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Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

Song of Kali (1985)

by Dan Simmons

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Song of Kali is one of those books that you will never get out of your mind. The images painted of the slums of Calcutta, the human refuse, the disregard for life, the protrayal of the city makes a lasting impression.

Without giving anything away, the book, while not "scary", is certainly deeply troubling, and the ending will stick with you for a very long time.

( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
(53) Well, this was not so good -- which is disappointing as I have really enjoyed some of his novels; I loved 'The Terror' and "Drood". This was an older book of his (his first actually and critically acclaimed!) about Calcutta and an underground society that worships the goddess of darkness and evil, Kali. The protagonist is a poet who is writing a story for a literary magazine about a once famous Indian poet who disappeared 8 years ago but is rumored to still be alive. He has arranged to view a manuscript recently written by the mysterious poet, M. Das. He and his Indian born wife travel to Calcutta with his baby daughter so the wife can serve as a translator while he conducts his research. The premise is set well and Calcutta is described viscerally and vividly. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel is fairly poorly executed.

This novel tried too hard to engender revulsion in the reader and to portray a sense of evil. So the continued references to dead rotting corpses, and the smell of decay, large rats in the shadows, and poor people squatting to defecate in the streets became repetitive and almost ridiculous after awhile. The story was non-sensical with no real resolution or answers in what had been building up to at least a reasonably interesting mystery. Who wrote the poem? Who was Krishna? Who was Das' niece? How the hell did the jewel smuggler's at the end play into it? I could rattle of 6 or 7 other questions that all went unanswered. . . Exasperating.

I have another of Simmons' novels in my 'To Be Read' pile. I think it might sit there for awhile after this dud. I can imagine anyone of Indian/Bengali descent would actually find this novel offensive. It struck me as quite racist. Certainly does not make one want to visit Calcutta. ( )
  jhowell | Dec 29, 2016 |
A good friend claims Dan Simmons as one of his absolute favorite authors. It's been a long time since I read anything by Simmons (i.e. Hyperion back in 1989 or 1990 when it first came out, because my Elder Brother highly recommended it. I can't remember the story, or my reaction, to be honest, but I gave birth in May of 1989, so memory lapses are excusable.) Anyhow, husband had this book at his bedside after reading it (he, too wanted to try out Simmons because of the same friend.)

This may not have been the book for me to read. I'm really not a fan of horror, and this had strong elements of that genre. I can say that the writing was good, but almost from the very beginning, I was waiting for a certain thing to happen, that I knew would happen. My discomfort with that plot element colored my whole view of the book. And when the thing happened, there were some additional elements that made me even more uncomfortable.

I may give Simmons a try again, but will have to carefully vet what I pick up.

tags: 2016-read, don-t-want-to-rate, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-uncomfortable, not-to-my-taste, places-i-have-been, read, read-on-recommendation, uncomfortable-reading-but-good, not-my-usual-read
1 vote bookczuk | Jul 26, 2016 |
An incredibly subtle horror story; a journalist goes to Calcutta to track down a missing poet laureate, together with his Indian wife and their daughter.
Confusion and culture shock blend into a sense of overwhelming threat, as the interactions with the underworld and Kali worshippers increases.
There are scenes which are so vividly painted you feel you are living through them, the airport scene where (partial spoiler) they are reunited with their kidnapped daughter is truly haunting.
And at the end, you are never quite sure how much supernatural, and how much human manipulation was going on through the events; I read it as a parable on man's inhumanity to man more than anything "horror" in tone. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
A very good book, great story teller!
But, as i have been living in India and been in Calcutta, and though I find it a city difficult to stay in, I have to say that these =sleeping dead= are people, with an history, an extended family life, a biography, feelings also as much of any Us citizen, and for sure even if conditions of living are =tough= they deserve life and understanding!
Anyway liked this book a lot. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
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who has heard the song,

And for KAREN and JANE,

who are my other voices"
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Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 031286583X, Paperback)

"O terrible wife of Siva / Your tongue is drinking the blood, / O dark Mother! O unclad Mother." It is remarkable that prior to writing this first novel, Dan Simmons had spent only two and a half days in Calcutta, a city "too wicked to be suffered," his narrator says. Fortunately back in print after several years during which it was hard to obtain, this rich, bizarre novel practically reeks with atmosphere. The story concerns an American poet who travels with his Indian wife and their baby to Calcutta to pick up an epic poem cycle about the goddess Kali. The Bengali poet who wrote the poem cycle has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Horror critic Edward Bryant calls Song of Kali "an exactingly constructed, brutal, and uncompromising study of the degree to which an evil place may permeate and steep all that makes us human" and writes that it embodies "the stance of a psychologically violent novel about a violent society as a defensible and indisputably moral work of art." Song of Kali won a World Fantasy Award. --Fiona Webster

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:06 -0400)

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Robert Luczak, sent to Calcutta to interview the mysterious poet, M. Das, who has been missing for ten years, discovers that the missing man is mixed up in the death-worshiping cult of of Kali

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