Dan Simmons' Song of Kali

Dan Simmons is best known as the author of the sci fi epic Hyperion that won the Hugo Award in 1990. This novel however, catapulted his name as one of the big shots in the horror and urban fantasy genre. Song of Kali is Simmons' first novel that also scored the World Fantasy Award in 1986. His travels to India inspired Simmons to write about the city and its people.

Calcutta is a microcosm of poverty. Clasped by the shadow of the world's oldest organized religion still active today-- Hinduism, it is a harrowing city where majority of children and young women are predestined to serve under the caste system. It is a place where every element is sacred-- air , earth, fire, water, bovine and even cow dungs but the city is also a picture of a neglected environment, disease and misery. Ancient cults and sects are thriving inside and out of the city, the Law against the practice of traditional religion is strictly enforced but even the police forces have little power in dealing with the criminal groups and factions.

In the novel, the American protagonist Robert Luczak has an assignment from his publishers and editors. He must retrieve a newly discovered manuscript from an Indian poet deceased many years ago. But this routine assignment is slowly turning into a nightmare when he learns that the poet is rumored to have been brought back to life in a bloody and grisly ceremony of human sacrifice.

He must fly to Calcutta and deal with a lot of mad characters, dark rituals, and feverish and climactic nightmares with the dark Hindu Goddess Kali. And then his inevitable face off with the resurrected poet himself. But this part of the story is just the beginning, because the reader will be shocked by the fate of Luczak's daughter Victoria. That scene at the airport is hard to forget and painful to remember.

A supernatural force is pulling the strings for Luczak a year after his tragic loss and he must face again and endure the ultimate temptation and desire of his life. The temptation for revenge. For Luczak, it's the only way to free himself. This will be his final ordeal. Will evil triumph in the end?

This novel is also about the world of publishing. It is a cliche to portray a nerd/writer to be physically weak but in this novel, Luczak learns to pick a gun and shoot.

The Song of Kali is agreeably one hell of a scary book. The horrors of the real world outweigh the fear of the unknown here, and I liked it and I survived it.

Today, Calcutta is still a sad city. A city groping with traditions. A city of paradox. But this kind of place is actually, not unique. Open your eyes and you can see another Calcutta not very far from your own place...

Desire by Nina Paley

some memorable passages:

...I've developed a theory about Calcutta, although theory is too dignified a word for such an intuitive opinion. I think that there are black holes in reality. Black holes in the human spirit. And actual places where, because of density or misery or sheer human perversity, the fabric of things just comes apart and that black core in us swallows all the rest.

I read the papers, I look around, and I have a sinking feeling that these black holes are growing larger, more common, feeding on their vile appetite. They are not restricted to strange cities in distant countries.

Rating: 4.5 manuscripts
Genre: Urban Horror / Fantasy


  1. Hello, Narj! I'm just so curious about this book since Gollancz released this again as part of their series of horror novels that are becoming classics.

    By the way, I linked you up in my blog.

  2. I actually own the Gollancz edition.
    Thanks for the link btw...

  3. Hullo there Mr Narj!

    Nice review there! :)
    Actually I've been hearing a lot about how good a writer Dan Simmons is and I've been hearing good things about this book, too. So far I already got his "The Terror", "Summer of the Night", The Hollow Man", "Children of the Night" and "Love Death". Though I own a lot of his book I still think that "The Song of Kali" is a good place to start and acquaint myself with his works.

    Dark nights and creepy wonders!



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