four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
49-Nov-Dec-2010
By: 
Ian McDonald
user_rating: 
0

A-The Dervish HouseBritish science fiction writer Ian McDonald is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Philip K. Dick Award, the Hugo Award, and the British Science Fiction Association Award. The Dervish House continues his examination of non-Western cultures struggling with social and technological upheaval. Reviewed: Brasyl (4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2007), Cyberabad Days ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2009), and Ares Express (3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2010).

The Story: In 2027, Turkey, still teetering precariously between East and West, has become a member of the European Union and an economic juggernaut. In crowded Istanbul, where stressed-out students guzzle nanofueled energy drinks to boost memory and businessmen wear expensive nanotech suits, the residents of an apartment complex attempt to find their way through--or to profit from--this unstable new world. Among them are an audacious stock trader, an antiquarian searching for a centuries-old mummy rumored to possess mystical powers, and a nine-year-old boy whose ill health keeps him isolated, dreaming of the outside world. When a bizarre terrorist attack afflicts its witnesses with fantastic visions, they are all affected in extraordinary ways.
Pyr. 410 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781616142049

Boing Boing 4 of 5 Stars
"The story ... brilliantly [imagines] what a world of functional, consumer nano would mean for business, culture, faith, play and terrorism; painting a vivid picture of Istanbul as a gem of human society; and delighting with details of the marvels to be found there. ... What a wonderful, wonderful book." Cory Doctorow

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"A lush, complex and hugely entertaining novel." Eric Brown

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Like his novels about the future of Indian, African and Brazilian society, McDonald's new book is a conscientious attempt to write the Other from the inside and accept the possibility that the Anglo world may be a sideline. ... This is a brilliant, jeweled machine of a novel in which lives trigger events in other lives, in a sequence that skirts chaos and disaster, but ends with gorgeous order." Roz Kaveney

Toronto Globe and Mail 4 of 5 Stars
"The teeming chaos of Istanbul, a sparkling presence for 27 centuries bridging Europe and Asia, is captured brilliantly in this tale from prolific science-fiction writer Ian McDonald. ... Meanwhile, stories develop slowly ... with vivid characters like ambitious country girl Leyla, cynical ancient Greeks, witches and radical Islamists, yet torrid prose and fascinating asides are everywhere." Geoff Chapman

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Written with care and intelligence, The Dervish House whirls along at a heady pace but still manages to give a deep sense of another place that would be great to visit--so long as you didn't have to live there." Sara Sklaroff

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The novel successfully captures the hectic nature of life in a major metropolis, but at times the density of detail overwhelms the narrative. The almost magical nature of the advanced nanotechnology on display also proves problematic, raising the question of why McDonald set his story less than 20 years in the future. Still, 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." Jeff VanderMeer

Critical Summary

Known for his sweeping outlook, elaborately envisioned futures, and blend of science and mysticism, Ian McDonald has written a fascinating, thought-provoking novel worthy of his reputation. He paints a vivid portrait of the ancient city of Istanbul, layering it with political, cultural, and religious strata, as well as an ingeniously imagined world of practical nanotechnology. Critics praised his compelling characters--all too often a casualty of genre fiction--and his poetic prose, but they also had a few complaints, including some humdrum science fiction elements and minutiae that can occasionally overwhelm the story. The Dervish House may not make for light reading, but this rich and fast-paced novel, imbued with a deep and almost lyrical sense of strangeness, comes highly recommended.