“Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist”-with this ominous line begins the story of Robert Luczak in the dark novel called ‘Song of Kali’ by Dan Simmons published nearly 28 years ago in 1985. I admit that I have read just one other book by Dan Simmons and while I am not a fan, I found the premise of this book very intriguing. The story is about an American poet who travels to Calcutta, India to interview a famous poet who has surfaced back after missing for 8 years. He takes his Indian wife and child along on the short trip. The events that follow in Calcutta disillusion him to the extent that he dreams of nuclear annihilation wiping away entire Calcutta.
While Dan Simmons has woven a very fast paced story, as a Hindu I was seriously offended by some of the aspects of his narration. One of the main issues with the story is the portrayal of Goddess Kali in such a negative light. The story mentions Robert Luczak is knowledgeable about Rabindranath Tagore, his poems, and other aspects of Indian mythology. So there was no reason to believe that he did not have a deeper understanding about Goddess Kali. Kali is a multi-faceted goddess with the combined powers of all the other gods. She is supposed to be the destroyer of evil and Lord Shiva’s partner. She is sometimes Durga, sometimes Parvati and sometimes Chamunda. It was blatantly wrong to forget all the aspects of the Goddess and label her as the evil ‘bitch goddess Kali’. My other problem with the book was I couldn’t find any motive for everything that had happened to Robert Luczak. From the beginning to the end it seemed as if the guy was a pawn of some elaborate game plan. If anyone reads this book and understands the motive please explain it to me!
But despite all this, I would still give the book 3 stars for its sheer grittiness, and it’s insight into the dark human psyche. Towards the end the book completely redeemed itself. 28 years ago when the book was published, the author felt that the world had gone crazy and dark and that is true more so ever today. With kids being murdered in their classrooms, to the Middle East crisis which seem to escalate every day, to the religious fanatics who want to kill everyone it does seem that the ‘Age of Kali’ has began and that the end will not be pretty. The most profound thing that I read in the book was comparison of the darkness of human psyche to the black holes. In the black hole, time, mass and space have no meaning similarly, in this age the human inhumanness seems equally senseless. This book isn’t meant for the soft-hearted and for those who see life with rosy glasses. Yes, it is very dark it’s one of those books which stay with you after you are done with it. One of those that keep you awake at night.