I actually finished reading this book about a week and a half ago, but my weekend blogging time was taken up by Kindle rage and frantic research into the Ottoman Empire of the 17th century, so I’m a little late on reporting my thoughts.
To start with, if there was ever a book to redeem science fiction to me, this is it. As I mentioned before, neither science fiction nor religion interest me much in fiction, but Roger Zelazny wove them together so beautifully that they almost become something new entirely. I jumped into the book with some background knowledge in Hindu mythology already. It’s not necessary to understand the story, but it does help to pick up the meaning and color in all of the references. It also gave me grins and giggles whenever Krishna was mentioned. On that note, I loved the characters, especially Yama but that’s no surprise. If Tanya Huff’s Wizard of the Grove and Terry Pratchett’s Mort have taught me anything, it’s that Death is always my favorite character.
Above: Death being awesome.
In the first chapter the reader is dropped into a world of gods and technology and made to find their own way through it, sustained on tantalizing breadcrumbs of information. I have a deep appreciation for writers who allow their readers to figure things out on their own, and Lord of Light definitely gives the reader that credit. There are no lengthy explanations of the world mechanics or the history of the characters. The reader is given snippets of the puzzle and asked politely to hold onto them. Character and setting are seamlessly blended into the story, so that by the end of the first chapter the reader is comfortable in the world and left with enough missing information to keep interest high.
The second chapter suddenly, unapologetically, and with a warning so subtle I missed it the first time, leaps back in time. Normally this would irritate me, but I think I was so slow to actually pick up what had happened that the story managed to suck me even further in and I was passed the point of no return by then. Despite being confused through all of chapter two and half of chapter three, I could orient myself again when the story picked up the pace.
The interactions between the characters in chapter three I think, is what really sealed things between this book and me. It could be that there’s a pretty epic fight scene between Yama and another awesome character, Sugata– but I think it’s also that I started the chapter disliking in and ended with loving it. I don’t even know when the change occurred, but this is my favorite chapter in the book.
Whatever the reason, at the end of chapter three, not yet half way through the book, I couldn’t put it down. I read the rest of the book in a day, staying up until three in the morning to do so. I haven’t done that since my elementary school days, when my parents took away my light bulbs to get me to stop reading and go to sleep. The tumbling, breathless battle scenes that played out in the final chapters reminded me why sci-fi/fantasy is my favorite genre, and the jump back into the opening timeline is made so naturally that there’s no confusion a second time. Stylistically, this impressed me the most. Maybe the story just had me so completely at that point that I was willing to accept anything out of it.
Perhaps the most delightful thing out of the many delightful qualities of this book, is its re-readability. In flipping through the chapters a second time the story comes to life fresh all over again. Having read it once only increases the pleasure of reading it again.
To summarize, it’s an incredibly crafted, original and entertaining book which definitely deserves the praise it receives.
The next book on my reading list is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.