Lord of Light uses amazing visualizations to describe the most beautiful sights or the most truly horrific. The book could be boiled down to good versus evil, but who is good and who is evil? The story is really the oldest ever lived. People have many beliefs and they don't allow others beliefs to exist. What isn't my belief is wrong. A group of people (the Firsts) travel to another world to set themselves up as Gods and they succeed for many... centuries? I'm not sure about the time. They move from body to body to continue their existence. They set up "Heaven" and keep the masses down by denying them any knowledge of technology. If the people happen to discover something like the printing press, the Gods crush the people and technology. There was one among them who believed in "Acceleration". This just meant that the people would be given the knowledge slowly and the people would rise up to be equal with the Gods and therefor no more need for Heaven or Gods. The one who believed this, Sam, had many names and none of them were popular within Heaven and the gods, so there were many battles. Sam is a rather charming and ingenious character. The book started out slowly for me, but picked up pace about three quarters of the way in and built in a battle to the death. One funny aside was the fact that Christianity is fought by zealot leading zombies.
I just reread this and I'm glad I did. This is one of those little books full of big ideas, wonderful language and some interesting characters. They're proud, fearful, smart (and stupid) and all around human, even though they are gods ...
For those that don't know, the book is set on a distant world in the far future when Earth is dead and the world was colonized by a starship called The Star of India. There, the crew helped tame the world by fighting against the bodiless Rakashas, the Mothers of the Glow and several other races. Then they set themselves up as Hindu gods using psionics and advanced technology.
As the book opens Tak, an ape, and Yama, a renegade god of death are trying to reincarnate the Buddha, who has been exiled to Nirvana. From there we are taken on a tour of Heaven (the city of the gods), treated to epic battles suitable for the Vedas and all around given a good story.
I'll say this much - I've read Zelazny's Amber series once. This I've read and re-read and will continue to do so.
This book mixes sci-fi with the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses as well as a smattering of Buddhism and Catholicism. It is not, however, about religion at all really. It is more about how a select few can bend society to their will and the consequences that they can face. The writing can be a bit disjointed because he makes pains to tell the story much like how Indian tales are written (the story jumps around a bit, lots of strange characters some of which can be more than one person in a way, sometimes archaic speech). The story is good, but the ending is a bit abrupt and the characters could have been more fleshed out in some instances.