Author: Roger Zelazny
Details: (c) Roger Zelazny 1967; Pub 1986 Methuen London Ltd; ISBN 0-413-58250-7
Verdict: Lord of Light is based on an interesting concept, though the execution could be better.
Reasons for reading it / How it came into my hands: lethargic_man found it in a charity shop and bought it for me.
I really, really like the premise of Lord of Light: it's essentially an SF version of Hindu mythology, with brain uploading technology used to implement reincarnation. It's set in a fairly standard SF future where humans have colonized another planet and a privileged few have access to almost unlimited technology, while the majority of the populace are at a pre-industrial level. The ones with the technology play the rôle of the Hindu pantheon, while the hero who wants to overthrow the power of 'Heaven' and open up access to futuristic tech projects himself as the Buddha.
I don't know enough about the subject to know how well the book represents Hinduism, (though it does chime fairly well with the little I do know). But to a very large extent that doesn't matter. The book works on its own merits, and constructs an interesting and detailed world where the connection between popular belief and the actual technology and system underlying it is plausible.
So far, so cute. It's a fun story, with plenty of flashy divine battles and the usual soap opera of interpersonal relationships one finds in stories about the gods of a polytheistic system. It also starts out very promisingly, with a lot of dramatic tension and the information being revealed at just the right pace.
The trouble is, LoL is let down because the characterization is mediocre at best. Sam, the hero, works well enough that I can just about see what Zelazny is trying to do with him, a visionary who is also pragmatic and even cynical about achieving his ends. There are moments when his mixing together aphorisms from the half forgotten literature of our society to construct a plausible philosophy works well (and I enjoyed playing 'spot the allusion'). Most of the other gods (there is very little human point of view) are one-dimensional superheroes at best and entirely forgettable in many cases.
I was also rather disappointed with the ending. The book trails off into anticlimax after the ultimate battle between the rebels and the gods. It ends up being merely vague, where it seems to be aiming for ambiguous and intriguing.