This book is one of my favorites from Roger Zelazny. The 2 Amber Chronicles are my all time favorite from him though, but this book Isle of the Dead I have read almost as many times as the Chronicles. This story, even though it was one of his earlier, is why we still love all of Zelany’s works. They are just that good even though a lot of critics of the day and even now do not like his work. Then again how many fantasy or sci-fi pieces truly get reviewed for what they are. People see them as worthless wastes of time. I say they show the true soul of humanity and can show us how to better ourselves. Rodger and his contemporary artists were men like that. They may have their faults but their stories can teach much about ourselves and the world around us.
Ok, now for the actual book :P The story is about a down trodden man that is feed up with his life and sought out an ancient race to be able to make something of himself. The race were world builders. What that means is that they could take the raw stuff of the universe and shape it into worlds that would be habitable by other species. They would even create the plants and animals that would live on these worlds. Depending on the project, the process could take decades to be able to make one habitable world and they would do this all on their own with just their minds and specialized equipment.
This race was not stupid, they knew that to make something and give it life that it needed the spark of the divine to be truly alive. Because of this they created a religion where they would become the aspect of some god from the cosmos and use that overlay to become an avatar with the ability to spark into existence the life that they were creating. Because of the special way in which they would form these worlds the person who made the world would always have a special connection with that world. Anything of that planet would instantly know that their creator had arrived and would do anything for them. They were that worlds creator and if you stretch it, its god. Simply they were world builders that used alien gods to get the job done.
Now with that said, Sandow, the lost man I told you about earlier, he sought them out and became a world builder himself. You see he had some telepathic ability and in learning how to use it to build worlds he was gifted with long life. How long that life was is anyone’s guess, even some of the ones he studied with had even forgotten just how old they themselves were. Learning to build worlds and accepting into yourself the aspect of a god changes you forever. You are still yourself with all your old desires, faults and good attributes, you are just more and your aging almost stops. Some who read the story might not see it that way, but that is how I see it. Anyway, Sandow learned the craft and began to make a name for himself as a commercial world builder that would build a world to suit just about anyone’s needs. He was the first and only human to ever be able to or even aloud to complete the training of a world builder and accepted into himself a god from the pantheon of the world builders religion. Most of the newer world builders didn’t even know that the gods that they interacted with were even real. They just thought it was a focus, something that you did so that it would all work. The older ones of the world builders that were dieing off let them think that and even fostered that belief. Doing that would insure that the religion would actually continue on, even if the avatar priests didn’t not even realize it.
Now the aspect that Sandow accepted into himself had an enemy and that enemy tricked another failed world builder pupil into accepting him as their patron. The god did this because he wanted to have a way to be able to attack and distry his old nemesis. The only way he could do this is if he had an avatar as well. It seems that the only way that the gods can actually attack each other and do any real kind of damage is to do it in the forms of their world builder avatars. I guess it is how they are able to actually interact with the material universe and how they are able to do anything meaningful with their followers.
The whole story is about Sandow, his life and how he must battle the avatar of another that has taken the form that he would least suspect and how he is able to find love once again with a long lost dead girlfriend. I am sure that you will love this book as much as I have and have included a link so you can go check it out yourself. Enjoy and may Zelazny’s wisdom in writing always spark your imagination.