After havining seen the cover blurbs. I spent about two thirds of this book wondering what the hell I was missing. The overlong setup failed to get me invested in the main character, a self-involved poet, who comes across as rather petulant, dull and disengaged. We spend a short eternity with Luczack's literary mentor, a boring cliche of a cigar-chomping New Yorker with a heart of gold. Luczack's one saving grace is his capable, intellectually curious wife, whom he mostly talks down to and/or places in peril. (There's a ridiculous bit late in the book where he makes a big display of "I'm not leaving you again, kiddo", only to wander off again as soon as she falls asleep.) I would have been grateful for Luczack to get killed off early and the focus shifted to the wife.
In addition, while the horrified-travelogue aspect of the book is effective, we never go any deeper than Luczack's ugly-American revulsion at a society he doesn't understand. Simmons seems content to paint most residents of Calcutta as potential gangsters or murderous fanatics, and leave it at that. The story only gets interesting (far too late in the book) when the Luczack character mercifully shuts up long enough to let some of the Indians tell their own stories. The storyline involving the Kali cult is genuinely, darkly fascinating and I wish Simmons had done more than scratch the surface of it.
The emotional climax could have been wrenching if only I'd been invested in the main character, and unfortunately the novel peters out with him descending into a world of self-pity for several chapters. Some really interesting horror material here, sandwiched into an otherwise boring novel.