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The Song of Kali
Dan Simmons
Tor Books, 311 pages

A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Years ago, I tried Song of Kali. After forty pages of descriptions of how disgusting the city of Calcutta was, I gave up.

Recently, Tor released a new trade paper edition of Song of Kali. After years of having people recommend the book and claiming that it might very well be Dan Simmons' best work, I figured I would give it another shot. Simmons' other work has always been wonderful. Carrion Comfort is one of the scariest novels I've read and his Hyperion saga is simply great.

Well... Song of Kali is still one long description of unbelievable foulness. But this time, I got it. That's the point. For only in a city that is so foul, depraved, so utterly without promise, could the nightmare that Dan Simmons has crafted, fester and find life.

Song of Kali recounts the horrifying events of an American publisher, Robert Luczak, sent to India to pick up a manuscript. The manuscript is supposed to be the latest work of a famous poet who disappeared years earlier and is presumed dead. However, upon his arrival in Calcutta, Luczak is rapidly drawn into a bizarre series of events that lead him into contact with the cult of Kali, goddess of death, and the plot to unleash this demon-goddess upon the earth.

Very quickly things go from merely strange to utterly horrifying as he is led deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding the poet Das. And, as the journey gets darker and darker, we begin to understand the motivation behind the novel's opening paragraphs where Calcutta is described as simply "too evil to be allowed to exist."

The tale Simmons tells is one of the most chilling I have ever read. The writing is absolutely brilliant and Simmons manages to convey the sense of disgust, hopelessness and utter terror of both the characters and setting of the novel in a way that simply defies description.

It's not often that a book really disturbs me. Song of Kali did. This is the kind of book that makes you squirm as you read it. It's a tale as harrowing as they come. So, if you haven't had a chance to read this World Fantasy Award-winning novel, take the opportunity and pick it up. It's well worth the price of the trade paper edition. Just remember, when you do sit down to read it, leave the light on; you'll be reading far, far into the night.

Copyright © 1998 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

Song of Kali
Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons has won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award and a number of others. He is the author of Song of Kali, the Hyperion books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, the Endymion books, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, and a number of other terrific novels.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site: Dan Simmons Reading List
Dan Simmons Tribute Page
Bantam Books: Rise of Endymion

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