Writer: Dan Simmons
Song of Kali is a 1986 World Fantasy Award winning novel by Dan Simmons. It walks a fine line between horror and thriller, but at its core is a complex conspiracy. It follows an American poet, Robert Luczack as he travels to Calcutta with his family in search of one of its most renowned poets.
The fictional poet, M. Das had mysteriously disappeared many years ago and was presumed dead. Recently, however, new material claiming to be Das' work had begun circulating in Calcutta. Luczak was sent to find and interview Das, verify the new work is authentic and bring back a copy for publication in the United States. This leads our protagonist to discover the terrifying presence of the cult of Kali, a ruthless group which controls the city from behind the scenes. Luczak's life would never be the same again, after the chain of events that follows.
The book is heavily atmospheric, and the writing very poetic. The prose brings the surroundings to life and colours them in dark shades of the narrator's fear, squirming disgust, hopelessness and paranoia, making the city of Calcutta into a living, breathing monstrosity. Although, some may find the negative portrayal of Calcutta rather extreme, if we look at it through the narrator's disturbing experiences in the city, Calcutta seems like an eastern version of Gotham city with fear reigning supreme.
Surprisingly, the protagonist himself is the least likeable of all the major characters, although this does not keep the reader from sympathising with what Luczak is put through. This is, after all, a debut novel and author Dan Simmons went on to forge far better characters in his later works.
If you love noir-ish thrillers, a good dose of mystery with immersing prose, conspiracies, apocalyptic rants and tragedy, this book is for you.