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Song of Kali

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  9,259 ratings  ·  708 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, 320 pages
Published March 10th 2005 by Gollancz (first published 1985)
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J. Mill No. His vision was specific to Calcutta as one of the places on earth that are "black holes in reality." He didn't talk about the rest of India. He…moreNo. His vision was specific to Calcutta as one of the places on earth that are "black holes in reality." He didn't talk about the rest of India. He posited the entire city as a place where evil things were very close to this plane of existence, thus the plethora of bad actors. His character was caught in a web of deceit and evil. Why would you find it shocking that most of the people he came into contact with had bad intentions? His description of Calcutta is dead on the money for the 70's (and may still be today, for all I know). If you want "balance" in your fiction then what you really want to read are travelogues, not fantasy/horror. Don't look for racism in every story, because you find it in anything if you look hard enough.(less)

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3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,259 ratings  ·  708 reviews

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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

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, mysterio
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
Edward Lorn
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who aren't hypocrites.
Dan Simmons is known for his massive novels. This is not one of them. Why? Well, it's rare that you'll find a horror author who started out their career with a massive tome as their debut novel. Why? Because money, that's why.

Straub had Julia, King had Carrie, McCammon had Baal, and Simmons had this one. What do they all have in common? They're all debuts that are around 300 pages long from authors known to write gargantuan books. Horror is a risky business. Publishers are frugal when it comes
Mar 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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
Aug 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
* 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
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, horror
I read SONG OF KALI 15 years ago and it remains one of the most well written, frightening books that I've ever read. Still one of my all time favorite reads, in any genre.
Tim Pendry
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Sometimes there is only pain. And acquiescence to pain. And, perhaps, defiance at the world which demands such pain."
― Dan Simmons, Song of Kali


Horror is not my normal territory. It isn't my alternate either. As far as genre fiction goes I probably reach for a horror novel as often as I reach for a fantasy novel. But this is Dan Simmons we are talking about. After reading Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, I was intrigued. How poetic could Simmons make horror? How literate?

I liked the 'Song of
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a more literate genre novel than most. The story was gripping and propulsive even when I had a hard time suspending disbelief. But the images of Calcutta seemed somewhat stylized--Dickensian squalor without the redeeming Dickensian prose--and the characters didn't exactly wow me with their depth. Then again, this is a genre novel, so maybe my expectations were a little off? Maybe. Still, in the end I liked it well enough.
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
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.
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
Arun Divakar
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Joshua Shioshita
I had heard of Dan Simmons but this was my first foray into his actual work. I can't believe I hadn't read this already. Exotic locales - check. Creepy cults - check. Ritual sacrifice - check. Ancient supernatural entities - check. And that reveal in the airport at the end disturbed my imagination for days. It also made me want to watch Temple of Doom over and over again, which is definitely not a bad thing.
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
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.
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
Thoroughly researched

I generally like Simmons but I went into this book with some trepidation due to the tepid response I read in the reviews. Overall I liked the book, but I brought an interest in India and the theological ideas that have emerged from there to the table.
I stopped occasionally and researched groups or concepts as I read and I found this interesting as well. The book has been called xenophobic. I agree and then again I disagree. It definitely has an anti-attitude towards this par
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katerina Charisi
Ποτέ δε με άφησε η αίσθηση του ότι κάτι λείπει. Πολλά γιατί στα οποία δεν παίρνω ποτέ απάντηση και που τελικά σε κάνουν να σκέφτεσαι ότι ο Simmons είχε μια ιδέα να γράψει κάτι, είχε καλογραμμένες σκηνές να δώσει, αλλά χωρίς τίποτα να έχει κάποιο νόημα και λόγο ύπαρξης.
Sudipta Saha
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2011
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.
11811 (Eleven)
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Fucking Simmons. Always hit and miss for me.
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, award-winners
Although this novel is classified as horror, the nature of that horror is somewhat ambiguous. There are hints of supernatural horror and there is the presence of violent criminality but, in some ways, it is the Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata in modern spelling) itself that is the true horror portrayed in this book. This is due to its densely overpopulated environment, its shocking levels of deprivation, its gulfs of inequality, and its poor sanitation – all of it worsened by the monsoon season ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ξεκινάω με τους λόγους για τους οποίους δε θα έβαζα κανένα αστέρι σε αυτό το βιβλίο, ύστερα όμως θα ακολουθήσουν και οι λόγοι για τους οποίους θεωρώ πως του αξίζουν τα δύο αστέρια που του δίνω.

Με ενόχλησε πολύ που αποκάλεσε την Καλκούτα μίασμα. Όποια ιστορία κι αν θες να υποστηρίξεις, ή να διηγηθείς, στην εισαγωγή και όχι κατά τη διάρκεια μιας φορτισμένης σκηνής κι ενώ υπάρχει ήδη η εξοικείωση με τους χαρακτήρες. Δείχνει απροσμέτρητη υπεροψία. Στην Καλκούτα, στο Άργος, στη Μαδρίτη ζουν άνθρωποι
Joe Valdez
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vivian Garcia
Spellbinding tale of psychological horror by Dan Simmons that comes on like a fictionalized account of books like The Serpent and the Rainbow or In Sorcery's Shadow, which chronicle a white man's descent into native superstition, existential dread and finally, life threatening evil while studying abroad. An appropriate subtitle might be "Never get off the boat".

In 1977, Robert Luczak is a creative writing instructor, poet and co-editor of a literary magazine in New York who ignores the advice of
Keri Ann
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I bought Song of Kali after hearing people say that it was one of the scariest books they've ever read. I didn't find this book "scary" in the traditional sense, but it definitely had its creepy parts. The story revolves around a man and his family taking a business trip to Calcutta and the supernatural troubles that find him there. The aspect of the story that I found most horrifying was the portrayal of the darkest side of humanity. I can handle horror stories where the monster came from under ...more
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, horror
Not sure how to fully convey what the reading experience of this book is. Engrossingly bad is accurate but a little general. Man goes to Calcutta and has a dreadful time potentially mirroring authors own unpleasantness in Calcutta and potentially entire book is an exercise of working through said unpleasantness -a little dismissive. Reader discovers the horror genre is not for him but begrudgingly admits he woke up in the middle of the night and finished the whole book strategically ignoring all ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Докосваща книга. Отвъд мрачността и ужасите на Калкута, всъщност песента на Кали ни говори за нас. За нас хората, за тъмнината вътре в душите ни и векът, в който живеем от едно известно време.

Век на жестокост, разрушение - морално, духовно и обществено, насилие и гнилост. Като Калкута. Като всеки един насилник в света, с душа толкова грозна, колкото улиците описани в тази книга.

Прочетете я, има и красота между страниците. Особено в края <3
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is more suspenseful and has a more compelling setting than most books I can remember.

But it's not particularly scary, and I don't get the sense that it ever tried to be. It's weird, then, that it's often pitched as "horror" novel and that virtually anything you can read about this book will try to sell you on how "scary" it is, including the back of the book.

Simmons, from the very first page, successfully builds up Calcutta as a city that you should have feelings about: specifically, d
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A worthy winner of the World Fantasy Award!

Before I read this novel, I was surprised to hear that it won the World Fantasy award. Just because it is Dan Simmons' first novel.
After reading it, I fully understand why it did.

It is a fantastic read! It feels as though you are actually in Calcutta. An incredible achievement for Simmons!

My favorite part about Song of Kali was the characters. Bobby is brilliant, witty and just a normal guy working for a magazine. He isn't a hero. Just a normal person,
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Flights of Fantasy: September 2015 - Horror: Song of Kali by Dan Simmons 5 41 Sep 20, 2015 01:54AM  
Indian Readers: Song of Kali Translations 1 17 Jul 21, 2012 09:53AM  
  • Darker Than You Think
  • The House on the Borderland and Other Novels
  • The Mark of the Beast and Other Horror Tales (Dover Horror Classics)
  • The Second Book of Lankhmar  (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #5-7)
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (The Conan Chronicles, #2)
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • Time And The Gods
  • Godmother Night
  • Voice of Our Shadow
  • Thraxas (Thraxas, #1-2)
  • Glimpses
  • The Dragon Waiting
  • Freehold
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • The Dark Country
  • The Well of the Unicorn
Dan Simmons 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, journalism and art.

Dan received his Master
“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.” 10 likes
“Sometimes there is no hope," whispered Das.

"There's always some hope, Mr. Das."

"No, Mr. Luczak, there is not. Sometimes there is only pain. And acquiescence to pain. And, perhaps, defiance at the world which demands such pain."

"Defiance is a form of hope, is it not, sir?”
More quotes…