Monday, January 08, 2007

3. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Lord of Light cover pictureIf you look down the left hand side of this page, you may have noticed that Lord of Light has been on my to read list for quite some time. The only other book by Roger Zelazny I read was Donnerjack, giving to me by a fellow teacher a while back (thanks, Pete!). I loved it and after doing a bit of research, saw that Lord of Light is considered one of Zelazny's best books. Well, I searched far and wide for a used copy of it, but they weren't to be had in any of my bookhunting jungles (Montreal, Toronto, New York, Vancouver and finally the east bay) until I found a used copy of a re-released trade paperback. It was $6, which is more than I had hoped to find it for, but the only other time I had even seen it was a brand new version of the same trade paperback, so I picked it up.

It took me a while to get into it. Partly it's because I was flying and distracted when I started it and partly because the opening tells the story in a very oblique way. It was only due to the blurb at the back that I had an inkling of what was going on. As you get about a quarter of the way through, you start to figure out what the hell is actually going on and then it gets really interesting and really cool.

It is some future far-off planet that humans, escaping their own dying earth, colonized long ago. To colonize it, they used their technology to destroy or contain the existing creatures and then reproduced themselves to create a human population. They had the power to transfer their beings into new bodies and were thus effectively immortal. As their world grew, the first arrivers turned themselves into gods. Their colonization exploits and their internecine struggles become the myths of their human offspring.

Lord of Light follows the half-epic, half-mundane story of one of the first who decides to destroy the gods and allow their powers (i.e. their technology) to be spread to the rest of the world. The book is about his strategies, alliances and battles.

There are a lot of characters and it gets more confusing because when a named god dies, another character may take over his role and thus his name. It also jumps around in time a bit (though actually the structure is fairly straightforward once you figure it out). So I found myself a bit distanced from it all.

Nevertheless, it is a really cool book. The way the gods manifest themselves, their powers and tools is a clever and original blend of technology and magic (it's hard to tell where one begins and the other leaves off) and the world is rich and full of adventure potential. I think it either demands a re-read or careful concentration when you are reading it. It's an easy read and entertaining, but if you take it lightly you will miss some of the depth and connections and get a bit confused. So I recommend it, but read it when you have a chunk of time to dedicate to it.

[note about the rapidity with which I got the first two books down: it's entirely due to me being at the parents house for a couple of days after the new year. One can really focus in that environment. I hope I can keep it up, but as you can see, #3 took a lot longer than the first two!]

[note about my reluctance to pay $6 buck for this book. Yes, it's a decent price and yes I'm a cheap bastard, but as you can see it's just not a very inspiring cover. Take look at some of the other original paperback editions of the book and you can see what I was hoping to find in some dusty sci-fi shelf of a used bookstore.]

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