This being my first attempt at a review here, I hope I do not make a mess of it.
Lord of Light was written by Roger Zelazny in the sixties and won the Hugo Award for best novel. The Science Fiction (or Speculative Fiction as it's also known) genre has never lacked for originality, but even by SF Standards, this novel is special.
The setting is the future after humans have colonized other planets. On one particular planet, the original settlers, known as The First, have created a world ruled by the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. The First were originally human but became immortals with godlike powers through advanced technology and live in a Celestial City that circles the planet. They are worshipped by a populace of ordinary humans that lacks modern technology.
With machines that can read a person's mind and transfer it from the body it occupies into a newly constructed body, nobody dies except through accident. Instead, a person is mechanically reincarnated before one dies, and by the principle of Karma, the kind of body and circumstances of the next incarnation are determined by one's actions in the previous life.
The novel centers around a group of renegades that challenge this status quo--former gods and goddesses who were stripped of their divinity by their colleagues. As the novel begins, Yama, the former god of death, and Ratri, once goddess of night, are using a giant Satellite dish in the form of a Lotus, to beam down MahaSamAtman, known variously as Sam, Maitreya, Kalkin, Binder, Lord of Light, and the Buddha, from an electronic cloud circling the planet where he is imprisoned in a state of Nirvana.
In flashbacks, we learn that Sam is no Buddha, but a counterfeit who stole the forbidden teachings of Buddhism and belonged to a minority faction among The First that wants to make the technology of immortality and god powers available to all. Sam recruits the original energy being inhabitants of the planet to battle his brethren but is defeated at the hands of Yama. Subsequently, Yama himself is banished from the Celestial City by a coalition led by his consort, Kali, the goddess who wears a necklace of skulls.
The novel contains more than a smattering of Hindu myth and Buddhist scripture, leavened with humor and battle scenes. For anyone looking for something a bit different, it's well worth a look.
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