The following excerpt from Lord of Light provides a flavor of the rich imagery of Roger Zelazny.
I read this book in a high school science fiction literature class. The rich mythology of the
Indian sub-continent lent itself very well to the magic implied in advanced technology.
This is one of the few books I return to every once in a while to submerge myself in the humid,
overcrowded, orchid-strewn scenery. If ever a time comes when I will be called upon to memorize
a book - to become the book - as in Fahrenheit 451, then Lord of Light will be my incarnation.
In the story Kali, the goddess of death, and Yama, the god of death are to be married. Kali is actually
the latest avatar, or incarnation, of one of the original starship's crew (referred to as 'the First'). She had
many lives and centuries
earlier carved an empire out of this untamed world with Kalkin, who now is known as Siddhartha and the story's
protagonist. He also was one of the original ship's crew. Yama is a "snot-nosed", third generation scientific
and inventive genius who was gravely hurt in an accident as a teenager and was transferred into an aged body
in the emergency. He became enamored with the concept of death - he had lived as an old man before he knew
what it was like to be young.
These two, Kali and Yama are part of the antagonist side of the conflict over who should rule and how much power
those who do rule should have over the masses. Siddhartha and others oppose the 'will of Heaven' with a populist,
democratic philosophy. But they use the power of religion and myth to fight their battles. What follows is
a description of the gods and demigods arriving for the wedding feast.
Excerpt from Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, Avon Books, New York, 1967, pp. 216-217
The Marriage of Kali and Yama
Out of the sky, riding on the polar winds, across the seas and the land, over the burning snow,
and under it and through it,
The shape-shifters drifted across the fields of white,
and the sky-walkers
trumpets sounded over the wastes, and the chariot
s of the snows thundered forward, light leaping
like spears from their burnished sides; cloaks of fur afire, white plumes of massively breathed
air trailing above and behind them, golden-gauntleted and sun-eyed, clanking and skidding, rushing
- bright baldric,
- frost-greaves and
and across the world that lay at their back, there was rejoicing in the Temples, with much singing
and the making of offerings, and processions and prayers, sacrifices
and dispensations, pageantry and color.
For the much feared goddess was to be wedded with Death, and it was hoped that this would serve to soften
both their dispositions.
A festive spirit had
also infected Heaven, and with the gathering of the gods and the demigods, the heroes and the nobles,
the high priests and the favored rajahs and high-ranking Brahmins, this spirit obtained force and
momentum and spun like an all-colored whirlwind, thundering in the heads of the First and latest alike.
So they came to the Celestial City, riding on the backs of the cousins of the Garuda Bird, spinning down
in sky gondolas, rising up through arteries of the mountains, blazing across the snow-soaked, ice-tracked
wastes, to make Milehigh Spire to ring with their song, to laugh through a spell of brief and inexplicable
darkness that descended and dispersed again, shortly; and in the days and nights of their coming, it was
said by the poet Adasay that they resembled at least six different things (he was always lavish with his similes):
- a migration of birds, bright birds, across a waveless ocean of milk;
- a procession of musical notes through the head of a slightly mad composer;
- a school of those deep swimming fish whose bodies are whorls and runnels of light, circling about some
phosphorescent plant within a cold a sea-deep pit;
- the Spiral Nebula, suddenly collapsing upon its center;
- a storm, each drop of which becomes a feather, songbird or jewel; and
- (perhaps most cogent) a Temple full of terrible and highly decorated statues, suddenly animated and singing,
suddenly rushing forth across the world, bright banners playing in the wind, shaking palaces, and toppling towers, to
meet at the center of everything, to kindle and enormous fire and dance about it, with the ever-present possibility
of either the fire or the dance going completely out of control.
end of excerpt