Lord of Light
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Lord of Light

4.7 24
by Roger Zelazny

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“Funny, wise, and infused with a sense of wonder and knowledge….Nobody else made myths real and valuable in the way Roger Zelazny could.”
—Neil Gaiman


Lord of Light is a classic tale of the


“Funny, wise, and infused with a sense of wonder and knowledge….Nobody else made myths real and valuable in the way Roger Zelazny could.”
—Neil Gaiman


Lord of Light is a classic tale of the far future from the incomparable Roger Zelazny. Winner of the Hugo Award—one of six Zelazny received over the course of his legendary career, as well as three Nebula Awards and numerous other honors—Lord of Light stands with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Frank Herbert’s Dune as one of the seminal novels that changed the way readers looked at science fiction. Experience it and you will understand why New York Times bestselling sf author Greg Bear says, “Reading Zelazny is like dropping into a Mozart string quartet as played by Thelonius Monk.”

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Lord of Light -- the 1968 Hugo Award–winning novel that is arguably Roger Zelazny's magnum opus -- has been unearthed by the editors at Eos so that science fiction neophytes can bask in the timeless illumination of this epic karmic classic.

Zelazny, an unparalleled master at analyzing and recreating mythologies (Egyptian deities in Creatures of Light and Darkness, the Tarot in his Amber Chronicles, etc.), focuses on Hinduism and the many aspects of reincarnation in Lord of Light. On a distant planet in a distant future, a small group of colonists from Earth have developed godlike abilities and, after countless bodily incarnations, rule as tyrants over a world of their luckless descendants. The gods have kept the mere mortals in a perpetual preindustrial age, supposedly protecting them from themselves, but one immortal opposes them -- Mahasamatman, also known as Siddhartha, or Sam for short. Over many lifetimes, and in many incarnations, Sam heroically fights to overthrow the egomaniacal gods and destroy their heavenly Celestial City. He introduces Buddhism to the Hindu masses, sets free an army of demons, and outwits even the most devious gods.

In a weird way, the character of Sam the Enlightened One, a.k.a. the Lord of Light, perfectly embodies Zelazny and his writing -- brilliant beyond description, unfathomably deep in substance and epic in scope, predictably unpredictable, and irreverent to the end. Lord of Light is just as powerful today as it was almost four decades ago: a sign of a true classic. Paul Goat Allen

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

Lord of Light

Chapter One

It is said that fifty-three years after his liberation he returned from the Golden Cloud, to take up once again the gauntlet of Heaven, to oppose the Order of Life and the gods who ordained it so. His followers had prayed for his return, though their prayers were sin. Prayer should not trouble one who has gone on to Nirvana, no matter what the circumstances of his going. The wearers of the saffron robe prayed, however, that He of the Sword, Manjusri, should come again among them. The Boddhisatva is said to have heard ...

He whose desires have been throttled,
who is independent of root,
whose pasture is emptiness --
signless and free --
his path is as unknowable
as that of birds across the heavens.
-- Dhammapada (93)

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the- atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god.Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.

Therefore, there was mystery about him.

It was in the season of the rains ...

It was well into the time of the great wetness ...

It was in the days of the rains that their prayers went up, not from the fingering of knotted prayer cords or the spinning of prayer wheels, but from the great pray-machine in the monastery of Ratri, goddess of the Night.

The high-frequency prayers were directed upward through the atmosphere and out beyond it, passing into that golden cloud called the Bridge of the Gods, which circles the entire world, is seen as a bronze rainbow at night and is the place where the red sun becomes orange at midday.

Some of the monks doubted the orthodoxy of this prayer technique, but the machine had been built and was operated by Yama-Dharma, fallen, of the Celestial City; and, it was told, he had ages ago built the mighty thunder chariot of Lord Shiva: that engine that fled across the heavens belching gouts of fire in its wake.

Despite his fall from favor, Yama was still deemed mightiest of the artificers, though it was not doubted that the Gods of the City would have him to die the real death were they to learn of the pray-machine. For that matter, though, it was not doubted that they would have him to die the real death without the excuse of the pray-machine, also, were he to come into their custody.How he would settle this matter with the Lords of Karma was his own affair, though none doubted that when the time came he would find a way. He was half as old as the Celestial City itself, and not more than ten of the gods remembered the founding of that abode. He was known to be wiser even than the Lord Kubera in the ways of the Universal Fire. But these were his lesser Attributes. He was best known for another thing, though few men spoke of it. Tall, but not overly so; big, but not heavy; his movements, slow and fluent. He wore red and spoke little.

He tended the pray-machine, and the giant metal lotus he had set atop the monastery roof turned and turned in its sockets.

A light rain was falling upon the building, the lotus and the jungle at the foot of the mountains. For six days he had offered many kilowatts of prayer, but the static kept him from being heard On High. Under his breath, he called upon the more notable of the current fertility deities, invoking them in terms of their most prominent Attributes.

A rumble of thunder answered his petition, and the small ape who assisted him chuckled. "Your prayers and your curses come to the same, Lord Yama," commented the ape. "That is to say, nothing."

"It has taken you seventeen incarnations to arrive at this truth?" said Yama. "I can see then why you are still doing time as an ape."

"Not so," said the ape,whose name was Tak. "My fall, while less spectacular than your own, nevertheless involved elements of personal malice on the part of -- "

"Enough!" said Yama, turning his back to him.

Tak realized then that he might have touched upon a sore spot. In an attempt to find another subject for conversation, he crossed to the window, leapt onto its wide sill and stared upward.

"There is a break in the cloud cover, to the west," he said.

Yama approached, followed the direction of his gaze, frowned and nodded.

"Aye," he said. "Stay where you are and advise me."

He moved to a bank of controls.

Overhead, the lotus halted in its turning, then faced the patch of bare sky.

"Very good," he said. "We're getting something."

His hand moved across a separate control panel, throwing a series of switches and adjusting two dials.

Below them, in the cavernous cellars of the monastery, the signal was received and other preparations were begun: the host was made ready.

"The clouds are coming together again!" cried Tak.

"No matter, now," said the other. "We've hooked our fish. Out of Nirvana and into the lotus, he comes."

There was more thunder, and the rain came down with a sound like hail upon the lotus. Snakes of blue lightning coiled, hissing, about the mountaintops.

Yama sealed a final circuit.

"How do you think he will take to wearing the flesh again?" asked Tak.

"Go peel bananas with your feet!"

Tak chose to consider this a dismissal and departed the chamber, leaving Yama to close down the machinery.He made his way along a corridor and down a wide flight of stairs.He reached the landing, and as he stood there he heard the sound of voices and the shuffling of sandals coming in his direction from out a side hall.

Without hesitating, he climbed the wall, using a series of carved panthers and an opposing row of elephants as handholds.Mounting a rafter, he drew back into a well of shadow and waited, unmoving.

Lord of Light. Copyright © by Roger Zelazny. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Roger Zelazny burst onto the SF scene in the early 1960s with a series of dazzling and groundbreaking short stories. He won his first of six Hugo Awards for Lord of Light, and soon after produced the first book of his enormously popular Amber series, Nine Princes in Amber. In addition to his Hugos, he went on to win three Nebula Awards over the course of a long and distinguished career. He died on June 14, 1995.

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Lord of Light 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is difficult to read and demands that it be read carefully. Each character has multiple names and some are only used once; the primary character has at least six different names. Lord of Light has the most jarring flashback I've experienced reading. There is no noticeable hint that starting with Chapter ii, nearly the rest of the book is history. Other reviewers have mentioned they became hopelessly lost by this until reading the book through a second time. Myself, I have time enough only for one read-through of any given book, no matter how magnificent. Anyone starting this book should be warned. That out of the way, Zelazny is remarkably successful in creating a believable world where some men have become gods through technology and use their power to keep control over civilization. The cast of characters is large, but each is well-enough written that, even though the name changes often, you know who is being discussed. As a reader not familiar with Buddhist ideology, I was able to follow the book without a problem - which was what I was concerned with, initially. Action-packed is an understatement. In this little novel of a few hundred pages we see larger and more magnificent battles than I could imagine. Zelazny is truly a master at telling these epic stories while keeping track of a single character, throughout. Though the book is over 30 years old, it holds up perfectly. Even in the midst of current events, there are some interesting parallels. This is an excellent book, but I feel that it was unneccessarily difficult to read primarily due to the flashback, which should have been more clearly presented. The characters and battles and political in-fighting makes Lord of Light compelling to read and show signs of tales to come in Zelazny's most popular stories of Amber.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best from one of the original minds of the 20th century. True Zelazny in its contradictions. Simple yet complex. An engaging story with many truths about human nature. The hero, an enigma, is neither perfect nor has the pretense of perfection that his adversaries do. A book that once read will stay on your shelf for many future re-readings.
Sam-C More than 1 year ago
Science fiction and fantasy generally isn't my first genre of choice, but I gave this a try at the behest of a coworker because it's deemed a classic. This also was my first Roger Zelazny book. The plot was certainly innovative and I greatly appreciated the language and some of the concepts presented within. Most criticize this story for its tendencies to drop the reader into ambiguity, i.e. chronic character name changes, location jumping, etc. Despite those complaints, I felt that I managed to follow the storyline well enough, even though there were certainly some difficult moments. I respect the book for what it is, but overall, I never felt an intimate connection with it. I went into this with only some knowledge of Buddhism and Hinduism; at times, I felt that one needed to be a bit more versed in those faiths in order to better appreciate the story. Anyway, I can respect the book's status as a classic work, but it was just OK for me.
TheTruthDC More than 1 year ago
An excellent book. As usual with Zelazny, this is not a churned out, typical you can guess the ending after 3 chapter book. However, SPOILER ALERT!!! This book makes much more sense if you know the first chapter is very near the end, and almost everything else is a flash back. There is no way to realize this, just from what is in the book, unless you finish the book and then re-read the first chapter.
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davedisc More than 1 year ago
The story concept is very original and enjoyable. It jumps around a lot in time and characters have many different and changing names which makes it hard to follow at times. However, I see why it is a classic and an award winner and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clever, dramatic, tricky and thought-provoking. Time reading and thinking about the book is well spent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an awesome one. Only 250-some pages and Roger Zelazny spins a tale that equals the Lord of the Rings. The world, the characters, the subterfuge, the battles, the masterful manipulations of everyone's favorite buddha... What really made this book is Sam. Sam is one of the greatest characters in literature and one of the most awesome. This book is a supreme piece of art... Masterful in every way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Humanity defeats the native ¿energy¿ beings that populated the orb and establishes a colony on the planet with a Hindu like societal order. Using advanced technology, the crew of the ship transfers their minds into a new body when theirs is near death. They also develop other advances that enable them to form a pantheon with god-like powers. Beneath them are the colonists and even further below in this pyramid of power are the natives. No one bucks the leadership as not only can they technology reincarnate they can convert others into animals...................................... One of these techno-Gods, preferring to be called Sam rather than Mahasamatman, feels that the mistreatment of others is morally wrong. He thinks that he and his peers should share their technology with the lower strata. His peers insist those beneath them are incapable of dealing with godlike powers and need their hand to guide them. Sam never claimed the mantle and though he hates what he feels he must do, this ¿fallen angel¿ leads a revolt against his ruling brothers and sisters as he wants to establish a different world order.................................... This is a deep science fiction novel with religious and social overtones. The story line is loaded with action, but also takes its time to defend critical arguments set forth by author Roger Zelazny. The cast fosters the concepts of the plot so that development is targeted more towards an idea than a character. Still with all that this is a cerebral tale that will have readers pondering a host of subjects from comparative religions to white man¿s burden to fostering American style democracy in Iraq, etc. in a clever novel that will require concentration or one will miss a point...................................... Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I love them all, this is a standout from Zelazny. I think people forget about it because it is a difficult path to follow the frst time through but the jouney is worth the effort.
Guest More than 1 year ago
He uses the forgotten teaching to advance his politics. The Earth and skies tremble, men and gods falls in his battles. And yet... even demons see clean light in the center of his beeng. He shamelessly uses every circumstances to his advantage. He uses falings of his opponents to conver 'em to his way. He uses his old friend, cases their fall. His demagogy forces even the followers of the way of peace to fight for him. He releses the very demons, he bound to form tentative alliance against the gods. And yet the best and the strongest fight on his side and the humankind chooses him to lead 'em - against gods or the God and his zombies - however he chooses. He is fraud, he is the God of Light, he is Budha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book, but the one recurring statement everyone makes about - me included - is that it's a bit confusing the first time through. Actually, I finally figured it all out on my 4th read, but it was still probably one of the best books I've ever read, and I didn't mind rereading at all. Traditionally sci-fi meets fantasy, it takes place on a colony planet of the now-dead Earth, where the original settlers have basically been masquerading as gods of the Hindu pantheon, this is one of the books that made Zelazny be considered a grandmaster of his genre
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The day of the battle dawned as pink as the fresh-bitten thigh of a maiden.' Can this guy write a sentence, or what? This Hugo-award winning novel is considered by many to be sci-fi master Zelazny's greatest work. It's pretty heavy stuff on the first read; I didn't really understand what was going on until about the third time. But the story is so well written that you won't mind having to go back a few times to figure it out. While it's obviously difficult to pick one favorite book, if I were stuck on a desert island with only one, I'd be happy with this one.