Hugo Review: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

I can recognize that there are a lot of interesting ideas in Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It actually reminds me in some ways of Stargate something that I really do enjoy and there are points that were very interesting.  The problem was that the style of this book meant that I didn’t really care about any of the characters, the plot, or even all that much about the ideas. I suspect that much of this is simply that I do not like Roger Zelazny’s style of writing, or most styles of writing that emphasize style which this book certainly does. That said, I did want to see where the story went even as I became more convinced it probably wasn’t going to really have all that much happen.

This story never really admits that it is science fiction. Everything that happens could effectively be religious in nature. There is reincarnation and it has been made very structured and there is a machine, but no explanation of how the machine works or if they have any real effect on the reincarnation. The same is true of many of their weapons though it generally makes the story easier to understand if you assume they are using space ships and high tech weapons.  Either way the primary idea of this story is the same. You have a group of men, who appear to have been colonists who landed on this world pretending to be Hindu gods, such as Brama and Kali using the trapping of those religions to stop everyone who is not one of those gods from technologically advancing. This religious aspect of the story is used throughout as the ideas of religion are used to exploit and explored through myth, destiny and other ideas that still exist largely outside of the characters who pretend to control them.

The main character is Sam, who has about a dozen names throughout the book, including the Binder, Buddha and Lord of Light. He is one of the original colonists and the one who helped to defeat the ‘demons’ who were the original inhabitants of this world. Energy beings which he can control through his power to use electromagnetic forces. That every one of the gods has an aspect which lets them do something no one else can do is one of the more fanciful elements of this story.

I would not say that I did not enjoy this book at all. There are a lot of things in it that I really did like and I suspect that if I went back and read it understanding that the chapters were not chronological and a bit more about what is going on I would enjoy this a lot more. That said, I prefer story and character of style and prose and because of that this book just didn’t really work for me even though I actually did enjoy how much of what was going on had to be inferred rather than being told, such as how the technology was being used and even the relationships between many of the characters.