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Lord of Light
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Book Discussions > Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is our group Classic Novel Discussion for May, 2014:


Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny   Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Winner of 1968 Hugo Award for Best Novel.


message 2: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new) - added it

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments Looks like I read it ahead of you all :P
It's a very interesting concept, but it was all too tangled as a novel for my liking to thoroughly enjoy it.
I do see why it is so acclaimed however, I merely found it very 'messy' to read.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited May 01, 2014 04:10AM) (new)

Jonathan wrote: "Looks like I read it ahead of you all :P ..."

I doubt that. I read it in '68. :P

And it was a delight to pull the old paperback off the shelf again and brush the dust off for yet another read. It's one of my favorite SF&F books, and I loved it right from the very first paragraph:
"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."
That's such marvelous prose, a mixture of fantasy pseudo-profound and casual.

PS. It's a miracle the binding of this paperback is still intact. Praise Siddhartha, Binder of Pages.


message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments I started this a couple of days ago, right after I finished Roadmarks. I don't think LoL is that messy. It certainly doesn't hold a candle to "Roadmarks". The first part starts in the present, then Sam 'remembers' the next 5 parts, a chronological accounting of what led to his present circumstances, & the last part is the culmination. I think that long stretch in the middle confuses some on the first read. It's hard to remember back to the first part.

Zelazny wrote it to be published as a serial, but I don't think it ever was. Each part was supposed to stand alone & was done in a different voice, although mostly a mythic fantasy, but it is SF. It's a neat blend, something that Zelazny excelled at.

This was supposed to be the basis for "Argo", a film that was a CIA cover for rescuing the hostages in Iran. The 2012 movie of that name was about that operation.


message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments I've read both & there are some common points. Sam is something like Corwin. The style of LoL is somewhat different, a faux Hindu mythology. Typically, nothing is quite as it seems at first blush. I think you'd like this if you liked Amber.


message 6: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments I just finished Tak's explanation of Accelerationism to Maya. Fun scene & Zelazny phrases it all beautifully. I particularly loved the way he put the argument against.

...We would give them knowledge of the sciences and the arts, which we possess, and in so doing we would destroy their simple faith and remove all basis for their hoping that things will be better - for the best way to destroy faith or hope is to let it be realized....

Wow! That really drives the point home with sheer sarcasm.

While I don't mind characters cussing, I find Zelazny's way of getting around this far more amusing. Under his breath, he [Yama] called upon the more notable of the current fertility deities, invoking them in terms of their most prominent Attributes.


message 7: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new) - added it

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments G33z3r wrote: "Jonathan wrote: "Looks like I read it ahead of you all :P ..."

I doubt that. I read it in '68. :P

And it was a delight to pull the old paperback off the shelf again and brush the dust off for yet..."


I mean to say just before the group reading challenge whoops :P


message 8: by Karen (last edited May 05, 2014 04:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karen | 71 comments I was all excited to read this (my first Zelazny) and then realized that it's not available as an ebook. So the only way I can read this is if I order it online and ship it in. That might take a week or two.

So folks, any advice? Is it worth the effort? Is it a good intro to Zelazny's work?


message 9: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 429 comments I think Chronicles of Amber is a very easy, exciting and enjoyable read that at the same time feels fairly fresh and innovation.

I have only just started Lords of Light and there is some more complex world building and more philosophical/ religious elements to Lords of Light. It is less of an easy read than Amber (I am already having to put it to one side until I am feeling a bit sharper) but I mean G33Z33R gave it 5 stars and he does not exactly throw 5 stars at everything he reads so that is a pretty strong endorsement. And it won the Hugo.


Karen | 71 comments Ben wrote: "...I mean G33Z33R gave it 5 stars and he does not exactly throw 5 stars at everything he reads so that is a pretty strong endorsement. ..."

That's a VERY good point :)


message 11: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments Karen, it's one of my top 3 novels of all time, FWIW.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Ben wrote: "I have only just started Lord of Light and there is some more complex world building and more philosophical/ religious elements to Lords of Light. It is less of an easy read than Amber ..."

I don't think it's intended to be that heavy a read, Ben. I think Zelazny was having great fun with it.

At its heart, stripped of the delightfully unique ornamentation & prose, it's a fairly simple sci-fi story. But it's been placed in a clever wrapper of epic-fantasy style narration.

The story uses many trappings of Hinduism and Buddhism, but not in a serious way. It might be useful to be aware of the primary deities of Hinduism and some definitions of Brahman & Atman, just because they characters toss the words around, plus a superficial awareness of Buddhist philosophy. That's more for understanding the plot than grokking some underlying philosophical musings on the part of Zelazny.


Michael (mlbrown) | 2 comments One of my favorite books. Confused the crap out of me the first time I read it though, was reading it at night and skipped over the line "and then Sam began to remember."


message 14: by Murray (last edited May 03, 2014 10:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Murray Lindsay | 51 comments It's a grand novel. One of my buddy's favourites, and one I have at the top of my list as well. A wonderful mix of mythology (as opposed to "mere fantasy") and science fiction. But, then, mythology/fantasy mixed with sci-fi is Zelazny's claim to fame. He did it real good.


Karen | 71 comments Well I think I will bite! Sounds like it will be worth the effort


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Michael wrote: "One of my favorite books. Confused the crap out of me the first time I read it though, was reading it at night and skipped over the line "and then Sam began to remember.""

Yeah, if you miss the fact that Chapter ii begins a flashback (that last most of the book!), you would likely be perplexed for quite some time.


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited May 03, 2014 03:31PM) (new)

Karen wrote: "I was all excited to read this (my first Zelazny ... and then realized that it's not available as an ebook. "

Sorry about that. I usually check availability of all nominees before the voting begins (just to let people know), but in this case I seem to have skipped that step (since I knew exactly where my paperback was, and really just assumed it must be available as an e-book.) That seems to be true of almost all Roger Zelazny's books, including Amber. Either the rights are ambiguous about ebooks, or whoever holds them is unknown, unavailable, or just weird.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Re: Deep Background

There is a certain level of gentility in the conflict among the antagonists in Lord of Light. Even those who will eventually battle each other, sometimes to the true death, will usually try to persuade or intimidate first. And taking prisoners seems preferable to killing, at least among the Firsts.

(view spoiler)


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments He doesn't specify many dates, although I carry the impression that (view spoiler)

This is why the book rereads so well for me. There's enough indefinite that the story is somewhat mutable depending on my mood & age. I certainly pick up on different things now that I'm a grandfather than I did when I first read this as a teenager.


message 20: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Catelli | 672 comments yeah, I read this in my early teens and was baffled by the prolonged flashback.

Much more straightforward when you realize large chunks of it are before the opening scenes.


message 21: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Catelli | 672 comments The thing that baffles me about the background is how did (view spoiler)


message 22: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments Mary, it reads to me as if (view spoiler)

I'm now on the final part, #7. I liked the last part the best so far, I think. Exciting.


message 23: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Catelli | 672 comments Jim wrote: "Mary, it reads to me as if [spoilers removed]

Yeah. It's a good thing it's all well-hidden in the backstory because it would be hard to explain.


message 24: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments I just finished the book, Mary. Typical of Zelazny, he never dumps info, but dribbles it out in such a miserly fashion as to drive the reader nuts. In the last part another bit of info comes up that makes it far more possible. Brahma says, (view spoiler) I'm not sure the above is really a spoiler at all.

What a great story. I loved the ending. If you can possibly do so, allow some quiet time to contemplate the book when you finish. Wow! What a wild trip.


Karen | 71 comments I just started while trying to get something to eat. I quickly realized that maybe I needed to sit down with a little chunk of free time to really get into it. Looks like it's going to be interesting!


message 26: by [deleted user] (last edited May 07, 2014 04:36AM) (new)

Apologies to the members using the mobile app (who can't view spoilers)...

(view spoiler)


message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments Excellent points, G33z3r.

What continually tickles me is the way Zelazny phrases things. He wanted to be a poet, but it didn't pay, so he wrote novels & short stories instead. He manages to inject some into them, though.

Possibly my favorite simile comes from this book; "The day of the battle dawned pink as the fresh-bitten thigh of a maiden." It fits the rest of the story really well with its overtones & subtle meanings & I can see the variety of colors. Very powerful sentence.

I also love the conversations which are often sparse, yet full of meanings. Many don't have 'he said, she said' or any sort of outside explanation, yet they convey so much.


message 28: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina (tynnaxx) | 2 comments I liked it. It brings a little "something" that makes it stand out. With a plethora of Hindu Gods to turn into characters, Zelazny did a great job in writing this.

Also, I generally think truth is somewhere in the middle and while I don't believe there's this Old Man in Heaven ruling over everything, nor do I believe we just "happened" when the Universe was too carried away with other things and forgot to pull out. However, I do believe there's an ultimate power, someone far more advanced than us that might have played an instrumental role in humanity's evolution. So this book appealed to me because it ties some loose ends and quenches my thirst of sci-fi pseudo philosophy/religion.


message 29: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina (tynnaxx) | 2 comments Mika wrote: "Try God Stalk if you want to get some interesting ideas about religion from SFF. It changed my whole view of the concept of gods."

Thanks, I've added it to my list. I will try to get hold of a copy and read it.


message 30: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary | 26 comments G33z3r wrote: "Ben wrote: "I have only just started Lord of Light and there is some more complex world building and more philosophical/ religious elements to Lords of Light. It is less of an easy rea..."

I read this many years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. I remember little gems, like Sam having to immerse himself back into the world, after being in an elevated state of being. So his meditation was to get into 'normal' consciousness, not out of it - as we would expect. Then, where the goddess is depleted of her former power, but manages to take on the aspect of a goddess again,with the last shreds of power, it is beautiful and touching that even the gods grow old. I thought Zelazny had some brilliant insights, in this book. One of the many treasures of its time, and a favourite of mine. On a par with my other favourites, Dune and Jurgen (James Branch Cabell).


message 31: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary | 26 comments G33z3r wrote: "Ben wrote: "I have only just started Lord of Light and there is some more complex world building and more philosophical/ religious elements to Lords of Light. It is less of an easy rea..."

I read this many years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. I remember little gems, like Sam having to immerse himself back into the world, after being in an elevated state of being. So his meditation was to get into 'normal' consciousness, not out of it - as we would expect. Then, where the goddess is depleted of her former power, but manages to take on the aspect of a goddess again,with the last shreds of power, it is beautiful and touching that even the gods grow old. I thought Zelazny had some brilliant insights, in this book. One of the many treasures of its time, and a favourite of mine. On a par with my other favourites, Dune and Jurgen (James Branch Cabell).


message 32: by [deleted user] (last edited May 24, 2014 01:42PM) (new)

Mary wrote: " like Sam having to immerse himself back into the world, after being in an elevated state of being. So his meditation was to get into 'normal' consciousness, not out of it - as we would expect...."

And slightly later (still in chapter i) Sam goes out and gambles with a "Rakasha". When Tak reports that to Yama, wondering what Sam could have that a Rakasha would want, Yama concludes that Sam wagered his body, the only thing a Rakasha would want, as a way of restoring his will to live, "by casting his very existence with each roll of the dice."

The meditations of Sam are strange indeed. :)


message 33: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments He plays for big stakes, always the big throw of the dice, yet he's cast as such a thoughtful man. It's an interesting contrast.


message 34: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary | 26 comments Jim wrote: "He plays for big stakes, always the big throw of the dice, yet he's cast as such a thoughtful man. It's an interesting contrast."

He would not 'think' in the way ordinary mortals think, though. Maybe he just 'grokked', to borrow from another book. Besides, even as a rational thought, as humans know it, restoring the will to live was logical. Mary H.


message 35: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary | 26 comments I have just picked the book up again. It is as good as ever, after many years. Mary H


Karen | 71 comments Well...wow. That was quite an experience. I really enjoyed this book; so glad I took the advice to give it a try :)


message 37: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 429 comments I will definitely free up some time to read it all the way through. I did enjoy dipping into it and I do not know if I would have done so if it wasnt picked and I am glad it was.


Jason | 2 comments Is anyone else reminded of ancient/historical epics by this book? By that I mean Homer, Virgil, Milton, etc.

It certainly remimded me; it started in media res (the chapters after the first are flashbacks), had a journey to the underworld/katabasis, it even has 12 chapters if I recall (I think epics tend to have 12 books if I'm not mistaken).

I may be totally off base, but I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions


message 39: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2060 comments It certainly read that way to me. IIRC, that was his intent.


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