Sunday, May 12, 2013

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

In hindsight, some places are just too evil to be allowed to exist. This is how the narrator of this dark novel feels about the fetid, stinking hellhole of Calcutta where he goes in 1977, accompanied by his Indian wife and their baby, on an all expenses assignment for Harper’s magazine. When tantalizing rumors and some snippets of poetry surface that suggest the poet M. Das, who vanished after attending his father’s funeral in 1969, is still alive, Robert Luczak, a poet and journalist, is sent to India to find him. Harper’s wants an article called “The Search for M. Das” as well as exclusive rights to publish his latest poetry.

But these fragments of new poetry suggest that the poet, and his style have changed. The man who wrote the famous epic poem about Mother Teresa, now pens visceral verses that are full of blood and vulgarity.

As Robert Luczak investigates, he learns about the cult of the bloodthirsty demon goddess Kali, the dark mother of death and destruction, and hears stories about human sacrifices, body snatching, and the resurrection of the dead. One thing is certain, whether he finds M. Das or not—and if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know I don’t like to do spoilers here—he won’t leave Calcutta without Calcutta leaving its mark on him and his family.

This is a very dark and gritty novel that perfectly captures the squalor of Calcutta and the dark and gory mysteries of the cult of Kali and I understand it has something of a cult following of its own. I was very curious to read another novel by Dan Simmons as the very first book I reviewed on this blog was his lengthy historical horror novel Drood, about the rivalry between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins and I also remember reading about the cult of Kali in some long forgotten history book when I was a little girl, so I was very curious about this novel.  While I personally definitely preferred Drood, The Song of Kali is a well-written novel, dark and terrifying, that does what it sets out to do, but, for this reader at least, one reading was enough; I won’t be joining the cult of The Song of Kali but I will definitely be curious to see what else Mr. Simmons has to offer both in past works and future ones.

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