The Dervish House

The Dervish House

by Ian McDonald

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Another day, another tram bomb. It seems everyone is after a piece of Turkey. But the shock waves from this random act of twenty-first-century terrorism will ripple far beyond Necatibey Cadessi.

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. With a population pushing one hundred million, and Istanbul alone swollen to fifteen million, Turkey is the largest, most populous, and most diverse nation in the new Europe, 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, and three interconnected story strands all woven around the common core of the old dervish house of Aden Dede. A terror attack, a vision of djinn, a commodities scam, a hunt for half a miniature Koran that holds the key to new technology, and a quest for a creature from Arabic legend—that may not be so legendary after all.

Praise for The Dervish House

“To read McDonald is to fall in love with a place and to become drunk with it....If you've never read him, you're in for a treat. If you're a fan like me, you'll be delighted anew. What a wonderful, wonderful book.”—Boing Boing

"The Dervish House is an audacious look at the shift in the power centers of the world and an intense vision of one possible future." —New York Times

“Hugely adventurous and entertaining, sumptuously inventive and full of heart… it is likely to rank as Ian McDonald’s finest creative achievement.” —Locus

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625673060
Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Publication date: 03/05/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 472
File size: 816 KB

About the Author

Ian McDonald is the author of many award-winning and critically-acclaimed science fiction novels, including Brasyl, River of Gods, Cyberabad Days, The Dervish House, and the ground-breaking Chaga series. He has won the Philip K. Dick Award, the BSFA Award (five times), LOCUS Award, a Hugo Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His work has also been nominated for the Nebula Award, a Quill Book Award, and has several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Read an Excerpt

The Dervish House


Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2010 Ian McDonald
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61614-204-9

Chapter One


The white bird climbs above the city of Istanbul: a stork, riding the rising air in a spiral of black-tipped wings. A flare of the feathers; it wheels on the exhalations of twenty million people, one among ten thousand that have followed the invisible terrain of thermals from Africa to Europe, gliding one to the next, rising up from Lake Victoria and the Rift Valley, following the silver line of the Nile, across the Sinai and the Lebanon to the great quadrilateral of Asia Minor. There the migration splits. Some head north to the shores of the Black Sea, some east to Lake Van and the foothills of Ararat; but the greatest part flies west, across Anatolia to the glitter of the Bosphorus and beyond it, the breeding grounds of the Balkans and Central Europe. In the autumn the stork will return to the wintering grounds in Africa, a round-trip of twenty thousand kilometres. There has been a city on this strait for twenty-seven centuries, but the storks have been crossing twice a year for time only held by the memory of God.

High above Üsküdar, storks peel off from the top of the thermal, wingtips spread wide, feeling the air. In twos and threes they glide down towards the quays and mosques of Sultanahmet and Beyoglu. There is a mathematics to the wheeling flock, a complex beauty spun out of simple impulses and algorithms. As the stork spills out from the top of the gyre its sense for heat tells it there is something different this migration, an added strength to the uplift of warm air. Beneath its wings the city stifles under an unseasonable heat wave.

It is after the hour of prayer but not yet the hour of money. Istanbul, Queen of Cities, wakes with a shout. There is a brassy top note to the early traffic, the shrill of gas engines. Midnotes from taxis and dolmuses, the trams on their lines and tunnels, the trains in their deeper diggings through the fault zones beneath the Bosphorus. From the strait comes the bass thrum of heavy shipping: bulk carriers piled high with containers edge past Russian liquid gas carriers like floating mosques, pressure domes fully charged from the terminals at Odessa and Supsa. The throb of marine engines is the heartbeat of Istanbul. Between them scurry the opportunistic ferries. Sirens and horns, call and response; motors reversing and burbling as they warp into Eminönü's quays. Gulls' cries; always gulls. Dirty, conniving gulls. No one builds platforms on their chimneys for gulls to nest. Gulls are never blessings. The clatter of roller shutters, the bang of van doors. Morning radio, pop and talk. Much talk, of football. Champions' League quarterfinal. Galatasaray/London Arsenal. The pundits are in full flow from a hundred thousand balconies and rooftop terraces. Pop, football and heat. This is the tenth day of the heat wave. Thirty-three degrees in April, at seven in the morning. Unthinkable. The climate-pundits speculate on whether it could be another Big Heat of '22 when eight thousand people died in Istanbul alone. That was insane heat. Now some witty phone-in caller is fusing the two punditries together and speculating that if it flattens those pale English footballers, can that be such a bad thing?

Over all, through all, the chorus of air conditioners. A box in a window, a vent on a wall, an array of fans on a rooftop-one by one they spin up, stirring the heat into ever-greater gyres of warm air. The city exhales a subtle breath of spirals within spirals, updrafts and microthermals.

The stork's pinfeathers feel out the rising airscape. The city's waste heat may save it those few wingbeats it needs to carry it to the next thermal or away from the stooping eagle. Its life is an unconscious algebra, balancing equations between energy opportunity and energy expenditure. Black feather tips flutter as it slides down across the rooftops.

The explosion goes almost unnoticed in the greater roar of the waking city. A flat crack. Then silence. The first voices are the pigeons and gulls, bursting upwards in clattering wings and shrieks. Then come the voices of the machines: car alarms, security alarms, personal alarms, the hip-hop of call tones. Last come the human shrieks and cries.

The tram has come to a halt in the centre of Necatibey Cadessi a few metres away from the halt. The bomb detonated at the rear; the blue roof is bellied up, the windows and doors blown out. A little smoke leaks from the back end of the second car. The passengers have made their own escapes onto the street and now mill around uncertain about what to do. Some sit on the ground, knees pulled up, deep in shock. Pedestrians have come to help. Some offer coats or jackets; some are making cell calls, hands trying to describe the scene; more stand around feeling the need to offer help but uncertain what to do. Most stand back, watching and feeling guilty for watching. A few without guilt shoot video on their cepteps. The news channels pay money for citizen journalism.

The tram driver goes from group to group asking, Is everyone there? Is anyone missing? Are they all right? And they are all right. She doesn't know what to do either. No one knows. Now come the sirens. Here are people who will know what to do. Lights flash beyond the press of bodies; the crowd parts. It's hard to tell victims from helpers; the blood is smeared everywhere. Necatibey Cadessi is a street of global banks and insurance combines, but the ripples from the blast have spread out along the lines of the light rail system. Station by station, street by street, tram by stalled tram, Beyoglu seizes up. Everyone knows about the bombing now.

From the eye of a white stork riding in from the Bosphorus the paralysis can be seen spreading out from the heart of the outrage. Its eye has no comprehension of these things; the sirens are just another unremarkable note in the clamour of a waking city. City and stork occupy overlapping but discrete universes. Its descent carries it over the bombed-out tram surrounded by flashing blue lights and into the heel of the next thermal. Then the rising heat plumes of Istanbul spiral the stork up in a wheel of white bodies and black wings, up above the eastern suburbs, up and onwards into Thrace.

* * *

Necdet sees the woman's head explode. He was only trying to avoid more direct, challenging eye contact with the young woman with the good cheekbones and the red-highlighted hair who had caught him looking in her direction three times. He's not staring at her. He's not a creep. Necdet let his eyes unfocus and wander mildly across the passengers, wedged so politely together. This is a new tram at a new time: twenty minutes earlier, but the connections get him into work less than an hour late, thus not upsetting Mustafa, who hates having to act the boss. So: his tram-mates. The boy and girl in their old-fashioned high-button blue school uniforms and white collars that Necdet thought they didn't make kids wear anymore. They carried OhJeeWah Gumi backpacks and played insatiably with their ceptep phones. The gum-chewing man staring out the window, his mastication amplified by his superb moustache. Beside him the smart man of business and fashion scanning the sports news on his ceptep. That purple velvet suit must be that new nanofabric that is cool in summer, warm in winter, and changes from silk to velvet at a touch. The woman with the curl of silver hair straying over her brow from under her headscarf and the look of distant rue on her face. She frees her right hand from the crowd, lifts it to touch the jewel at her throat. And detonates her head.

The sound of an exploding skull is a deep bass boom that sucks every other sound into itself so that for a moment after the blast there is only a very pure silence.

Then the silence shatters into screaming. The tram jerks to a halt; the momentum almost throws Necdet from his feet. To go down in this panic is to die. Necdet can't reach a handrail and steadies himself against the bodies of roaring passengers. The crowd surges against the still-locked doors. Their bodies hold the headless woman upright. The man in the fine velvet suit shrieks in an insane, high-pitched voice. One side of his purple jacket is dark glossy red. Necdet feels wet on his face, but he can't raise a hand to test it or wipe it away. The doors sigh open. The press is so tight Necdet fears his ribs will splinter. Then he spills out onto the street with no sense of direction or purpose, of anything except a need not to be on the tram.

The tram driver moves from group to group asking, Is anyone missing, is anyone hurt? There is nothing really she can do, but she is a representative of IETT so she must do something, and she hands out moist wipes from a pull-tube in her large green handbag. Necdet admires that her tram has been suicide-attacked but she's remembered to bring her bag with her.

The wet wipe smells of lemon. To Necdet the folded cone of white is the purest, most holy thing he has ever seen.

"Please move away from the tram," the driver is saying as Necdet marvels at the little square of cool citrus white. "There may be another explosion." She wears an expensive Hermes headscarf. It links Necdet to that other scarf he saw around the woman's head. In the final moment he had seen the wistful regret on her face resolve as if she had received a revelation into some long-rooted family woe. She had smiled. Then she had touched the jewel at her throat.

Passengers crouch around the schoolchildren, trying to ease their crying with words of comfort, offered hugs. Can't you see the blood on your faces is scaring them all the more? Necdet thinks. He remembers the warm, wet spray into his own face. He looks at the wet wipe balled up in his hand. It isn't red. It wasn't blood.

Everyone looks up at the beat of a helicopter. It slides in over the rooftops, defying talk and phone calls. Now sirens lift above the morning traffic noise. It will be the police before the ambulances. Necdet doesn't want to be near police. They will ask him questions he doesn't want to answer. He has ID; everyone has ID. The police would scan it. They would read the carbon debit Necdet used to buy his ticket that morning and a cash withdrawal the night before and another carbon debit that previous evening at eighteen thirty. They might ask about the cash. It's grey but not yet illegal.

And is this your current address?

No, I'm staying at the old Adem Dede dervish house in Eskiköy. With my brother.

Who is your brother? Here they might find they had more questions.

Ismet had replaced the padlock with the new one he had bought. Bright brass, a golden medal on a chain. The tekke's shuttered wooden balconies overhung the steps; this was a private, shadowed entrance, behind the industrial steel bins of the Fethi Bey tea shop, miasmic and greasy with the ventings from the kitchen extractor fans. The door was of old Ottoman wood, grey and cracked from centuries of summer heat and winter damp, elaborately worked with tulip and rose motifs. A door into mysteries. It opened onto gloom and the acidic reek of pigeon. Necdet stepped gingerly into the enfolding dark. Light fell in slats through the closed and barred window shutters.

"We shouldn't be doing this," Necdet whispered. It was an architecture that commanded whispers. "People live here."

"Some old Greek and a married couple at the front. And an office girl on her own. And that shop for blasphemies in the old semahane. We'll sort that eventually. This end's been left to rot for fifty years, just falling apart." Ismet stood proudly in the centre of the floor. It was his already. "That's the crime here. God wants this to be what it was before. This is where we'll bring the brothers. Look at this."

Ismet flung open a matching door across the dusty room. Colour flooded in and more than colour: a growing verdure of clipped box; the perfume of sun-warmed wood; the burble of water and the sudden song of birds. Ismet might have opened a door onto Paradise.

The garden was six paces across, but it contained a universe. A shady cloister walled with floral Iznik tiles ran around the courtyard affording shade or shelter in every season. The fountain was a single piece of sun-warmed marble, releasing water over a lily-lip into a basin. A jewel-bright lizard started from repose in the sun and dashed along the scalloped rim to vanish into the shade beneath. Herbaceous plants grew tall and cool in small box-bordered beds. The soil was dark and rich as chocolate. A green place. House martins dipped and bobbed along the eaves of the wooden gallery directly above the cloister. Their shrills filled the air. A copy of yesterday's Cumhuriyet lay sun-yellowing on a marble bench.

"It's all still here," Ismet said. "The redevelopers never got around to the back. The old cells are being used for storage-we'll clear them out."

"Someone looks after this," Necdet said. He could imagine himself here. He would come in the evening, when the light would fall over that roof onto that bench in a single pane of sun. He could sit and smoke blow. It would be a good place for a smoke.

"We'll be all right here," Ismet said, looking around at the overhanging balconies, the little rectangle of blue sky. "I'll look after you."

Necdet can't let the security police know he has moved into the dervish house that his brother intends to make the home of the secret Islamic order to which he belongs. The police think secret Islamic orders blow up trams. And if they look at his old address, they'll see what he did, back there in Basibüyük, and why Ismet Hasgüler took his brother of the flesh under his care. No, he just wants to go to work quietly and soberly. No, no police thank you.

The air above the still-smoking tram thickens in buzzing, insect motion. Swarmbots. The gnat-sized devices can lock together into different forms for different purposes; above Necatibey Cadessi they coalesce like raindrops into scene-of-crime drones. The sparrow-sized robots flit on humming fans among the milling pigeons, sampling the air for chemical tracers, reading movement logs from vehicles and personal cepteps, imaging the crime scene, seeking out survivors and photographing their blood-smeared, smoke-stained faces.

Necdet drifts to the periphery of the mill of survivors, haphazard enough to elude the darting drones. Two women in green paramed coveralls crouch with the tram driver. She's shaking and crying now. She says something about the head. She saw it wedged up under the roof behind the grab-bars, looking down at her. Necdet has heard that about suicide bombers. The head just goes up into the air. They find them in trees, electric poles, wedged under eaves, caught up in shop signs.

Necdet subtly merges with the circle of onlookers, presses gently through them towards the open street. "Excuse me, excuse me." But there is this one guy, this big guy in a outsize white T-shirt, right in front of him, with his hand up to the ceptep curled over his eye; a gesture that these days means: I am videoing you. Necdet tries to cover his face with his hand, but the big man moves backwards, videoing and videoing and videoing. Maybe he is thinking, This is a couple of hundred euro on the news; maybe, I can post this online. Maybe he just thinks his friends will be impressed. But he is in Necdet's way, and Necdet can hear the thrum of swarmbot engines behind him like soulsucking mosquitoes.

"Out of my way!" He pushes at the big man with his two hands, knocks him backwards, and again. The big man's mouth is open, but when Necdet hears the voice say his name, it is a woman's voice speaking directly behind him.

He turns. The head hovers at his eye level. It's her. The woman who left her head in the roof of the tram. The same scarf, the same wisp of grey hair coiling from beneath it, the same sad, apologetic smile. A cone of light beams from her severed neck, golden light. She opens her mouth to speak again.

Necdet's shoulder charge sends the big man reeling. "Hey!" he shouts. The surveillance drones rise up, fizzing at the edges as they prepare to dissolve and re-form into a new configuration. Then they firm back into their surveillance modes and swoop around the flashing blue lights that have only now made it through the citywide traffic jam rippling out from the destruction of Tram 157.


Excerpted from The Dervish House by IAN McDONALD Copyright © 2010 by Ian McDonald. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Dervish House 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
gsmattingly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book but almost put it down during the first half. It was rather slow & more unnecessarily detailed than I thought appropriate. I was put off by a pronunciation guide at the beginning. I don't like such things or books where it is necessary. I did finish. Skimming helped. I thought the last half was more enjoyable.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dervish House is the latest, third world, futuristic work by Ian McDonald. Set in Istanbul, Turkey in 2027, the novel has much the same feel and style as his earlier effort, River of Gods. And while I enjoyed River of Gods, I found it somewhat difficult to follow. I had hoped that this would be an easier read, but was disappointed to find that it was quite the opposite.Now, I guess if Ian McDonald is far more literate and intelligent than I am, that¿s largely my problem. But I¿m a fairly well educated (post graduate degree) and well read person. If he is writing over my head, then his target audience is somewhat limited. In addition, the plethora of Turkish terms and names merely added to the difficulty.Most of my reading is done at night, prior to sleep. I try to get in 60-90 minutes every night. This is an extremely difficult novel to stay on top of at that rate. If you want to fully enjoy this work, I¿d recommend taking it on a lazy vacation and spending lots of time at each sitting. Even though the page count seems easily doable in 2-3 days, unlike most works, which artificially expand their length through spacing, margins and chapter breaks, this book reads far longer than its 410 pages. Couple this with the dense writing style and you get the equivalent of a 750 page work.I was able to finish the final 100 pages over the course of a weekend and, as a result, pulled together the various threads and was able to appreciate the magnificent writing style and story telling. Had I been able to read the entire book at this rate, I think I would have enjoyed it far more.
WDBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
PictureI have heard many good things about the Sci-Fi books written by Ian McDonald, but this was the 1st time I took the time to read one. In general I prefer fantasy and standard fiction (James Patterson, Richard Russo, etc). I do enjoy Sci-Fi, but more in a limited sense.The Dervish House is set in a futuristic Istanbul (2027) where the past and present continue the dance of ages upon the streets of a city steeped in history and intrigue. The ancient face of Istanbul is alive with new additions, new fears and the same time honored addiction to making money.Over all the story is very sci-fi ¿light¿, there are many components that are futuristic but they are not , in general, issues that are out in the stratosphere. The Dervish House is a series of interwoven stories ranging from a child with a pet robot to a aging Greek who has a past he isn¿t proud of to a young Islamist who suddenly sees djinn along with an a few other interesting people.It¿s a pretty interesting and moderately intriguing story with a decent plot and good pacing. It is rich in details and delves into Istanbul while immersing the reader in the sights and sounds of the city. I have no real knowledge of Istanbul and I don¿t know if Ian McDonald does either, but the book sure reads like he knew what he was writing about.Rest assured I will be reading more of Ian McDonalds books when I get a chance.8/10
stellarexplorer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McDonald has done it again. This latest of three third world near-future SF books lives up to -- perhaps surpasses -- River of Gods and Brasyl. And RoG in particular set the bar high. This one, set in Istanbul 2027, conveys the lush, sensual sights and sounds of this potential place. Truly the city is an integral character here. Believable lives, the complex interweaving of storylines, the gritty saturation of detail: this book demands much of the reader, and delivers more.
kaipakartik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is McDonald's third in his novels about developing cities in the future. The law of trilogies tell me that this will be his last in the genre for some time to come.The Dervish house is set in Turkey which is at the heart of a nano tech revolution. River of gods was about AIs in India and Brasyl about Quantum in Brazil so I think he has got his bases covered. The plot deals with a few characters linked by a Dervish house and a bomb blast which turns out not to be one.The thing with McDonald is that you know what you are going to get. You know that the prose is going to be bloody brilliant, the plotting is going to be virtuoso but he always manages to surprise. This one is no different. There are passages of such staggering beauty, sections of such brilliance that they make the book worth reading all on their own. No one can meld philosophy and and an action sequence in a single breath the way he does. Also no one, no one writes a football game the way McDonald does. I said this in Brasyl and that seems to hold true here as well.As always his descriptions of technology are spot on and eye openers. He has the uncanny ability to see how the greatest advances in technology will be used by the most conservative societies. He has that vision about how developing countries will interact with the future.And what do you say about the characters. Wonderful, fully realized, vividly etched out by favorite just happens to be the Kebab master chef.(who albeit has an extremely minor role)The Dervish House is an excellent book. A deserving awards nominee(and by my reckoning one of the best books I have read this year).
RoboSchro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"A dark and perversely delicious fear gnaws Ay¿e, the intellectual intoxication she experiences from opening a new manuscript or unwrapping an unseen miniature and knowing that she stands on the edge of the incomprehensible, that she holds in her hands a world and a way of thinking alien to her in every way. The past is another universe: a long dead sect drew its truths across whole cities for generations it could not imagine."Ian McDonald's books have been touring the non-Western world for some time now. He seems to be on a mission to explore how various cultures might deal with near-future SF scenarios. This time, he fetches up in Turkey. McDonald doesn't just use the common trope of this nation's poised-between-Europe-and-Asia tension; he adds a tension between technology and faith, and another between progress and history. For much of the book the plot simmers away slowly, waiting until we've really gotten to know our cast of characters and how these tensions play out in each of them.It's the characters that make this book: Ay¿e Erkoç, power-dressing dealer in antiquities; Can Durukan, isolated boy with heart trouble and some very cool robots; Leyla Gülta¿li, desperate to prove herself in the big city; Georgios Ferentinou, retired and broken professor of economics; Adnan Sario¿lu, master of the deal and lover of money; and Necdet Hasgüler, wastrel and psychopath. And dozens of others, each given care and time to breathe. Through them we also get a multi-faceted view of Istanbul. We learn about some of what this unique city has been through, and about how its people might respond to nanotechnology.The SF is almost incidental, really. This is a novel about Istanbul, written by a man with an impressive ability to inhabit a huge variety of voices.Take your time, listen to the voices, and enjoy.
HanGerg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been wanting to read this book for a quite some time, having been hugely impressed by the two previous Ian McDonald's I've read. This book is a bit more of a slow burner, and the plot takes a while to kick into top gear. When it does, it's very good, plus there's lots more on offer here than simply a thrilling finale. McDonald builds in layers of meaning and symbolism just like the layers of meaning in the Islamic art featuring micro-text that resolves into bigger words and symbols, that is a recurring motif in the story. The story is set in a thrillingly well realised, near-future Istanbul, which is packed with vivid sights, sounds and smells. There are also a host of memorable, well rounded characters with backstories, personality traits and plans for the future, all described in expert style. All this is standard McDonald. Somehow though, the various quests and journeys these characters are on didn't grab me as much as those in River of Gods, but that may just be a subjective view. I took something of a dislike to one of the central characters - Adnan, a strutting broker at a gas company, who along with his fellow young alpha-male friends has some kind of complicated scam going to sell gas in a way that will net them loads of untraceable money. It probably says a lot about me that I found this plot strand far more incomprehensible than the one involving the scientists that have created a whole new kind of nanotechnology that can store data in human DNA, making each human on Earth their own walking supercomputer. These are only a few of the many intriguing stories that are expertly woven together with a whole raft of other brilliant aspects, from men miraculously preserved in honey for hundreds of years and the secret name of God written in the architecture of the city, to robots that can endlessly reform into different shapes as they run through the streets. All of these imaginative flourishes and near-future inventions are grafted seemlessly onto the fictional recreation of a city that feels brilliantly realised and creates images and storylines that will live long in the memory. Perhaps not the absolute perfection I've come to expect from McDonald, but still a very worthwhile read.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Meh. slow and contrived co-incidence rules ok in future past Istanbul. Not really part of a series, but does contain at least one character from his other novels.Never really got into this. The first half at least is tediously slow and confusing. Eventually you get a grip on most of the major characters and all their orbits coincide, picking up the pace a little bit, before it all ends. Unfortunately this a) very predictable, and b) feels excessively contrived. The characters all centre on the Dervish House of the title. It's an old building in Istanbul that has survived to the near future 2025 or so. It's never quite properly described, but seems to be surround half of a courtyard, and be sub-divided up into various units. A bunch of old Greek economic philosophers sit around and drink tea; a child with health problems plays with nano-tech robots; an artist runs a gallery; a secretary looks for work; and in a disused corner a layabout enjoys a quiet spliff with his brother. We follow these people in a confused and disjointed way through intermingled snapshots of their lives over a period of a week. At least the chronology is mostly continuous, (apart form a few reminiscences of the old Greek) but for at least the first third of th book it's very difficult to remember what background goes with what character. In terms of plot there isn't really one per se, but a bunch of intermingles threads that vaguely resolve themselves. A suicide bomb causes the layabout to experience visions, the ill boy seems something unusual in the aftermath of the bomb, the old Greek takes this up with national security think tanks. The artist is commissioned to search for a legendary object and her husband attempts to run am economics scam with a bunch of his friends. Meanwhile the girl joins an nano-tech company looking for seed money to develop atomic scale nano. Even from this brief summary you can begin see how they all converge - except that there is no real reason for them to do so. None of the characters initially knows any of the others, and except for authorial influenced chance would have any reason to do so. The girl could have joined any number of start-ups, the economist was always an unlikely fit for a think tank, etc, etc.The science part of it is fairly well done - no explanations - but some interesting thoughts on the role nano-tech may play int he future and how society will and won't change to it's presence. It makes great toys, although I was very surprised they weren't more widespread. And has been rapidly exploited by the forces of law and order. Other than that it has had remarkably little impact, which I suspect would not be the case. Many of the devices remain unexplained - a ceptep for instance. Some sort of cross between a laptop a phone and a wearable computer. I never quite worked out what it stood for. Auto driven cars was a better example that was well thought through. The politics never really made any sense - and was a background at best. I'm not quite sure why lingering Greek resentment over the divides between Muslim and Christian influence in Istanbul was included. It didn't had anything except pages, murkied the already unclear plot lines, and is likely to be inaccurate anyway what with the increasing rise of secularism in Europe.Overall it was readable enough if you've the Patience to force through the first third, but ultimately whilst it was at times interesting, I was always ready to put it down and do something else - never the hallmark of a good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SvenNomadsson More than 1 year ago
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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