Customer Reviews for

The Dervish House

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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  • Posted July 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is a complicated gloomy science fiction novel that is totally excellent

    In 2027 in Istanbul, Turkey Necdet rides the jammed tram to work, but though he is not a creep he cannot stop staring at the young woman with the red highlights and silver curls. Thus he sees first hand when she touches a jewel at her throat and detonates her head. The exploding skull panics everybody.

    The nanotechnological Swarmbots gizmos investigate what seems like a loner suicide bomber. Necdet knows he must elude the Swarmbots because they have ways of knowing everything; he must not reveal that he is moving into the Dervish House for fear he will destroy his brother's plan to use the home as a sanctuary for an underground Islamic group. The timing for the move is bad especially as the country celebrates its fifth decade as a member of the EU, which means terrorists will blow themselves and others up for some obscure inane cause in God's name and law enforcement will sweep anyone regardless of criminality.

    This is a complicated gloomy science fiction novel that extrapolates current trends in politics, economics, religion, science, technology and social terrorism into a strong enthralling thriller. The cast is solid starting with Necdet and the Swarmbots while the story line is fast-paced and extremely dark. Readers will appreciate Ian McDonald's ominous near future as 1984 comes to full throttle in his vision of 2027.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald is one of those rare books whe

    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald is one of those rare books where I am in agreement with critics and consider it worthy of the many rewards it received. Often times I find myself at a loss to understand why everyone was raving about these books – think of The De Vinci Code or Life of Pi or even the latest Haruki Murakami book 1Q84 which I am struggling through. But in this case I tore through it and only took so long to read because of other commitments.

    Set in Istanbul, not Constantinople, Turkey in 2027 The Dervish House is the epitome of speculative fiction – combining sci-fi elements with a look at the future of humanity and society in particular. All of which takes place around the building that gives the novel its name. The dervish house in question links not just people, but history, families, society and religion into a complex but realistic world where the most expressive element of McDonald’s story is in fact the humanity he explores.

    McDonald focuses not on one character but many, each with their own skills, trials, tribulations, drives and needs. At various times they will overlap and ultimately tie together which in some ways feels like deus ex machina and others comes across as a forced happy ending. The ride along the way is what matters though, and given that this book is meant to be a one-off, a standalone novel those transgressions are forgivable as it takes you through a rich and varied journey of Istanbul.

    Like good speculative fiction and sci-fi The Dervish House deals with a question, and one could even argue a couple of questions – namely can one create a religious experience and belief. The other possible question posed, by one of the more interesting characters – the professor (his name escapes me), is about the amount of information that is needed to make a leap to a logical conclusion. Which itself is part in parcel of the debate on religion in the book, when does one have enough information.

    Ian McDonald brings to Istanbul and The Dervish House a wonderfully lyrical and literary language which helps to add to those little elements that makes the novel so good, much in the way much of Turkish and Islamic architecture is about the inclusion of the mosaic. Some passages can be a bit flowery, and when he follows a bird in its flight over the “Queen of Cities” one wishes that there were photos on offer instead.

    Many have complained of the difficulty in the names of the characters which was an area I did not struggle with. Anyone with any experience of the Turkic cultures knows that there are some very common names or elements that make up names and soon follows along easily. McDonald’s attention to detail in that respect I felt made the story all the more immersive and true to Turkish culture.

    The Dervish House is an excellent story of a culture and a city foreign to most that is accessible to anyone. And everyone should read it if they’re looking for sci-fi or speculative fiction, foreign cultures, history, religion, family drama or boy detectives. It really does have something for everyone and is an excellent introduction to Ian McDonald’s work.

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    Posted February 18, 2014

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    Posted July 31, 2011

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    Posted August 15, 2010

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