An Earthman who completed a course of study on an alien planet was given the ability to make worlds, which involved going through a ritual and being assigned a god of their pantheon. The ability to create worlds is dependent on his connection to this god.

When the book starts, he has been residing on his own planet for a while, either taking a break from or retired from worldmaking. [Creating custom planets pays very well.] He receives a notice from the aliens who gave him the ability to create worlds. Someone of his race -- he is the only Earthman to receive the gift of world creation -- has illegally gone through the ritual that gave him his power. The god this person was given is the sworn adversary of his god. Think of this as a god's version of a Holmes-Moriarty competition.

To protect the worlds he has created, he reluctantly leaves his planet and searches for his god's adversary who, as it turns out, is also his Earthly rival.

My memory insists the author was Roger Zelazny but I am not certain of that.


This is Isle of the Dead, you are correct, the author is Roger Zelazny.

The protagonist is Francis Sandow who has been given worldbuilding powers by a Pei'an deity. Here's the first paragraph of the Wikipedia writeup:

Francis Sandow is the last surviving human born in the 20th century. An early space colonist, he spent long centuries of space travel in suspended animation. After his last such trip, he woke in the 27th Century, where everything had changed. Desperate for something to hold to, he sought out a mentor, who happened to be a member of a very long-lived and slowly dying alien race, the Pei'ans. Under this tutelage, Sandow eventually became a telepath and "worldscaper". Worldscapers have the ability to create and/or terraform planets. The process of becoming a worldscaper culminates in a mystic rite called Naming that binds the mortal to one of the gods in the Pei'an pantheon, and it is believed that the worldscaper is actually acting as an avatar for the god. There are only twenty-seven existing worldscapers; Sandow, bound to Shimbo of Darktree, Shrugger of Thunders, is the only non-Pei'an among them. Outworlders are welcome to practice the religion, which is called Strantri. Sandow opines it will be the first major religion to outlive its founders. Unlike most of the Pei'an deities, who tend to be chimeras like Egyptian gods, Shimbo is also unmistakably human, showing that the Pei'ans had visited Earth in the distant past.

There is another novel set in the same universe, To Die in Italbar, in which Sandow plays a minor role. And, a short work called Dismal Light.

I really liked this universe/series of books. I wish Zelazny had written more of these and fewer lame Amber sequels.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is indeed the book I've been looking for! – Yoshi Bro Mar 11 '17 at 10:48
  • You are welcome! Please mark the answer as correct by clicking the gray checkmark, so that the system knows. – Organic Marble Mar 11 '17 at 12:52

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.