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The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

The Dervish House (edition 2010)

by Ian McDonald

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6413815,089 (3.97)135
Title:The Dervish House
Authors:Ian McDonald
Info:Amherst, NY : Pyr, 2010.
Collections:Your library

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The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

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The Dervish House is a novel of the sort that Ian McDonald is best known for: science fiction set in the mid-21st century in a technologically developed metropolitan culture outside of the self-regarding "First World." In this case, the setting is Istanbul: a city of both the East and the West, where the past and the future converge in terrorist espionage, nanotech-induced mysticism, quests for religious antiquities, and an Enron-style financial scandal, all over the course of a week at the climactic end of an oppressive summer heat.

As is typical for McDonald's novels, five or more principal characters feature in their own narrative threads that coexist in a shared system of events, only very gradually coming to cross and tie with each other. There are mature nostalgia and regret, adult striving and passion, and the adventures of a Boy Detective.

I had expected a lot from this book, having previously enjoyed other work by the author, and knowing that this was a recent and well-regarded accomplishment. I was not disappointed.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Mar 31, 2014 |
Istanbul in the near future, 2027, with interlocking tales of six people who reside in a former dervish house: (1 & 2) wife Ayse an antiques dealer and husband Adnan a commodities trader, she seeking an illegal and possibly mythical artifact for a hefty fee, he scheming with work buddies to reroute a gas pipeline and buy low and sell high, (3) Leyla, a young woman from a rural town with the prospect of escaping via a marketing degree, connected by an aunt to a cousin’s startup company, which hands her the task of soliciting investment capital for DNA data storage technology, (4) Necdet, a young man not quite right in the head, taken in by his brother who is there to revive the religious community, (5) Can, a boy with a heart defect that is set off by loud noises so his parents make him wear sound-canceling ear devices, who passes the time with shape-changing bitbots, (6) Georgios, a retired economics professor, who hangs out in a teahouse reminiscing with fellow Greek expatriates and is recruited to participate in a government forum on terrorism and security.

The story begins with a bomb in a tram, and continues for five days of a heat wave and unfolding intrigue, as characters are caught up in or witness the event. The bomb is peculiar, apparently not intended to kill. Necdet, on the tram at the crucial moment, begins to have visions of djinn. Can sent a bitbot to take a look at the chaos out of curiosity, and happened upon a surveillance robot with a more serious agenda, which he reports to Georgios. This is a near future of nano-everything, smoothly interwoven not as gee-wiz but as an everyday thing, layered over history. I was confused much of the time, though the author helpfully had character conversations summarize episodes, which gave me enough of the plot to continue on. I’m not much for terrorism or schemes, so I focused on Can, Boy Detective, and his bitbots, and hoped things would turn out OK for Leyla. Which may not be what I was supposed to do. I’m sure I missed all sorts of subtleties and themes. Oh well. I’d try another by this author, now that I sort of know what I’m in for.

(read 2 Sep 2013)
  qebo | Sep 29, 2013 |
Not quite as good as River of Gods, bit too disjointed. ( )
  SChant | Apr 26, 2013 |
I'm not going to finish this. I've been trying to read it for 3 weeks. It's just not worth my time. I'm quitting it halfway. The dialogue is clunky, the prose is purple, the characters are uninteresting. For me, this is all setting and no substance. DNF.

Since Goodreads only allows me to choose "read, currently reading, want to read", I'm marking it as "read", but I only read to page 150. ( )
  DebbieBspinner | Apr 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)

After Africa (Chaga - aka Evolution’s Shore -, Kirinya and Tendeleo’s Story), India (River Of Gods, Cyberabad Days) and Brazil (Brasyl), in The Dervish House McDonald now turns his attention to Turkey: specifically Istanbul.

The novel is set several years after Turkey has finally gained EU membership and joined the Euro (perhaps a somewhat more remote possibility now than when McDonald was writing) in an era when children can control real, mobile, self assembling/disassembling transformers and adults routinely use nanotech to heighten awareness/response in much the way they do chemical drugs at present. The fruit of what may have been a prodigious quantity of geographical and historical research is injected more or less stealthily into the text.

The main plot is concerned with a terrorists group’s plans to distribute nano behaviour changing agents designed to engender a consciousness of mysticism, if not of the reality of God/Allah. The resultant, what would otherwise be magic realist visions of djinni and karin, is thereby given an SF rationale.

In the interlinked narratives of those who live in and around an old Dervish House in Adam Dede Square, and covering events occurring over only four days, there are subplots about contraband Iranian natural gas, corrupt financial institutions and insider dealings, the circumscription of non-Turkish minorities, tales of youthful betrayal and frustrated love, not to mention the discovery of an ancient mummy embalmed in honey, which last gives the author the opportunity to deploy a nice pun on the phrase honey trap. The usual eclectic McDonald conjunction of disparate ingredients, then, and somehow amid all this he manages to finagle football into the mix as early as page two. Fair enough, though; Turkey’s fans are notoriously passionate about the game.

While not quite reaching the heights of Brasyl or River Of Gods, The Dervish House still has more than enough to keep anyone turning the pages.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton (Jan 6, 2011)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian McDonaldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The white bird climbs above the city of Istanbul: a stork, riding the rising air in a spiral of black-tipped wings
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st 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. Gas is power. But it's power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away. The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions' League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher. 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.
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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.… (more)

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