Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rule their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them, he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons. Lord of Light. (Blurb, Eos 2004 paperback edition)
Roger Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” paints a dystopian (although, it must be said, in an immensely humorous way) transhumanist future where technocrats have seized power through monopolizing the use and advancement of all but the most simple technology. In the eyes of the common people, these same technocrats are viewed as gods, and their tech-infused powers as divine magic. The book thus presents a scenario where the division of humanity into a sharply stratified (indeed the “Hindu gods” live in a vast walled city poised above the world of mere mortals…) society rests solely on the acquisition and sequestering of knowledge by a small elite—and the subsequent political use of that knowledge in attaining absolute power. In a through and through SF framing, the book sets an interesting scene in which the eventual occultation of technology (as far as the average citizen is concerned) brings about political change that the general populous can no longer trace as being a consequence of technological tyranny, but rather, over the course of generations come to view the rule of the omnipotent technocrats as, simply, the natural order of things.
Zelazny, Roger – Lord of Light, Doubleday & Company Inc. (1967).
Artwork by Jack Kirby