It's been years and years since I last read Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, far too long for one of my all time favorites. One reason I hadn't, I suppose, is that the story remained vivid in my mind over that time, so there was no need to refresh the memory. I've been thinking about it a lot lately in comparison with The Silmarillion. Not that they are similar books, but the subject matter in both is myth. In the case of The Silmarillion, the mythology is presented as history, the background upon which Tolkein built his world. In Lord of Light, the mythology of an old world has been imposed on a new world as fact.
Hundreds of years ago, the crew of a colony ship, through the use of psionics, genetic manipulation, and technology, set themselves up as the Hindu pantheon, ruling over their now pre-industrial passengers as gods. The carrot that allows the ordinary folk to be dominated in this manner is the availability of genuine reincarnation, and, of course, the gods control all access to the technology of immortality. The fly in the ointment is Sam, a member of the crew who wants to end the lie, as well as restore modern technology to the colonists.
I am glad I decided to reread. It had been a long time, and there are so many things I like about this book. There is Zelazny's prose, which flows easily off the page. There are the little bits of whimsy that appear amidst the straight telling of the story, the puns, the gags. Not a lot of them, but enough to keep the tone light. There are the battle scenes that delight the comic book geek in me (Agni's description has him wearing a superhero's uniform). It's actually very Buffy-like, although I suppose it would be more correct to say that Buffy is very Zelazny-like. And as Buffy often does, the end sets off my allergies a little.
(There is one warning about the book for first-time readers that really ought to be printed on the cover. The book has seven chapters, and the middle five are a not immediately obvious flashback, which is pretty disconcerting if you don't know it's coming. Just go with it. It all becomes clear eventually.)
I started Lord of Light Thursday night after the show closed, and finished it as the plane pushed back from the Orlando terminal the next morning. Then I started Lt. Leary, Commanding by David Drake, the second book in Drake's version of Horatio Hornblower in space. Lt. Leary is now in command of the RCS Princess Cecile, the prize ship he captured in the first book, With the Lightnings, and is accompanied by his friend and signal officer, Adele Mundy, formerly one of the greatest librarians in the known universe, and now apparently a spy for the Republic of Cinnabar. I did have trouble starting this one, and I only got about fifty pages into it on the flight, although I think a lot of that is because I was having trouble staying awake and concentrating, so I was rereading pages a lot. (It wasn't the book's fault. I went to sleep after midnight, then sales manager has insomnia around 4, and was banging around the room while I was trying to sleep.) I liked the first book well enough, so we'll see.