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Song of Kali Paperback – January 15, 1998

3.6 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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


“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


Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031286583X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312865832
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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, journalism and art.
Dan received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years -- 2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York -- one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher -- and 14 years in Colorado.

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.
Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life."
Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado -- in the same town where he taught for 14 years -- with his wife, Karen. He sometimes writes at Windwalker -- their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike -- a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels -- was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.
Dan is one of the few novelists whose work spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, suspense, historical fiction, noir crime fiction, and mainstream literary fiction . His books are published in 27 foreign counties as well as the U.S. and Canada.
Many of Dan's books and stories have been optioned for film, including SONG OF KALI, DROOD, THE CROOK FACTORY, and others. Some, such as the four HYPERION novels and single Hyperion-universe novella "Orphans of the Helix", and CARRION COMFORT have been purchased (the Hyperion books by Warner Brothers and Graham King Films, CARRION COMFORT by European filmmaker Casta Gavras's company) and are in pre-production. Director Scott Derrickson ("The Day the Earth Stood Stood Still") has been announced as the director for the Hyperion movie and Casta Gavras's son has been put at the helm of the French production of Carrion Comfort. Current discussions for other possible options include THE TERROR. Dan's hardboiled Joe Kurtz novels are currently being looked as the basis for a possible cable TV series.
In 1995, Dan's alma mater, Wabash College, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions in education and writing.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Plot Summary: Bobby Luczac and his wife and baby are off to Calcutta to find a poet who is apparently creating new material despite being dead for over 8 years. How can M. Das be writing new poems, how is he still alive, where is he to be found? These are the questions Bobby is to answer as well as collect a new manuscript for his stateside periodical. Despite warnings from colleagues, the whole family flies to India, birthplace of his wife. Nothing good happens for Mr. and Mrs. Luczac from this point on.

Opinion: I'm kind of in between on this book. At points I am amazed and disgusted by the imagery and the squalor of Calcutta. At other points I find myself just skimming to get on with the story. Simmons does a good job overall painting the city as this almost black hole of misfortune, horror, and evil. Much of it based on cult worshiping of the goddess Kali. I was impressed at how far he took the things that could and did happen in this book. Far past where a weaker author would have maybe spared us a little. Then things got a little out of character after the climax of the book. There is hope after all we are led to believe. The characters were all decently written including the city which is the main character of this horror story. I can't say how well this portrays Calcutta because I don't know anyone who has been there, but it was very vivid for me from the book that I wouldn't want to.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to Simmons fans because he is a good writer and the story is pretty good. I would not suggest this as your first Simmons book though as I think his Hyperion and Ilium stories are much better. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 overall.
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Format: Paperback
According to Hindu teaching, we are in the Kali Yuga, the Age of Kali. Dan Simmons may well you believe it. With great intelligence and unexpected sensitivity, Simmons relates a story that could easily have turned to schlock, but which instead deals with cultural phobias, nightmare images, and the existence of a very unintellectual (and yet also very un-Stephen King) form of evil with the same deft touch. Certainly, the book sells as horror and roting corpses and all manner of nastiness abound, but Simmons handles them in context -- a context in which pain is sometimes sacred and the truly horrific merely a part of the pattern.
The point that makes _The Song of Kali_ so intensely readable is that Simmons doesn't make the mistake of avoiding the cultural politics of a horror novel about a foreign deity...nor does he make the greater mistake of beating one over the head with relativistic blather. In one of the novel's most derailing passages, a character describes the differences between India and the west as the difference between Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry...irreconcilable, nearly inconceivable.
_The Song of Kali_ has its flaws, but under the poisonous gleam of Simmons's Calcutta and even under the personal disaster that shatters the protagonist's life, there is an awareness of the darkness of an age where unspeakable violence is truly commonplace. That awareness, combined with the chilling thought that we have not, perhaps, chosen the right geometry, make reading this novel an experience that you will not -- and should not -- soon forget.
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Format: Paperback
I am *never* going to Calcutta.
Apparently he only spent two and a half days there, but Calcutta must have made one hell of an impression on Dan Simmons. I don't know if his portrayal of it is accurate, but he's presented a dark, dirty, frightening city -- a place I've visited in my nightmares many times since reading "Song of Kali."
This is a novel that really stuck with me. In fact, after reading it I had to get rid of my copy, because it freaked me out so much. It's a thoroughly engaging story -- part of why it was so upsetting is that I believed the protagonists (a writer and his wife and baby) so completely.
Lots of writers have approached the subject of bad places -- mostly in the form of haunted houses (Shirley Jackon's classic "The Haunting of Hill House," Richard Matheson's "Hell House," and Stephen King's "The Shining" all come to mind). This is the first example of a *city* as bad place that I've seen. It's also the first book in a long time that's really scared me.
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Format: Paperback
If you are intersted in this book, DO NOT READ THE REVIEWS BELOW. The reviews below give away MAJOR plot points and ruined my reading of what would have been a suspenseful book.
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Format: Paperback
After reading Harlan Ellison's comments about this book years ago, I knew I had to have it. Not an easy book to locate then, but once I had it... Oh my God. I'd never read a horror novel like it. It was bloated with the corruption and festering malignancy of Calcutta: "Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist." With that provocative opening line, Simmons opens up a universe filled with an overpowering sense of the otherworldly that the Western mind cannot escape.
The novel feeds on our (inherent?) xenophobia, our fear of women (manifested in the devouring goddess of Kali), our passion for violence, and the all-too-real fear of our children taken from us. "All violence is power," the poet Das says. "Sometimes there is no hope. Sometimes there is only pain."
THAT, friends and neighbors, is the true crux of all great horror fiction, and Simmons doesn't hesitate to take us as far down the river at the heart of darkness. His knowledge of classic poetry, particularly Yeats, and Luczak's wife's knowledge of geometry, infuses this novel with an intelligence and moral weight most horror writers either fake or never bother with in the first place. And India has such a vast and bizarre mythology I'm surprised no one explored it before like this.
I love this book, and even picking it up again to write this review I'm tempted to read it a third time. Anyone with any knowledge of India's myths will find it all the more disturbing.
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