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Song of Kali Hardcover – 1985

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Bluejay Books; First Printing edition (1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031294408X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312944087
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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"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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"The best novel in the genre I can remember. Dan Simmons is brilliant!" --Dean R. Koontz

"Song of Kali is as harrowing and ghoulish as anyone could wish. Simmons makes the stuff of nightmares very real indeed." --Locus

"Dan Simmons understands terror and what it does to readers. Where Stephen King flinches, Simmons doesn't." --Edward Byrant, Mile High Futures

"Shock treatments abound!" --The Chattanooga Times, Tennessee

"An absolutely harrowing experience." --F. Paul Wilson
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "negasonic" on May 22 2004
Format: Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. K. Lidster TOP 50 REVIEWER on Dec 30 2014
Format: Paperback
In many ways, Hinduism seems like a complex patchwork of primitive regional myths, bound together by a rich literary tradition detailing the complicated history of the hundreds and thousands of gods in their pantheon. While the Indo-European pantheons are seemingly at odds with the refined Eastern philosophies of karma and reincarnation, Hinduism claimed these gods and goddesses and incorporated them, just as Buddhism devoured the local gods and demons of Asia, and just as Christianity repurposed heathen deities as saints and pagan festivals became Christian celebrations. But the concept of tolerance isn’t highly valued by the supposedly more evolved monotheistic faiths, and trying to temper the more dogmatic tendencies of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam with a modern acceptance of other people’s right to believe differently is like trying to graft pigeon-wings onto a rat. Conversion-by-the-sword is written into their base-code.

Accepting all forms of worship as being equally valid is one of Hinduism and Buddhism’s most impressive philosophical tenets; but when one looks at India for what it is, and what it has been for centuries, it is logical that such a place is where openness would find its earliest proponents. As one of the world’s oldest civilizations, where East meets West, the place where all trade routes began, ended or passed through, religious adherents from every corner of the Old World would eventually collide in India. Tolerance was not so much a product of enlightened thinking as it was an absolute necessity; otherwise, Calcutta would become an endless, frozen explosion of holy wars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Hickey on Dec 31 2003
Format: Paperback
Wow! I just finished reading Dan Simmons' excellent first novel, "Song of Kali," and I must say that I am extremely impressed by this work of fantastic horror and its meaning in the real world the reader is invited to recognize as both insane and wonderful all at the same time.
Yes, there are some flaws in the book, and for that reason you should ignore the hype and superlative praise showered on it. For starters, the narrator is not a particularly likeable character; he admits to having a short fuse and a quick temper that often seem out of proportion to even minor annoyances.
In addition, the author goes on for too long just setting up this tale, and nothing much of consequence actually happens for the first third of the story. Then there is the problem of the loose ends that do not answer the questions raised by a murder which serves as the emotional climax of the novel. My best guess is that Simmons deliberately left some things obscure to reflect the protagonist's own confused and frustrated inability to understand what prompted the killing, but - if such is the case - it still leaves the reader unsatisfied with the unresolved mystery of why certain events happened as they did.
Finally, "Song of Kali" suffers from a lack of editing and/or proofreading (at least in its paperback edition), as shown by the many typos in the manuscript. Ordinarily, this would not matter a great deal, but in a story that concerns itself with wordsmiths in one form or another (i.e., writers, editors, and a literary agent) the errors are glaring and disrupt the flow of the otherwise nicely nuanced text.
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