Read 2012, reviewed 4/21/2013
I first read this book for a college SF. class. I was glad I read it through a class because it helped me understand the organization of the book. My memory of this book was that it was amazing. I greatly anticipated re-reading it.
Having re-read it, I find it a little lighter than I remembered. It didn’t knock my socks off as it did in college. However, I still loved the book. Zelazny is great with the anti-hero. The main character Sam, while not reluctant, is a low-key hero. The plot unfolds calmly. Sam almost has an indifference to his cause, trudging through it rather than leaping from tall buildings in a single bound.
I like how Zelazny plays with the concepts of greatness and the intermixing of human and divine. Set against the pantheon of the Hindu gods, we learn about them without being hit over the head with theology. I loved Sam’s answer to why he chose to be a Hindu savior as opposed, say, a Christian savior. His response was that crucifixion was too painful.
A favorite scene of mine is the despair of the god who was reincarnated from a woman to a man, surrounded by indifferent virgins who without realizing are responding to her inherent feminine energy, rather than her reincarnate masculine energy.
He also plays with the idea a humanity controlled by the gods by keeping them from developing technology. Technology is a gift from the gods, and comes with its own karma. When a new indoor toilet is developed, a character describes how he is saving his excrement until he gets a new toilet, so that he can begin accumulating the good karma of the technology in advance of using it.
I wanted to give this book 5 stars, but I felt a little unsatisfied when I finished it. Maybe I had built up my expectations too much. If I read it again, I may change my mind. Despite the rating, it is one of my favorites. It was one of the first SF novels I read that toyed with religion, a genre for which I have developed a great fondness.