Song of Kali
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Song of Kali

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  4,482 ratings  ·  324 reviews
Calcutta: a monstrous city of immense slums, disease and misery, is clasped in the foetid embrace of an ancient cult. At its decaying core is the Goddess Kali: the dark mother of pain, four-armed and eternal, her song the sound of death and destruction. Robert Luczak has been hired by Harper’s to find a noted Indian poet who has reappeared, under strange circumstances, yea...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 21st 2008 by Gollancz (first published 1985)
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Thus begins Dan Simmons’ visceral, violent travelogue through the dark, murderous underbelly of Calcutta. This was an excellent read, but you should know going in that this is NOT a warm, fuzzy, feel better about humanity story. In fact, you might want to have your favorite blankie or stuffed animal or a bottle of Scotch and some happy pills with you before you begin reading this to help hold back the glooms.

Here’s the basic set up.


M. Das, one of India’s greatest poets, mysteriou...more
Excellent. Dan Simmons is fast on his way to becoming one of my favorite authors.

I felt horrified during a lot of the book, and saddened during a lot of it, but I like the way that it isn't totally and completely engulfed in despair. (Though pretty depressing enough.) I like the way that the protagonist decides to "fight back".

It's not "scary" as in "boo" but it is horrific in it's stark depiction of the horror lurking in the human soul.

The reason why I rated this so highly, is that it worked ve...more
Song of Kali isn't one of Dan Simmons' best works, but it is a fine example of what makes him one of my favourite writers: his range.

Simmons loves history, mythology, authors, writing and reading, and his loves have led him to create one of the most varied bodies of work amongst active writers (although it appears he will soon be challenged for the crown by China Mieville). He's written about John Keats in space, Ernest Hemingway in the Gulf, the Greek Gods, Franklin's lost Arctic expedition, re...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Does for India what Heart Of Darkness did for Africa; uses it as a setting for a tale of unease and terror that could have been set anywhere, really, except that using a third-world setting plays to the western gallery's delicate sensibilities.

This is a superbly structured and masterfully woven horror novel; it's also a fucking travesty of the real nature of Kali and her various manifestations. He's taken a unique female power-divinity, something with no parallel in any other living religion, a...more
I feel slightly detached from this book and I'm guessing this is not the type of reaction which the author had hoped for. I am happy to have stepped into one of Simmons fantasy-horror novels since I have only read his Hyperion series, which I should probably read again as my memory on that series is at times fuzzy. I loved the first half of Song of Kali but once the story picked up, a little over half through, I felt less connected and consequently less interested. After wondering for the better...more
Tim Pendry
Nov 09, 2008 Tim Pendry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: horror, five-star
What an exceptional book within the horror genre - a true masterpiece and extremely hard to put down.

The problem with reviewing it is that it is hard to comment without 'spoiling'. To appreciate it you have to cast your mind back to the period when, and the places where, it was formed in the mind of Dan Simmons as a young American liberal and literary intellectual - in the India and the US of the late 1970s and the early 1980s, just as the former looked like an intractable social problem of neve...more
* A 300-page diatribe against Calcutta, which city evidently offended Simmons at some point.

* His hero, Bobby Luczak, is a coward who behaves stupidly and illogically; he's an effete literary type who one would think would treat his mathematician wife with some respect, but who repeatedly hides things from her and deserts her without reason. He claims to have a terrible temper, yet he's impotent in a crisis.

* He has a child, a 7-month-old daughter, whose very existence serves only one unpleasant...more
Dan Simmons is one of the most skilled writers of science fiction currently putting pen to page (or however that metaphor would work in a post-paper age). His Hyperion series is a well-regarded classic that takes Chaucer's Canterbury Tales into the space-faring age and his Ilium and Olympos still stands as the most interesting rendition of a post-singular society-slash-retelling of Homer's epic-slash-paen to Shakespeare that I've ever read.

It was with great excitement that I picked up Simmons' 1...more
I am a huge Dan Simmons fan and the Hyperion series is probably my all time favorite series. This is Dan's first novel and while much different than his science fiction is still awesome. But OMG is it dark and disturbing and filled with descriptions of squalor and violence and some very unpleasant people. This one will stay will you after you are done reading it.
Laura Floyd
Aug 10, 2007 Laura Floyd rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: horror fans
This is supposed to be the scariest book ever. It is scary in spots and maintains a rich tone dripping with dread. And it makes you want to never visit India. But it wasn't all that scary, I think because the scary things are all in Calcutta. As soon as the characters return to America, the threat disappears.
Arun Divakar
Kolkata is a city of contradictions. One side of the road would show magnificent high rises while the other has shanties and hastily put together human habitations. You travel through roads where garbage is piled high and refuse floats through large bodies of water. Turn a bend in the road and you see a tree lined pavement, well cared for houses and apartments and the road will lead you to some of the swankiest shopping malls in town. There is a mix of the old and the new, the beautiful and the...more
A strange thing happened while I was reading this book.

All through the first half or thereabouts, I gritted my teeth and cursed. I didn't think I would enjoy the rest of the journey. Had I given up partway through, I would have come to goodreads years later (I read this book in 2007 or so) and probably given it two stars.

Then, something happened. I realised, or at least I think I did, what Simmons was trying to do, and I understood that the reason I was having a hard time with this book was tha...more
Well, this is embarrassing. I finished the book this morning and am feeling clueless. I’m not sure I ‘got’ it.
Husband: Well, did you like it or not?
Me: I really liked it.
Husband: Why did you like it?
Me: I’m not sure.
Husband: What was it about?
Me: Ummm, evil. And India. Crime…I think. Cultural differences. But also likenesses. It’s a horror story but, well, not really.
Husband (with a tone): Well, I certainly can’t wait to read it.

Funny thing is, I recommend this…highly.
This is one of the most auspicious debuts of any author. Simmons' style was pretty much developed from this first novel published in 1985. He continues to be the best horror writer alive when he wants to write horror. However the really horrific thing about Song of Kali is Simmons' devastating descriptions of Calcutta. Go into this novel with little or no information about it in order to get its best impact.
Христо Блажев
Дан Симънс рови сред ужасите на индийската митология в “Песента на Кали”:

Чели ли сте сагата “Хиперион”? Или двутомието “Илион” и “Олимп”? И в двете Дан Симънс се доказва като един от най-великите фантасти на всички времена. Но в “Песента на Кали” се откроява друга негова дарба – на разказвач на страшни истории от ранга на Стивън Кинг.

Журналистът Робърт Лучак е командирован в Калкута да издири поет, който се счита за загинал преди 8 години при мистериозн...more
This blew me away. When I started it, I thought it was going to be thriller with some serious horror elements to it and wondered if it would be for me. and then it got good. and then it got better. and then it hit its climax and stunned me.

Its dark. There is magic and gods and lots of foreign ideas. There were many times I wanted to yell at Bobby Luczak, the main character, but I never wanted to stop reading. For a bit, I thought it was a horror novel. It's not. It's a very dark fantasy but I do...more
Man, this book is something else. So many unanswered questions. I'm going to be tossing and turning all night long wondering what the hell happened here.
Trixie Jack
For the majority of this book, I thought there were some creepy scenes and it was excellent writing, but it didn't really scare me. It was rather like reading a Stephen King novel; I enjoyed the ride, but I wasn't going anywhere important.
But then, about 20 pages from the end of the book--it's as if you're on a bicycle, coming out of an alleyway on your way to work in a sleepy little French village on a beautiful July morning, and just as you look ahead and smile, WHAM! you're crushed to the pav...more
First, the back cover copy (almost identical to the brief description here on Goodreads) is laughable. Granted, I'm a jaded horror reader and, as I've mentioned before, haven't been scared by a book yet, but this is far from the "most truly frightening reading experience" of my life. Not even close.

The story never really grabbed me, either. Novels about writers are not something I find interesting and I didn't know this was until after I'd decided to read it. Even without that aspect to this nov...more
Sudipto Saha
Although Dan Simmons talks about many ancient practices of Hinduism that were rendered illegal by the insurgence of British humanitarian laws, the scope of this novel and its main focus go way beyond that. From the perspective of the Indian folklore and myths, he puts forth how the “age of Kali” (which is metaphorically synonymous to “the era of destruction”) has begun. Though the book is dark and disturbing at certain parts and the opinion of the protagonist, Luczak, is offensive towards the Hi...more
In Jones & Newman's "Horror: 100 Best Books," Edward Bryant, writing of his choice for inclusion in that overview volume, Dan Simmons' "Song of Kali," mentions that Simmons had spent precisely 2 1/2 days in Calcutta before writing his first book, in which that city plays so central and memorable a role. Despite Simmons' short stay, Bryant reveals that the author filled "voluminous notebooks" with impressions and sketches of the city, and any reader who enters the grim but remarkably detailed...more
Eric Guignard
REVIEWED: Song of Kali
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: January, 1998

Song of Kali is a well written novel of dark fiction, though hardly “the most frightening book ever written” as heralded across reviews and its book cover. There are actually very few scenes that seemed particularly scary at all. The plot is fair and emotionally-driven, compelling and sad, with good pacing, conflict, etc. And, man!, can this author write! The technical ability of Dan Simmons is extraordinary. However, the book...more
Jonathan Cullen
Song of Kali is a small focused story which certainly doesn’t paint a pretty picture of Kolkatā and India as a whole. It's really the city itself which is the evil force. It's all the more creepy to me because it feels like it could easily be me and my family dealing with the weirdness that crawls out of Sai Simmons' brain. This feeling is only intensified by the first person point of view, which is of course the author's intention.

It's an extremely fast read and there are some scenes which are...more
Jan 24, 2008 Bill rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: any horror fan
Shelves: horror, favorites
The stench of Calcutta comes right off the pages in this vivid tale of an American family's visit to India. I believe this won the Bram Stoker award for best first novel.
It is mesmerizing. The story of the body will stay with me a long time.
Highly recommended for any horror fan.
Just dreadful. The ignorance and hatred that pervade this story truly make you feel soiled reading it. If I'm going to horror that's superheated by prejudiced fear of the dark, impoverished hordes, I'll stick with HP Lovecraft.
This novel was not what I had expected from the reviews. It had atmosphere, but that is about all. I found it tedious, boring, and a big disappointment.
The blurbs on the back cover of Song of Kali assured me that Dan Simmons’ first novel would both horrify and terrify me. In truth, it did neither, though I’m not sorry I read the book and would recommend it to others. I thought the book was very well written for a first novel (Simmons has greatly improved, though), and it held my interest throughout. Okay, almost throughout.

The parts of Song of Kali that didn’t hold my interest were the parts that were supposed to terrify. Instead of finding the...more
This one is all about mood. It's great strenght is the vivid verbal portrait of Calcutta Dan Simmons paints in this book. The prose is lyrical, not unlike Cormac McCarthy, though in language a bit more penatrable to the average reader. The structure is not unlike a nightmare in which the protagonist goes from one lurid scene to another, all the while on the verge of waking up but never quite managing it. What may disturb some readers is that many of the events in the plot make little logical sen...more
Alice Lee
This is my second time reading this, having recalled nothing from my first reading many and many years ago. I am both impressed and disappointed by this effort.

Dan Simmons's writing was quite good, for a first novel. I didn't feel like stabbing myself in the head with a dull spoon as I so often do, so that's a great sign. He did an excellent job creating that dreadful, suffocating miasma of an atmosphere that seeped through the entire book and almost make you want to heave. There were a few abso...more
I just finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimen, and the theme of folklore shaping reality brought this novel to mind. However, where Gaimen's novel is humorous and has a few threads of darkness, Simmon's novel is woven from threads that become darker as the tale progresses, that become taught with tension, and that in the end, shape a story that effectively examines the mythology behind true evil in our modern world. There is much hype about how this story will impact you, so you know that something...more
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Indian Readers: Song of Kali Translations 1 11 Jul 21, 2012 09:53AM  
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • Darker Than You Think
  • The Dragon Waiting
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • The Ceremonies
  • Nifft the Lean
  • Gloriana
  • Glimpses
  • Our Lady Of Darkness
  • Mistress of Mistresses
  • Thraxas (Thraxas, #1-2)
  • Peace
  • All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
  • Grimscribe: His Lives and Works
  • Physiognomy
  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • Voice of Our Shadow
Dan Simmons was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1948, and grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction,...more
More about Dan Simmons...
Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #2) The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos, #4) Endymion (Hyperion Cantos, #3) Ilium (Ilium, #1)

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“The Song of Kali is with us. It has been with us for a very long time. Its chorus grows and grows and grows. But there are other voices to be heard. There are other songs to be sung.” 4 likes
“Sono ancora convinto che vi siano luoghi troppo malvagi perché sia consentito loro di esistere. Di tanto in tanto, sogno nubi atomiche a forma di fungo che levano su una città, e figure umane che danzano sullo sfondo del rogo che un tempo era Calcutta.” 0 likes
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