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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 October 2014
Originally published in 1985, winner of the 1986 World Fantasy Award, and the only Dan Simmons novel I hadn't read.

This is old style horror written with literary skill and a great sense of plotting. It's slow to build and fascinating to read. Robert Luzcak, writer/journalist, is driven to the point of insanity as he becomes involved with the darkly beating heart of the mysterious Calcutta. On his journey to discover the works of a dead poet, M. Das, Luzcak becomes embroiled in a series of twists and turns forcing him deeper into a mysterious journey involving the Goddess Kali, ancient ritual, the living dead, disease and esoteric writings. Calcutta is the monster at the heart of the story. Everything springs from her and she's in no rush to forgive. Add the collision of two very different cultures, a great sense of insanity v reality played out against a beautifully drawn background - you're in for a treat.

Because 'Song of Kali' hails from the 1980s, and Calcutta lies mostly hidden under modern development, there are times when some themes and attitudes become old fashioned. Don't let that put you off. Be prepared to let go and go with it. I'd recommend this novel to any fan of horror fiction looking for something outside of the current crop of contemporary writers. Well worth a download.
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on 17 April 2017
OK Read
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on 24 March 2017
A worthy winner of the World Fantasy Award!

Before I read this novel, I was surprised to hear that it won the World Fantasy award. Just because it is Dan Simmons' first novel.
After reading it, I fully understand why it did.

It is a fantastic read! It feels as though you are actually in Calcutta. An incredible achievement for Simmons!

My favorite part about Song of Kali was the characters. Bobby is brilliant, witty and just a normal guy working for a magazine. He isn't a hero. Just a normal person, which is what made him so interesting.

One of my favorite parts is when someone reads a description of Calcutta and asked if it matches what Bobby thinks of Calcutta. He agreed and was then told that it was a description of London during the Industrial Revolution. I know it's trivial, but little parts like this make a great story.

The only downside I can think of is that one of the more important parts of the story, it was read from a poem. I personally struggle analysing and understanding poetry, so this part kind of went over my head. But I got a basic understanding, and it didn't affect the story as a whole.

Overall, as a debut novel, it is brilliant! If I was told that this was his 7th novel, I wouldn't have been surprised. A strong 4* and I thoroughly recommend it!
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on 24 September 2007
I'll admit that I bought and read this novel expecting it to be more of a pacy bestseller style read. Instead, the book I discovered had more of a literary air to it - although plenty of chills and gripping episodes were included - in a read that proved quick and enthralling.

Yes, as other reviews on this site point out, the plotting is very minimal, but in my opinion nonetheless engaging for all of that. One of Simmons' strengths as a writer is his rendering of atmospherics and place - he uses the backdrop of Calcutta to instill a nagging sense of misery and unease in the reader - the perfect backdrop to his central motif of the goddess of death and destruction. But he is also aware enough to address the problematics of a Western perspective on India, including wry - and not dry - discussions about this within the body of the text.

Without going into the details of plot, the narrative follows a downwards spiral which is quite compelling for the reader in its bleakness - in the way that say, Stephen King's Pet Semetary is. Rather than follow that well trodden path into the void however, Simmons ultimately, is able to produce a quiet, hopeful ending that lifts the book above run of the mill horror shockers.
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on 9 June 2009
I first read this book in 1989. I found it unputtdownable then. Now, twenty years later I got hold of copy on ebay and lent it to a friend. My friend was also spellbound and finished it in three days.

The book brings Calcutta alive in way that I have not seen any author do. The story is well paced. There is mystery and suspense. The brooding, evil underside of Calcutta is really well structured. Not that Calcutta is like that - but its a fictional device that works very well.

The shock ending really got me - I was truely suprised and upset - so I won't spoil it for you.

The way he creates M Das as a student of Tagore is entirely believeable. The character Krishna leaves many unanswered questions. I would LOVE to see a sequel to this book.

I would recommend this books to anyone interested in India / Kali.
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on 6 January 2004
As with other novels by Dan Simmons, the worst horror is the reality so movingly depicted. The real monster is Calcutta, a city dedicated to Kali, goddess of death, with its open morgues and its fresh dead on the morning streets - something that should be dead, but putrefyingly persists. This is not the only source of horror, however - at least one scene in an unlit room had me reading with my hand over my mouth in fear. And the ending is heartbreakingly desolate. As Mr Simmons says, don't blame him that his books are marketed as horror, and don't blame him for the artwork. He is a highly literate author whose novels are driven by character, not incident. A satisfyingly frightening and surprisingly moving read.
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on 26 July 2011
I read this about five years ago just after our second child had been born and within that context the themes in the book scared me senseless! The descriptions of Calcutta are so moving and horrifying that it'll put you off ever visiting the place, I am sure for the Indian tourist board Dan Simmons is up there on its list of villians.
Calcutta in the book is a character all by itself, and a Lovecraftian character at that.

There are complaints that the story lacks a plot but I just don't understand this- it's a complaint made of a lot of Simmons' work but in my opinion this is a reflection of sometimes relatively simple plots being drawn out longer than would normally be the case thanks to Simmons fullsome descriptions of events, surroundings and fully fleshing out of characters and background story. All are a key part of his style and really reward the more patient reader.

This is a must read for both horror and Simmons fans.
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on 1 November 2013
Be transported to the smells, sights, sounds of Calcutta and experience the city through the eyes of the protagonist. While there, you'll experience the many layers of reality that Dan Simmons creates, and each layer adds to the richness and depth of this hauntingly disturbing tale. Graphic yet subtle, reading Dan Simmons's books is like watching a movie in my head, but better. Creepiness that lingers and haunts you for days. Brilliant.
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on 10 September 2006
Robert Luczak, poet and editor, has just been hired to hop on a plane to Calcutta and investigate the claims of a man who says he wants to publish new material by a celebrated Indian poet... the problem is, the poet has been dead for years. So Bobby and his Indian wife Amrita pack their bags and their baby daughter and head off to Calcutta to hear about M. Das' mysterious resurrection. And as it turns out, Das has indeed been resurrected - by the Goddess Kali, the Hindu Goddess of death and destruction, so that he might be the voice that proclaims the coming of her dominion to the world.

And that is the entire plot, I'm afraid.

India and Hinduism have always fascinated me, so when I spotted "Song of Kali" in the bookshop I couldn't resist. Simmons is a fine writer, really: he describes Calcutta in glorious, disgusting detail. Reading the book, I could smell the stench in the streets, feel the overpowering heat, breathe the foul air... but unfortunately, Simmons talents as a writer seem to stop there (in this book, at any rate). He has no concept of a plotline, a coherent story with a beginning and an end. I don't by any means insist on hero quests in fantasy novels, but I do like to finish a book feeling as if someting had happened. I finished "Song of Kali" with the sights and sounds and smells of Calcutta all around me... and nothing else. Simmons went to a great deal of trouble to describe the most horrifying, frightening, sickening, miasmic city I have ever read about - and then he did nothing with it. Just to make matters worse, the ending drifts off into sheer silliness: Star Warsian philosophising on the Good and Evil inside us corruptable humans (Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And Hate is the path... well, you know the rest.) The book's title should have been "Song of Calcutta" - the city gets more "screen time" even than the main protagonist, and is far more interesting.
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on 31 October 2010
This reads a little like an old fashioned horror, all about the atmosphere rather than the events themselves with lots of exotic native colour.

Robert is a decent character who behaves in a perfectly reasonable and believable manner as things get progressively weirder and worse.

The pace never seems hectic even at the climax but there is always something strange happening. The transitions from apparent normality to complete insanity are handled quite well.

The problem is the same as with Simmons other books, the ending doesn't do justice to the story, it is ok but a bit of a let down, the energy in the book just sort of peters out.

A decent read but spoiled by the weak ending.
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