Song of Kali was I think the first Simmons I ever read, many years ago picking it at random without knowing a thing about the story or author beyond the fact that it was a horror and obviously set in India. I was very pleasantly surprised, and it was on the strength of its impression that I went on to seek out other Simmons books. I have to admit I just can't get into his sci-fi (I'm not a fan of the genre, period) but the man can surely write horror, mystery, drama and bildungsroman.
Sadly, Kali seems to be little known and even less appreciated these days. I've seen it denounced as "racist" several times, and in today's hypersensitive culture where the far Left seems to dominate the media, any hint of "racism" is like the kiss of death. The accusation is ridiculous, but that's usually par for the course anymore. The book itself is a powerful one to me, regardless of where you stand on the real vs. supernatural explanation of its events. The gritty realism (and that city was indeed an utter hell-hole back then, very much as described, yet also full of mystery and culture shock to me as a thoroughly white, Western man) always draws me in.
That engaging realism is used to great effect; I mean the story is unrelentingly bleak, dirty and depressing to the point I always feel like I need a shower and a bottle of Prozac by the time I'm done... But I still enjoy it every time.
What did you think of Summer of Night by the way? I'm one of those heretics who think it's superior to King's IT -with which it's inevitably always compared. As for Drood, I also loved it, as I loved The Terror. Those two are quite similar in that they're both IMO just as much a slice of mid 19th-century life/real historical events as they are supernatural horror stories, if you get what I mean. Except in Drood's case you're exploring the sordid life of a gentleman writer and his frenemy Dickens in London, instead of that of an exploration ships' captain and his doomed crew in the arctic ice. Simmons has a talent for blending the real and imagined into what I like to call "historical semi-fiction" with more than enough research and historical fact to make his imagined version of what went on behind the scenes of available, nonfiction historical record of these peoples' lives and incidents seem seriously plausible.
EDIT: Ugh, I see this is like 10 years old. Sorry folks, apparently I was stupid enough to miss that some bots resurrected a long-dead post. I'll let my comments stand though; there's too little discussion of Kali et al. here anyway.
Edited by Se7en ( 45 minutes 9 seconds ago)