Study Guide

Lord of Light Summary

By Roger Zelazny

Lord of Light Summary

Lord of Light is set up a lot like a season of your favorite television show. It contains six novella-length chapters (read: episodes) detailing the exploits of those wacky gods and downtrodden humans we come to know and love. Each chapter contains its own story and plot, but they each end with a giant to be continued vibe in the air. The stories eventually tie together in a grand conclusion, giving you that satisfied feeling that only comes from the very best television… or book.

Episode 1

Yama, the god of death, snatches the soul of the one called Sam from Nirvana. Yama, Ratri, and Tak need the former Buddha to continue his crusade against the gods if they are ever to set the world right. Sam is a little peeved at being yanked from paradise's all you can eat buffet of perfect and awesome (we feel you, bro), but agrees to take up the fight once again.

Sam adjusts to being human again. Mara, the god of illusion, attempts to discover his whereabouts only to meet his end in Yama's death grip. The holy fugitives escape to Ratri's palace in Khaipur to consider their next move.

Episode 2

Previously on Lord of Light, it was the present, but this episode, er, chapter takes place in the past. Prince Siddhartha—the man who would become a Buddha—travels to Mahartha to receive a fresh body since his old one is, well, old. There, he meets another of the Firsts, Jan Olvegg, and learns that the gods have changed the reincarnation requirements in a way that would make the DMV seem pleasant. Ugh.

If Sam (the Siddhartha formerly known as Prince) wants a fresh bit of flesh, he will have to undergo a mind-probe from the Lords of Karma, and they will decide what type of body he'll receive. Sam asks the god Brahma for assistance but doesn't trust the deity's word—and rightfully so; the Masters of Karma try to give him a diseased body. Sam tricks them, storms the Palace of Karma, and steals a resurrection machine for himself before going into hiding.

Episode 3

At Alundil, Sam fashions himself a Buddha and preaches the way to enlightenment (which, conveniently, does not involve the Hindu gods). Kali sends an assassin named Rild to do what assassins do, but Sam converts Rild to his new religion, and the former assassin achieves a state of enlightenment that perhaps even surpasses Sam's.

Yama, the god of death, is sent to finish the job, but encounters Rild instead. After killing Rild, Yama confronts Sam, but Sam catches Yama in two traps: first in the dreamworld, and then in the more worldly trap of quicksand. Realizing the gods are gunning for him, Sam goes to get some weapons.

Episode 4

Sam enters Hellwell and recruits the Rakasha, alien life forms native to the planet that share many similarities to demons. The Lord of Hellwell, Taraka, possesses Sam and uses the Buddha's body to delve into all manner of worldly pleasures—Vegas style, baby. Sam defeats Taraka by infusing the demon with human guilt.

Not long afterward, Agni, Lord of Fire, attacks Sam. Taraka flies his host to Hellwell where they are attacked by Kali, Shiva, Yama, and Agni. The Rakasha fight a brave battle, but in the end, the gods knock Taraka out of Sam's body and kidnap their nemesis.

Episode 5

In the Celestial City, everyone wonders what they will do with the captured Sam. Kali originally tries to convince her former lover to stay with her, but Sam refuses, so like a woman scorned, Kali makes a deal with Brahma to have Sam sacrificed at her wedding. Classy.

Sam breaks into the Museum of Heaven to steal a powerful artifact and escape, but gets stopped by Mara. The Celestial City becomes a hunting ground, and Sam is killed by an unknown god or goddess. It's a nice day for a white wedding, though, so Yama and Kali tie the knot.

Episode 6

Both Brahma and Shiva are murdered. Kali is raised to the new Brahma, annulling her marriage to Yama. Yama decides to discover who the killer is, since he needs someone to kill. Meanwhile, Lord Kubera solves the mystery: It was Sam, who transposed his atman into a new body after his death. Kubera, Sam, and Ratri flee the city and head to Keenset to prepare for battle with the gods. Yama, upset at Kali for throwing away their marriage, joins them later.

A battle ensues that would make Peter Jackson green with epic envy. In the end, Sam and his comrades are defeated, but the gods pay a hefty price. Yama kills himself, transmitting his atman into a new body. Sam's atman is linked to a satellite and sent cruising the magnetic storm circling the planet.

Episode 7

This is where we came in. Nirriti the Black One has picked up where Sam left off, joined with the Rakasha, and is on a warpath. Destination: Heaven. The gods regroup to meet him while Sam and company are stuck in Khaipur, right in the middle. Sam ultimately decides to join with Brahma and the gods under the condition that they permit freedom of religion and accept technological advancement amongst humanity. Brahma accepts.

Another epic battle ensues. Nirriti, Brahma, and most of the gods die. Sam claims victory. Afterward, Sam and Yama ride off into the sunset—so to speak—and into legend.