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I am looking for a book that I read back in the 90's about a guy who's lost his memory and figures out, eventually, that he's a god and part of the universal battle between good and evil, or maybe chaos and order (no, it's definitely not Chronicles of Amber, although some of the story line is similar). My memory seems to think that he fights as an indestructible flying golden/metal lion or something similar at times. I also seem to remember that he loses his first major battle and has to go off for a long time to heal before he comes back and eventually prevails.

I was thinking it was a story by Roger Zelazny, but I don't see anything in his bibliography that fits exactly. Also, the gods are part of a pantheon — I just can't remember which.

  • Also vague similarities to Pratchett's Small Gods though this is obviously not the answer os Om finds himself embodied as a small tortoise. – dmckee Sep 10 '17 at 16:43
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It sounds like you are thinking of another Zelazny story, Creatures of Light and Darkness.

Lets break it down;

  • "about a guy who's lost his memory and figures out, eventually, that he's a god"
    That would be Set; he's the main character and lost his memory as a result of a colossal battle against a force referred to as "Thing That Cries In The Night." (He was actually winning, but one of the gods convinced the others that he was losing and the only possible solution was to basically fling a comet (the Hammer That Smashes Suns) at the combatants.)
  • "and part of the universal battle between good and evil, or maybe chaos and order" -
    In several ways. Beyond the infighting of the gods, "Thing That Cries In The Night" is a universally destructive thing that Set was trying to destroy when he lost his memory
  • "My memory seems to think that he fights as an indestructible flying golden/metal lion"
    Could be a few things. He has shoes that let him run on the air, and he has a weapon that turns into whatever weapon he needs. He also uses a glove that expands to cover his whole body in indestructible armor. (In point of fact, during the second fight, unknown to him, he's wearing an imitation of his glove, but At one point, he also fights the Steel General, who has a mount (named Bronze) who's body is mostly mechanical and does, indeed, fly.
  • "I also seem to remember that he loses his first major battle and has to go off for a long time to heal before he comes back and eventually prevails."
    More or less; the first battle ends with the creature reduced to a status where another god (Thoth) is able to keep it confined (at the cost of using all of his power (meant to be used to help order the universe), to confine it) while costing him his memory, and resulting in him being 'lost.' He's found by the god of the House of the Dead (Anubis), and finding him lacking memory, the Death God tries to fashion him into a weapon against the leader of the gods (Thoth), who is the one confining the creature. (And, incidentally, is both Set's son and Father; time travel was once involved.)

  • "I was thinking it was another story by Roger Zelazny"
    Yes; it's one of his better known ones, partially because of the Agnostic's prayer.

  • "Also, the gods are part of a pantheon - I just can't remember which..."
    Egyptian. (There is also a little bit of Greek worked in, here and there.)
  • "a god returning to earth to reclaim his powers?" --
    Not exactly, but I could see how you could remember it that way; he spends the initial part of the story doing a task for Anubis, but gets roped into helping on a quest -- the quest involves retrieving three things (the glove, the wand and the boots), that, when he puts them all on, causes him to recover his memory, and, in effect, his god-hood.
  • I have to say this looks a more plausible answer than mine – John Rennie Sep 10 '17 at 19:09
  • @JohnRennie - Well, yours made me think of it -- I read the two of the one after the other. Lord of Light is a better overall book, but Creatures is kind of fun, too :) And they BOTH tend to confuse people, the first time they read them. – K-H-W Sep 10 '17 at 19:10
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Possibly Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny? At the opening of the novel the protagonist Sam (aka Mahasamatman) is in a kind of artificial Nirvana having been placed there after being defeated in a battle with the other gods. He is called back into physical existence and leads a battle against the other gods which he eventually wins.

It turns out that:

The Gods are actually the crew of a generation ship that colonised the planet. They now rule the colonists as gods. Sam's fight is to overthrow this and allow the colonists to rule their own lives.

However I don't recall any golden lions.

The pantheon is mainly Hindu with admixtures of Buddhism.

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