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[[quoteright:250:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lolnovel_7601.jpg]]

-> ''His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit.''

''Lord of Light'' is a 1967 [[HugoAward Hugo Award]]-winning ScienceFantasy novel by Creator/RogerZelazny, which pushes the boundaries between ScienceFiction and {{Fantasy}}.

On a far-future LostColony, the original crew of the Colony Ship have all [[HandWave somehow]] gained psychic powers. Using these plus rigorous controls on technology, they have set themselves up [[AGodAmI as the Gods]] of HinduMythology, and absolute rulers of the world, with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva at their head. One of the original crew--the man known as Sam--is not satisfied with this state of affairs, and decides to start a rebellion, taking the identity of Buddha.

The novel is more-or-less ScienceFiction, but relies heavily on {{Fantasy}} tropes. Zelazny's follow-up novel, ''Literature/CreaturesOfLightAndDarkness'', is almost exactly the opposite, a {{Fantasy}} (with [[EgyptianMythology Egyptian Gods]]) full of ScienceFiction tropes. Though unrelated, the two works are often considered companion pieces. ''Lord of Light'' remains one of Zelazny's most popular and respected works. It also inspired a song by {{Hawkwind}}.

Notably, concept art by JackKirby for a film adaption of the book was used by the CIA as cover when they needed to create a a pretense to evacuate Americans out of Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis, as detailed in the Creator/BenAffleck movie ''Film/{{Argo}}''.
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!!''Lord Of Light'' contains examples of:
* AncientAstronauts: And they're ''human'' astronauts, at that: the world was colonized by the crew and passengers of a starship, long enough ago that their offworld origins have been largely forgotten by the common people.
* AnthropomorphicPersonification: Yama believes that the gods have become truly divine by identifying themselves so thoroughly with a single concept, such as love, war, or death, that they become it. [[ShutUpHannibal Sam thinks he's full of it.]]
* AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: Sam's exile to Nirvana: his ''atman'' is transmitted along self-perpetuating radio-waves. He's quite upset when he's brought back.
* BackFromTheDead: [[spoiler: Sam. Twice--once when executed in Heaven after the battle in Hellwell, once when he is exiled to Nirvana (see above).]]
* BadHabits: Sam privately admits that he's merely posing as the Buddha, and doesn't believe the dogma he preaches.
* BalefulPolymorph: The gods' favorite means of punishing dissenters in their ranks is to transfer the minds of the offenders into the bodies of animals, instead of people.
* BarehandedBladeBlock: Yama does this to a telekinetically-driven sword, while armored, and is wounded anyway.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: After his return from Nirvana, Sam gives a speech to this effect to his followers, commenting afterwards that it's very hard to get people stirred up about fighting evil when they are taught that bearing suffering is good for their karma, but that fighting for beauty is an easier sell.
* BloodKnight / SpiritedCompetitor:
** Taraka is utterly dedicated to testing his might against any WorthyOpponent''s'' he can find.
** Kali is also a BloodKnight, bored with peace and missing the battles of the old days.
* BringMyRedJacket: Yama wears red, though he tends not to be wounded as much as the trope implies.
* BodyBackupDrive: Everyone who uses the reincarnation machines, although they use cloning to provide new bodies, instead of stealing them.
* CallASmeerpARabbit: This planet is not Earth, yet the gods have given Earth names to all the flora and fauna.
** Not slizzards
* CameBackWrong: Being transferred to a new body after the old one has died causes brain damage. [[spoiler: This happens to Brahma/Kali in the final battle.]]
* CavalryBetrayal: [[spoiler: Indra and the demigods to Brahma in the end]].
* CharacterFilibuster: Sam gets one in almost every chapter. Tak and Yama also get in one each.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Taraka. Even though he's a demon, this always surprises Sam.
** To some extent, Ganesha.
* ChurchMilitant: Nirriti the Black.
* ClarkesThirdLaw: The whole idea of the book is to explore this from the perspective of the people using the sufficiently advanced technology.
* CombatPragmatist: It would be easier to list the characters who aren't.
** For example, Yama fights Rild, a man who cannot be stabbed or cut. Yama eventually kills him by dragging him into the nearby stream and holding him under.
* CoolAndUnusualPunishment: "The curse of the Buddha", inflicted on Taraka as a punishment for possessing Sam. [[spoiler: It's guilt - a human feeling, unfamiliar to the Rakasha, which Taraka contracted from Sam's mind.]]
* CorruptChurch: When one goes to apply for reincarnation, how much money one has offered to the various temples is taken into account when determining how one reincarnates. Automated "pray-o-mats" are set up to receive these offerings.
* [[CrystalSpiresAndTogas Crystal Spires And Saris]]: Heaven in a nutshell.
* DarkIsNotEvil: [[spoiler:Nirriti the Black.]] It becomes clear only near the end of the novel. He remains an antagonist, though.
* DarkMessiah: Sam, definitely.
* DeaderThanDead: To forgo reincarnation, or be denied it, is to "die the real death".
* DealWithTheDevil: Sam cuts a deal with the Rakasha to get them on his side in his campaign against Heaven. Naturally, they attempt to renege.
* DeathGlare: Yama, being the god of death, can [[EyeBeams physically affect]] people with his, as well as just intimidating the hell out of them. He kills [[spoiler: Indra and Taraka]] with it.
* DefaceOfTheMoon: Sam once mentions the time when Agni burned the face of all three moons with his wand built by Yama.
* DefectorFromDecadence: Subverted with Yama. Sam tries to convince him that he's too good for "the crew of drunken body-changers", but ultimately, he's pushed over the edge only because [[spoiler:he was ditched by Kali.]]
* DeityOfHumanOrigin: This concept is explored in this one.
* DemonicPossession: Taraka, the first and most powerful Rakasha that Sam frees possesses him for a time.
* DirtyOldMan: Krishna, technically. Later, he becomes a straight example while stranded in an old body.
* DistressedDude: the book opens with rescuing Sam's mind.
* DoNotCallMePaul:
** Sam seals his fate with the gods when he dares refer to Brahma by his birth name: Madeleine.
** Averted with Jan Olvegg, who's gotten very tired with the whole deity business and prefers to use his ''original'' title [[spoiler:as Captain of the ''Star of India'']]. Also subverted with Nirriti the Black, who still calls himself [[spoiler:[[ChurchMilitant Reverend]] Renfrew]].
* DontCallMeSir: Sam has dozens of titles, but likes none of them.
* DontTouchItYouIdiot: The door to [[SealedEvilInACan Hellwell]] is inscribed with the words:
--> ''"Go away. This is not a place to be. If you do try to enter here, you will fail and also be cursed. If somehow you succeed, then do not complain that you entered unwarned, nor bother us with your deathbed prayers." Signed, "The Gods."''
* DuelToTheDeath
* EarthThatWas: "Lost Urath."
* EldritchAbomination: The Mothers of the Terrible Glow are implied to be something like that.
* ElementalEmbodiment: Sam has a ring that gives him control of a bevy of fire elementals, which he won from a Rakasha in a game of craps.
* EmperorScientist: All of the gods have PsychicPowers, but it is their incredible technology that allows them to claim divinity and rule.
* EnergyBeing: The Rakasha. There were apparently others before them, but the gods wiped them out.
* EnlightenmentSuperpowers: Essentially the source of everyone's PsychicPowers and thus their alleged godhood.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: The demonic Rakasha will betray humans at every opportunity, with the sole exception of gambling debts, which they will always honor. This is more because they love gambling and are afraid that people won't be willing to play if they cheat, but it's a standard nonetheless.
* EvilOverlord: Nirriti the Black is a subversion. A [[GoodColorsEvilColors black-clad]] conqueror who leads legions of TheUndead in his quest to TakeOverTheWorld, he is actually a ChurchMilitant Christian, and his hordes are OrganicTechnology robots, not zombies.
* FaceDeathWithDignity: [[spoiler: Renfrew asks for Buddha's blessing as he dies.]]
* FakeNationality: A number of the original ship's crew would seem not to be actually Indian. They have names like Sam, Madeleine, Renfrew, and Jan Olvegg. Apparently the ''colonists'' they carried were mostly Indian.
* FlashbackStares: The extended flashback scene that comprises the main body of the novel is indicated by the sentence "Sam stared ahead, remembering."
* GadgeteerGenius: Yama, crossing over with MadScientist, and making a brief stop at ScienceHero.
* GenderBender: The reincarnation machines can allow people to switch genders. Most don't, although Kali does when she becomes the new Brahma, and the Monarch of Thieves has switched genders with every incarnation for so long that no one can remember what gender he/she was originally.
** Old Brahma had done it too.
* GeniusBruiser: Yama is both the world's greatest swordsman and its greatest scientist.
* AGodAmI: The "gods" now honestly believe themselves to be divine.
* AGodIAmNot: Except for Sam (and Jan Olvegg), see the page quote.
* GodCouple: Yama and Kali. It ends badly.
* GodEmperor: A whole pantheon of them.
* GoneHorriblyRight: The gods permitted Nirriti to take some technology and set up a home base so they could justify their oppressive practices by pointing at an external threat to their regime. But Nirriti quickly expanded his abilities beyond what the gods anticipated and rapidly became an actual threat, rather than just a bogeyman.
* GuileHero: Sam has potent powers at his disposal, but prefers to triumph through trickery.
* HeelFaceRevolvingDoor: Taraka.
* HeelFaceTurn: Yama, Ratri, Tak, Kubera, Krishna, and Rild all have them.
* HinduMythology: Sort of a given.
* HitmanWithAHeart: Rild, sanctified killer-priest of Kali.
* HowMuchMoreCanHeTake: Yama and Rild have one of these fights, since Rild is MadeOfIron and Yama is the world's greatest swordsman.
* HowWeGotHere: After the InMediasRes beginning, the second chapter jumps back to give us the back story.
* IHaveManyNames: He is Mahasamatman, Siddhartha, Buddha, Kalkin, Maitreya, Tathagatha, the Enlightened One, Binder of Demons, and Lord of Light. But he prefers to drop the "Maha-" and the "-atman" and be called Sam.
* InLoveWithYourCarnage: Kali only loves Yama for his Aspect as god of death.
** When she says she still loves Sam, he says that she probably never loved him, and only loves the days in which they fought together.
* InMediasRes: ''Lord of Light'' begins with Sam’s return from Nirvana (“recovering from the peace which passeth understanding takes time”, p. 15) to which he is exiled after the Battle of Keenset at the end of chapter six.
* JerkassGods: Oh, yes.
* KingBobTheNth: The colony ship that carried the original settlers to the world of the planet's setting was called the "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_India_(ship) Star of India]]".
* LadyInRed: Kali wears a red sari and necklaces of skulls.
* LongevityTreatment: the so-called "Gods" have mind-transfer technology that they use to reward or punish people. Be good, and you may end up with a bright, shiny new young body. Be bad, and you may end up with the old, worn-out body left by someone who was good.
* LostColony: The setting. Earth is described as "lost Urath," although whether this means the book occurs AfterTheEnd, or it simply means they can't get back to Earth, is left an open question.
* LoveTriangle - Yama loves Kali. Kali (in her [[{{Yandere}} own unique way]]) loves Sam. Sam loves his cause, and apparently not much else.
* LukeYouAreMyFather / YourSonAllAlong / DisappearedDad: a rather twisty example in Tak, whose original body was originally sired by Sam. Tak himself doubts that Sam knows this [[spoiler: and in the end is proven right]], and doubts that it makes any difference to either of them.
* ManBehindTheMan: Ganesha is behind the Trimurti.
* MasterOfIllusion: Mara.
* MasterSwordsman: Yama, as well as Rild.
* MeaningfulName: Sam's titular role is a reference to Buddha's enlightenment. It's also similar to Lucifer and his revolt against Heaven in Christian mythology.
* MedievalStasis: The gods keep the people of their realm permanently stuck in the Middle Ages, so as to keep them from eventually being able to challenge them. The gods who disagreed with this policy were called Accelerationists, and Sam is the only one left.
* MindProbe: The gods use these to determine which sins their subjects have committed, and therefore what bodies they are entitled to when they reincarnate. They also use them to weed out those of their own number who might break TheMasquerade.
* NighInvulnerability: Kali treats various vital areas of her "holy executioners" with chemicals that make those areas impervious to harm.
* TheNthDoctor: In-universe example: whenever a god dies before he or she can reincarnate, another god takes their place. If no gods are available, a demigod is promoted.
* OurDemonsAreDifferent: The Rakasha are [[EnergyBeing Energy Beings]], and the original inhabitants of the planet.
* OurSoulsAreDifferent: The ''atman'' can be transferred from one body to another, where it begins to slowly reshape the new body to match the original.
* OurZombiesAreDifferent: Nirriti the Black commands legions of organic robots, which are referred to as zombies.
* PathOfInspiration: The gods use Hinduism to keep the rabble in line. For that matter, Sam admits that he doesn't believe in Buddhism, and is just using it to drum up followers.
* PhysicalGod: The pantheon [[AGodAmI claims to be this]], but are actually just well-trained psychics who can BodySurf.
* PlayingBothSides: Ganesha, near the end.
* PowerArmor: Nirriti wears a suit that "fights for him with the strength of many."
* PragmaticVillainy: The gods chose to exile Sam to Nirvana -- meaning beam his mental pattern out into a "magnetic cloud" -- because they couldn't kill him.
* PsychicPowers: The true source of the gods' "Aspect" and "Attributes," honed over centuries of practice. Others also possess them. For example, a group of Buddhist monks at one point waylay Yama by collectively forcing him to sleep and have a symbolic dream.
* PsychoElectro: The Rakasha, particularly Taraka.
* {{Pun}}: The entire ''book'' was written for the single purpose of a single pun. It's [[spoiler:"Then the fit hit the Shan"]], if you were wondering.
* PunishedWithUgly: Ratri is punished by being given dumpy, elderly bodies that cannot support her using her powers.
* RageAgainstTheHeavens: Explicitly so.
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: Everybody. Some, however, are older than others, being the LostColony's founders.
* RebelliousSpirit: Sam simply isn't content to be one of the world's rulers.
* ScienceHero: Yama, the Death God, becomes this after his HeelFaceTurn. He's personally responsible for almost all the advanced weaponry on both sides of the war.
* SchizoTech: Necessary, so that the gods can maintain their "divine" cover when dealing with their followers, who are still living in MedievalStasis.
* SdrawkcabAlias: Mara, the Lord of Illusion, disguises himself as a beggar named "Aram." [[SarcasmMode Shockingly, Yama sees through this ruse.]]
* SealedEvilInACan: When he and the rest of the First conquered the planet, Sam bound the Rakasha inside Hellwell, a specially-created cavern inside a mountain. After he decides to embark on a campaign against Heaven, he releases them to serve in his army.
* ShapeshifterGuiltTrip: Attempted during Mara's clash with Yama, resulting in Mara's death.
* SheIsNotMyGirlfriend: Rudra, about Kali
* ShockAndAwe: Sam's power is the ability to redirect electrons, which has a surprising variety of uses, such as calling down lightning or controlling mechanical devices. It's very hard to zap him with an EnergyWeapon, because he can turn it off with his mind. Also useful for controlling and binding the Rakasha - a race of EnergyBeings.
* SophisticatedAsHell: Characters use the typical Zelaznian style of low slang and high erudition.
* StopWorshippingMe: Sam doesn't insist on it, but he certainly does nothing that would encourage it.
* SufficientlyAdvancedAlien: Actually, sufficiently advanced ''humans''.
* [[TakingtheVeil Taking the Saffron Robe]]: While ''Sam'''s clear intention is causing trouble, Rild feels an actual vocation to becoming a monk.
* TalkingInYourDreams: Monks put Yama in a symbolic dream.
* {{Transsexual}}: The first Brahma was originally a woman named Madeleine, and used the advent of "reincarnation" as an opportunity to become male. He continually frets that the women in his harem may be able to sense that he is "naturally" female.
* TricksterArchetype: Sam is a classic.
* TheUnfettered: Sam gets a speech where he explains he will do absolutely anything whatsoever to overthrow the yoke of the gods over the people of the planet. In the end he is even prepared to ally with the gods in order to achieve this goal.
* {{Vibroweapon}}: The Bright Spear, which vibrates itself clean of gore.
* VictoryIsBoring: [[spoiler: Kali/Brahma]] has this reaction after Sam's death, apparently, as she is willing to switch sides just to keep the conflict going.
* WarriorMonk: Rild, both before and after his conversion to Buddhism.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: Nirriti the Black, especially when it's revealed that Nirriti's original identity was [[spoiler: Renfrew, the ship's chaplain who objected to the use of Hinduism instead of Christianity as the basis of the new order]]. But in his efforts to usurp the heathen devils, [[HeWhoFightsMonsters he had become aware of the irony of leading demons himself]].
* WomanScorned: Kali brings this to exciting new levels, [[spoiler: resulting in (temporary) DeathByWomanScorned for Sam]].
* TheWorldIsNotReady: The antagonists use this as a justification for keeping their vast technology restricted to a tiny portion of the population. The protagonist calls them on it by asking why they've been actively quashing the spontaneous invention of technology. (The excuse given is that people aren't actually ''inventing'' tech, they're just ''rediscovering'' or back-engineering it based on stories, and the antagonists want them to be ''original''. Or something.)
* XMeetsY: HinduMythology meets ScienceFiction.
* YoungerThanTheyLook: Yama's backstory. A TeenGenius, he caused an explosion which mortally wounded him and had to be transferred for the first time to the only body which was available: a middle-aged man.
* YoureCuteWhenYoureAngry: Sam infuriates Brahma by saying this to him, and referring to him by his old name-- Madeleine.
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