- Paperback: 359 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (Oct. 1 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616145455
- ISBN-13: 978-1616145453
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.4 x 22.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #622,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Dervish House Paperback – Oct 1 2011
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"McDonald creates a magnificent knot of intrigue, thrills, and daring adventures, with the flair for character and setting that makes his tales so satisfying to indulge in."
"An audacious look at the shift in the power centers of the world and an intense vision of one possible future."
-New York Times Book Review
"This twisting, turning, part futuristic fantasy, part intuitive prediction satisfies without divulging all its secrets, just like the city."
-Time Out Istanbul
"As close to perfection as a book can get. . . . If you only have money to buy a single sci-fi novel this year, this has to be it. Impossible to put down."
-Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
“The complex plot and its unique characters make for an intriguing read. McDonald weaves several plotlines together with a whirling dervish house, a character in its own right, as the common denominator.”
-RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
“In the end, spending some time with these six characters in the fascinating city of Istanbul was pure enjoyment. Look for The Dervish House on the shortlists of the major SF&F awards next year. Highly recommended. 41/2 out of 5 stars”
“The Dervish House cements Ian McDonald’s status as a first class talent, and one of my all-time favorite authors. He continues to depict the future of non-western cultures with creativity, depth, and verve. His prose is a delight to read, his characters are lively and authentic, and he can pull you in to a near-future setting like no one else I know. I’d recommend this book to pretty much everyone.”
“A rich, accomplished portrait of near-future Istanbul that may be is the best thing McDonald has written—and that’s saying something. It is the product of a writer at the top of his game: beautifully styled, complexly characterized and plotted without ever feeling heavy or dull...half a dozen storylines are coiled together as neatly as DNA, each of them compelling and readable. McDonald manages to avoid the traps of condescension, or Orientalism, that lie in wait for the white Westerner writing about places that are neither of those things. A dervishly good book.”
“First, let's get one thing out of the way. Every book I’ve read in the last several months has been completely overshadowed — perhaps unfairly — by Ian McDonald’sThe Dervish House. He’s the kind of writer who has the power to alter your whole vision of what science fiction can be and do. Last year’s Cyberabad Days was among the most ferociously intelligent novels I’ve read in years, in any genre. And The Dervish House is even better. After reading a book like that, it’s hard to get excited about merely good sf novels. Or even genuinely excellent ones...This is what science fiction should be... McDonald has done the seemingly impossible. He has written a compelling, action-packed sf novel about the future of AI-based quantitative trading... But it’s no fantasy: it’s the reality that’s breathing down the backs of our necks every workday. And McDonald extrapolates from it with dizzying virtuosity...More than any other sf writer I can think of, McDonald has a complex, nuanced, fundamentally real vision of the way power works in the world.”
-Fantasy & Science Fiction
About the Author
Ian McDonald is the author of many science fiction novels, including Empress of the Sun, Planesrunner, and Be My Enemy (the Everness series); plus Brasyl, River of Gods, Cyberabad Days, Ares Express, Desolation Road, King of Morning, Queen of Day, Out on Blue Six, Chaga, and Kirinya. He has won the Philip K. Dick Award and the BSFA Award, been nominated for a Hugo Award and a Quill Book Award, and has several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The Dervish House is the the 2011 John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner for Best Novel. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Top customer reviews
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Considering how much I loved River of Gods, Brasyl, and Cyberabad Days, I'm aware that I should have waited a bit longer before granting Under Heaven its crown. After all, every McDonald title I've read since the creation of the Hotlist ended up in my top reads of that year. Call it Canadian patriotism or whatever you like, but I really wanted Guy Gavriel Kay to finish in pole position at the end of 2010. Unfortunately, Ian McDonald had another think coming for me.
The Dervish House is without a doubt his best and most accessible science fiction novel to date. And to put it simply, it just blew my mind. Believe me, I did try to find some shortcomings and facets that left a little to be desired. All to no avail, of course. The Dervish House is about as good as it gets, folks. McDonald's past novels had already set the bar rather high, no question. But this one, at least for me, is as close to perfection as a book can get.
Here's the blurb:
It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shock waves from this random act of twenty-first-century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.
Welcome to the world of The Dervish House--the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union, a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million, Turkey is the largest, most populous, and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and central Asia. The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core--the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself--that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama, and a ticking clock of a thriller.
Previous novels by McDonald took some time to get into, as the author used the early part of each of his work to build the groundwork for what was to come. Uncharacteristically, in The Dervish House McDonald's tale grabs hold of you from the get-go and won't let go till you reach the very end. I wasn't expecting the novel to make such a powerful impression right from the very first pages. But as soon as that woman detonates herself inside Tram 157 near Necatibey Cadessi, any hope I had of ever being able to put down this book evaporated immediately.
Seemingly effortlessly (don't know how he manages to do it, but McDonald's always makes this look easy), the author captured the essence of 21st century Turkey on countless levels. His evocative prose brings Istanbul to life in vivid fashion. His undeniable eye for details creates an imagery and an atmosphere that will delight and impress readers in myriad ways. As is the author's wont, the worldbuilding is superb. His depiction of a futuristic Turkey now part of the EU is even more memorable than his thrilling depictions of India and Brazil were. Whether its the country's political and social psyche, or mundane details such as what people are having for breakfast, McDonald's narrative makes you feel as though you're part of the action.
The Dervish House is not split into usual chapters. Instead, the story takes place during seven days, beginning with that fateful terrorist bus bombing. The tale unfolds through the eyes of six disparate characters, with the dervish house connecting these various plotlines together. I felt at first that the contrasting personalities would perhaps create a somewhat discordant whole, but Ian McDonald makes them all come together in a surprising manner. As was the case with River of Gods, when the multilayered storylines converge, the author's genius and his gift for well-crafted characterization shine through.
Though every character has his or her part to play in the overall story arc, Necdet, who was staring at the woman on the tram when she blew herself up, could be what one might consider the central character. Yet that's not entirely true, as the rest of the cast, even if they do so sometimes indirectly, plays as important a role in the greater scheme of things. The boy Can Durukan is particularly well-realized, and his relationship with Georgios Ferentinou showed that the author possesses a deft human touch. Still, Ayse Erkoç was, for me, probably the most interesting of the bunch. Another great aspect of The Dervish House is that every single character has a backstory, making them all three-dimensional protagonists. Hence, although the novel is a thought-provoking work of science fiction, it is nevertheless a character-driven read.
The pace, even though it is never a factor, is not always crisp. The narrative slows down considerably in the POV portions of both Adnan Sarioglu and Leyla Gültasli. And yet, when McDonald's reveals the true importance of each plotline and how it's connected to the overall story arc, that's when things get really interesting!
Perhaps because fundamentalist islamic terrorists and the emergence of Turkey and its possible accession to the European Union have made the news quite often these last few years, many of the themes found within the pages of The Dervish House feel more actual and better known and understood than those of McDonald's previous novels. Which is why I feel that The Dervish House, while showcasing Ian McDonald at his very best in terms of thought-provoking storytelling skills, just might be his most accessible work to date.
The Dervish House deserves the highest possible recommendation. If you only have money to buy a single scifi novel this year, this has to be it.
Cons: have to pay close attention (sudden flashbacks/memories, lots of minute details), minor character & place names are unusual and similar enough that they're easily confused when jumping between so many storylines (Ogun Saltuk, Selma Ozgun, Oguz, Ozer)
The novel is set in the Istanbul of 2027. Turkey is part of the EU. Nanotech is used to give people a mental edge, especially in businesses like trading and finance. And the lives of the people from the Dervish House at Adem Dede Square are about to change.
It all starts with a tram bomb. Necdet's on his way to work and is horrified when a woman blows her own head off. Traumatized by the event, he doesn't realize how badly he was affected by it until he starts seeing djinn everywhere.
Can Durukan, a 9 year boy, sends his computerized bitbot robots to the site of the bombing to see what he can see. Another robot attacks his and he's thrust into a mystery he's determined to solve.
Meanwhile, Ayse, an art dealer is offered a million Euro to find a legend, a Mellified Man.
Her husband has a deal of his own, a deal that could make him millions, or land him in jail.
Their stories and more intertwine to form a dazzling mosaic through 5 days in Istanbul. It's a sensory explosion, of names, places and actions. The plot becomes intricate fast, so pay attention when reading.
My only complaint was that so many names were similar enough between places and people, that when they were mentioned again I often couldn't remember who they were.
If you liked the lyricism of Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven, you'll love The Dervish House.
Istanbul, in the year 2027. Twenty million people live there, and it is still the Queen of Cities, a crossroads of worlds and religions, a maze of ordered chaos and quiet cacophonies, of petty dramas and grand designs. A city where the old and the new, the mystical and the futuristic embrace in prayer around its many mosques. Turkey has become part of the European Union, and a major player in the nanotechnology field.
A suicidal bomber in a tram heralds the beginning of life-changing events for six people. A rogue trader prepares himself for the scam of the century. His wife, an owner of an art gallery, sets on a mission to discover a legendary treasure hidden somewhere in the great city. A young marketing graduate is hired by a family business that could change the world, but she has only five days to save it. A nine-year old boy with a heart condition that forces him to wear ear-plugs, thus stealing all sound from his world, becomes the accidental witness to the beginnings of a conspiracy, and turns into the Boy Detective. His friend, a retired Greek economist, is hired into a military think-tank, but he has to battle old demons before he could face new ones. And a good-for-nothing slacker caught in the tram accident starts seeing jinn, and becomes a new man. All those lives intertwine as Istanbul plunges into a five-day heat-wave, to weave a tale of dirty deals, nanotechnology and a whole new kind of terrorism.
Ok, so I want to come clean before I continue. It took tremendous effort on my part to finish The Dervish House, and in the end, it was sheer stubbornness and determination that prevented me from giving up on it. Not for a second did a sympathize with any of the characters, and the story started to actually go somewhere only in the last seventy pages.
Now, don't take me wrong. Ian McDonald is obviously a very talented writer, and even if the present tense he uses in the novel is a bit tiring at times, his style is beautiful - rich and vivid, playing with rhythm and phrase in a multitude of ways. Alas, I could never feel his Istanbul. Not in any real sense, even though it is evident that he has put a lot of effort and knowledge into building the atmosphere of the city. And his work seems to have payed off, as many on-line reviewers point mid-twenty first century Istanbul as one of the strongest aspects of the book. To me, it remained just a random place that nothing was happening in for three hundred pages.
The characters are given small segments of a couple of pages each, before McDonald moves on to the next one. That means we follow all of their stories pretty much simultaneously, but it also means that none of those stories actually move. The Dervish House is split into the five days of the heat-wave, and chapters plod ponderously over the hours, as little snippets of different lives are shown in painstaking detail, with all the atmospheric details that I would love, if the actually did it for me. Considering that I turned out to be immune to McDonald's atmosphere-building and character-developing skills however, all I was left with were six separate stories that seemed to go nowhere, lacked anything to make them even a little exciting, and when the final seventy pages finally kicked in, and the stories started to merge, I wished that we had arrived there a lot earlier. Plot-wise the book needs anywhere between a hundred and fifty, and two hundred pages less.
Honestly, I am somewhat saddened. I really wanted to like The Dervish House, and to become a fan of McDonald's writing. I still do, actually, and after some time has passed, I will most likely try and read others of his books. He seems to be exactly the type of writer that I respect ia like. Yet, even if nothing in The Dervish House touched me in any way, it is a good book, and I can appreciate that a tremendous amount of effort and thought has been put into it. Also, considering all the stellar reviews over the Internet, I suspect I am in the minority here, so my advice would be for you to try it out for yourself. What it didn't do for me, it might do for you.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I actually took notes on the different characters, and it helped me immensely. I felt the book could have benefitted from a list of characters, so here's a short list for you: Necdet Hasguler - Is a recent arrival in Istanbul, living at Dervish House with his brother Ismet Shayk (also called Dede). At the very beginning of the book, Necdet witnesses a woman blow herself up in an apparent terrorist attack on a bus. Can Durukan - 9-year-old boy with a heart condition that could be triggered by loud noises - therefore he lives a tightly controlled life to isolate him from sound. He spends much of his time sending robot toys he has programmed out into the city and tracking their movements on his computer. Ayse Erkoc - Owns an antique store in the Dervish House. Adnan Serioglu - A trader in gas futures, married to Ayse. Georgios Ferentinou - Greek, has lived in Istanbul his whole life. Retired economist/mathematician. Leyla Gultasli - Young woman who recently graduated from college with a marketing degree. She is living in Dervish House and looking for a job. Ultimately, I preferred Brasyl as I felt the plot was more interesting, but this was still a good read and our book club had a good discussion about it.
The future biotech universe is nanoscale--business cards are exchanged bodily with a handshake; people sniff nanostuffs like uppers to focus their marketing minds, the equivalent of the WWW is nano-written on people's retinas, a start-up company is looking for venture capital to prototype encoding DNA with everything-you-want to-remember (sort of like cellular iPhoto), etc.
There are three basic subplots (looking like five) that progress in intercutting chapters. One is a high-finance stock swindle focused on natural gas piped across Iran and Turkey to the west. The second is an antiquarian's search for a miraculous, medieval corpse. The third involves a genius Boy Detective using his nanobots to track the abduction of a former drug-addict by terrorists whose nano-bombs cause their victims to have religious visions, which brings in the special Turkish mix of Islam--more Sufi than Wahabi. In the boy's subplot is a cynical former university economist, his family's neighbor in the slum tekke (the dervish house of the title, where the antiquarian's shop is also located). The professor is an old Turco-Greek and former political radical, who, with his teashop buddies, are what little is left of Byzantium.
McDonald's writing is a pleasure to read, apart from the thriller plotting of the book. The science elements are non-technical and probably not novel enough for heavy-metal sci-fi readers. If you love Istanbul, you will love this book, whether you like thrillers or sci-fi or not. If you believe that swindlers and fraudsters are what makes the world go 'round, for better or worse, you'll eat this book up.
This is an awesomely well-crafted book. The characters are full and vibrant; the interweaving plots are all interesting; the future tech is *just* futuristic enough that it helps drive some of the plots, but not so over-the-horizon as to be unbelievable. But perhaps what makes this book so enrapturing is the way McDonald makes the city of Istanbul a character in its own right.
I recently read Deep State by Walter Jon Williams, much of which was also set in Istanbul. In my review of that book, I complimented Williams for doing "a nice job of sketching out the various locations in which the narrative occurs, providing enough detail to help the mind's eye without getting bogged down in florid detail." McDonald, on the other hand, paints deep, rich, vibrant pictures of Istanbul; I almost feel as if I have visited there myself. Yet he never lets this word-painting get in the way of allowing the plot to move forward. I am in awe at his masterful balance.
[Note: If/When I re-read this book (as I fully intend to do), I will give it five stars. It's just a personal rule of mine that I only give that rating to works that I return to.]