starstar starstar Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Probably his best book in terms of style, sweep and scope. It is well written enough and has enough "scope", whatever that is, to qualify as "literature" to many more high-minded than I. I just like it a lot. I was just re-reading it last night, which is probably why I'm writing this now.

It is about an isolated human colony on an unnamed planet. The colonists are of eastern Indian (not Native American) descent. In order to combat the indigenous terrors of the planet, the leaders of the colony develop Aspects and Attributes (ok, they are really superpowers) patterned on the Hindu pantheon. They do this with a mixture of technology, psionics, and just plain will. They also make reincarnation a reality, though by technological means rather than supernatural.

In the process, the crew members of the colony ship, who become gods and demigods, keep the "passengers" oppressed and in a rigid caste system. A number of crew members think this is unjust. But the crew leaders like being gods, and adopt a paternalistic, "they aren't ready" kind of attitude.

The effective leader of the opposition is a warrior/con man (like a number of Zelazny characters) with many names, but you can call him Sam. He starts a counter-movement to the Hindu establishment: Buddhism! (Later, when asked why he didn't try Christianity, he says he would have, but crucifixion hurts!) The book relates his struggles against the gods in the Celestial City (which used to be called First Base). Along the way you meet Yama, the God of Death, Agni the God of Fire, Shiva the Destroyer, Kali, the Goddess of Death and Despair, all of which are very convincing in their roles. We also meet fire-demons, which behave much like classical Hindu (or Christian) demons. They are pure-energy beings, who were the inhabitants of this planet before the humans came. In fact, Sam's "power" is more or less psychokinetic electrodirection, which among other things, means he can control these beings (one of his more prominent names is "Binder of Demons"). Anyway, there are a number of battles and twists and turns before the end.

One warning: Between chapters one and two, we flash back a number of years. This was not immediately obvious to me. I was confused until chapter four. So watch out for the timeframes in this novel as you go along. But it repays the effort. And is a good re-read even after you know what is going to happen.