I am listening to the audiobook of Lord of Light by Zelazny and I am totally lost to the order of stories presented. I have just finished the story when Yama confronts Sam (3rd story). I am totally lost, I can't understand what is going on, what causes what, and what precedes what. For me those stories are completely incoherent and don't make sense altogether.

Can anybody please clarify the general timeline of the book without major spoilers, so that I can continue listening while understanding what I already heard?

I didn't google it because of potential spoilers.

  • Don't worry, it takes a lot to untangle it in the book version as well, and there, at least, you have the option to easily jump back. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


In general, it starts in the 'More or less' present. Then, after they leave the monastery, there is a scene where they hide in the trees for a moment, as a heavenly vehicle passes.. From there, you go back to Sam's history, basically remembering how things got to where they are now. After that, they return to 'now' for the finale.

To break it down a bit more:


Yama calls Sam back from the Golden Cloud. How he got there, you will find out in the next segment. Mara comes to investigate. They leave the monastery, and the 'flashback' segment begins.'


The flashback begins: Prince Siddhartha (Sam, again), as on old man comes to town, to discover things have changed mightily. He decides to oppose the order of things, ransacks a temple (acquiring things he will need in the process) and vanishes to start the next step.


The rise of the Buddah; still in the 'past', Sam takes on the role of the Buddah, and forms a one-man antithesis to the Gods. This eventually leads him to a confrontation with Yama, and to leave for Hellwell, to get some 'specialized weaponry'. Eventually (I'm trying not to spoil the how/why here), he is taken back to the city of the gods, and eventually ends up in the Golden Cloud, from whence he was brought back at the beginning of the book.


Back to the Present: Sam is back, and things have changed in many ways due to his earlier actions. He returns to his fight, and the climax of the story occurs. In many way it parallels his earlier battles, but with different results.

I'm doing this from memory, but it should give you an overview -- I tried to leave major plot points out, but this should give you a roadmap of the path of the book.

  • Yeah, thank you very much, I really didn't get that that was a flashback, I thought that it was consequential, and I couldn't understand why Sam and Yama suddenly became enemies. Am I correct that the whole story begins with Sam returning from some distant lands to find out that the other Gods established sort of regime where alternative opinions are not appreciated? Is is the earliest story in book?
    – Andrey
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 20:58
  • @andrey - Yes; that's the chronologically first part -- the book starts in Medias Res, to some degree; it has a quick intro, a conflict, and then, as things calm down, moves to a flashback. If you haven't read my spoilers, don't -- as Giles points out, the progression is part of the enjoyment of the book. The only thing you REALLY need to know, that many miss at first, is that Siddhartha is Sam, and that segment begins the flashback. After that, you should have no problem with the rest of it.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 21:04
  • well, that was not hard to catch that Sam is Siddhartha, because Sam is explicitly regarded as leader of this neo-Buddism and Siddhartha was the leader and founder of the original one, the reference was rather obvious for me :)
    – Andrey
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 10:58
  • @Andrey - Oh, sure... But for those to whom the name meant nothing, it was a confusing segue -- I knew the names, but I still flipped back and forward a few pages until I realized that it was basically a flashback :)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 13:56

I consider the progression of the plot in this book a major part of its enjoyment, so this is one of the very few cases where I recommend reading the book in order with no out-of-band information. The timeline is not in fact that complicated. That being said, here's a minimal description of the timeline (which, again, I consider a spoiler):

Chapter 1: Sam is revived
Chapters 2–6: Sam's original story (with backstory discovered here and there in passing, but told linearly)
Chapter 7: resumes from where chapter 1 left off

Wikipedia has a full plot summary if you want all the details.

  • Just be careful if you use the Wikipedia article; it states some pretty questionable assumptions as facts for a few things -- specifically, it presents some editor's assumptions about the explanations for certain things as if they were stated fact. That article really needs some cleaning.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 20:56

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