to undermine his enemies.

Rather than build towards the single climatic battle, each chapter shows a way in which successive incarnations of Sam find ways to oppose the powers that be. It is unclear how long time takes in between each story, but it has the flavor of a legend in which the hero periodically returns to fight evil. It also presents the idea of war as water, slowly eroding the enemy. The tide may retreat, but it always comes back, and so does Sam.

The book's prose is lovely and is written in dreamy style, not unlike a more grounded Lord Dunsany. My background in Buddhism is quite limited, but from my uneducated viewpoint, it has the feel of a Buddhist text as well.

This one can be found in the remainder section, which may scare you. Consider it a bargain instead.


kwandongbrian said...

Lord of Light is a fantastic book. You can even compare the actions and attitudes of the gods in the novel to the British of the Raj era.
You know Lord Valentine's Castle was written by Silverberg, right?

Tripp said...

Doh! What an idiot I am! I keep swapping the Amber series for the Valentine series. So that makes me doubly foolish.