Lord of Light
Lord of Light is an epic science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by American author Roger Zelazny
Roger Zelazny
Roger Joseph Zelazny was an American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels, best known for his The Chronicles of Amber series...

. It was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award
Hugo Award
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards...

 for Best Novel
Hugo Award for Best Novel
The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially...

, and nominated for a Nebula Award
Nebula Award
The Nebula Award is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America , for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year...

 in the same category
Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winners of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The stated year is that of publication; awards are given in the following year.- Winners and other nominees :...

. Two chapters from the novel were published as novelettes in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1967. Zelazny's close friend (and fellow science fiction/fantasy author) George R. R. Martin
George R. R. Martin
George Raymond Richard Martin , sometimes referred to as GRRM, is an American author and screenwriter of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He is best known for A Song of Ice and Fire, his bestselling series of epic fantasy novels that HBO adapted for their dramatic pay-cable series Game of...

 describes in his afterword to Lord of Light how Zelazny once told him that the whole novel came from a single pun.

The context of the novel – modern western characters in a Hindu-Buddhist-infused world – is reflected in the book's opening lines:

The novel is structured as a series of long semi-independent chapters; each a distinct story within a long campaign by the protagonist Sam – a classic trickster
In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior. It is suggested by Hansen that the term "Trickster" was probably first used in this...

 character – against the established gods of the world.

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, 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. Silence, though, could.

Opening words.

It was in the days of the rains that their prayers went up, not from the fingering of knotted prayer cords or the spinning of prayer wheels, but from the great pray-machine in the monastery of Ratri|Ratri, goddess of the Night.

"Your prayers and your curses come to the same. Lord Yama," commented the ape. "That is to say, nothing." "It has taken you seventeen incarnations to arrive at this truth?" said Yama. "I can see then why you are still doing time as an ape."

Not by the normal course of events shall we be restored or matters settled, Tak of the Bright Spear. We must beat our own path.

Ratri to Tak

Sam was the greatest charlatan in the memory of god or man. He was also the worthiest opponent Trimurti|Trimurti ever faced.

Ratri to Tak

I have many names, and none of them matter.

Sam in a sermon to his followers.