This is short book (my copy has less than 200 pages) which came out in 1969. Apparently a painting of the same name was an inspiration to the story.

The main character Francis Sandow was born in the 20th century and is now over a thousand years old. He own his own planet, Homefree, which he has also worldscaped in the home he wanted it to be. He was one of the first human space colonists and so had survived in suspended animation for some centuries. Now, he’s one of the 100 wealthiest men in the galaxy.

He’s content to live on Homefree with a contracted prostitute but someone is send him pictures of people who have been long dead. Some of the people in the pictures Sandow loves, such as his first wife, and some had been his enemies. However, Sandow wants to believe that the pictures are fakes. Then, Ruth, of his oldest friends, sends a message that she’s in trouble and Sandow leaves to the planet where she lives. But he finds out that Ruth had been kidnapped and a message had been left to him. The message says that Sandow should look for his women from the Isle of the Dead and it’s addressed to Shimbo. Shimbo, the Shrugger of Thunders is an alien god and he’ bound to Sandow.

Then Sandow learns the people in the pictures might be alive in a manner of speaking. All of them had memory records made at the moment of their death and the records are now missing. Someone could clone them back to the land of living. Of course, Sandow has to travel to the Isle of the Dead.

Once again Zelazny puts a lot of content into less than 200 pages. This is very much a space opera world where humanity has settled many planets outside Earth (though Earth is apparently one of the richest ones) and “seventeen other intelligent races, four of whom I consider smarter than men and seven or eight who are just as stupid”. The Pei’ans are one of the more wiser aliens. When Sandow realized how far into the future he had come, he sought out a Pei’an as a mentor. After thirty years of Sandow became a worldscaper and bonded to one of the the Pei’an gods, Shimbo.

The worldscapers are all bonded to a Pei’an god. Does this make them gods? Sandow admits that he thinks that the bond is just a mental exercise that lets out his own natural powers even though he has to call on Shimbo to be able to shape the planets. Sandow is the only non-Pei’an who has been allowed to become a worldscaper.

Sandow thinks that his money is financing atrocities which he never sees. To his credit, he tried to stamp them out when he was younger but humans just found different ways to commit crimes against each other. That’s a pretty bleak view of humanity.

Women in the story are, once again, just pawns. All the women mentioned in the story have been Sandow’s sexual companions and are now just victims, alive only to spur Sandow to action.

The world was interesting but the story was a bit too short to really get involved in it.

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