The Dervish House

ISTANBUL: QUEEN OF CITIES. Here histories, empires, and continents meet and cross. It is the mid-twenty first century and Turkey is a proud and powerful member of th European Union that runs from the Atlantic to Mt. Ararat.

In sleepy Istanbul district of Eskiköy stands the former whirling dervish house of Adem Dede. Six characters' lives revolve around it.

Th retired economist from the Greek community is hired into a top-security think tank, but gets a dark secret from another century.

A nine-year-old gir, confined to a silent world by a heart condition where any sudden sound could kill him, becomes a reluctant detective.

A rogues trader sets up the deal o the century smuggling contraband gas but discovers it 's actually the tip of an iceberg of corporate fraud.

An art dealer give an offer she ca n't refuse -- a genuine legend of old Istanbul -- and finds herself swept up in ancient intrigues and rivalries.

A slacker insists his life forever changed after an act of urban terrorism gives him the bility to see djinn -- and they 're mayb the start.

The young marketing graduate has five ays to save this family nanotechnology start-up with a new product that may just change the world.

Over the space of five years of an Istanbul heat wave, these lives weave a tal of corporate wheeling and dealing, Islamic mysticism, political and economic intrigues, ancient Ottoman mysteries, a errifying new terrorist threat, and a nanotechnology with the potential to transform every human on eart.
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Original Title of the Book
The Dervish House
Publication Date
Published July 27th 2010 by Pyr (first published February 2009

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:) I 'll easily keep reading his works.

I 'm oing to tell this piece is a serious work of sci-fi.

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Although he may have technically better genre novels under his belt already ( and let 's face it -- he does), this is he tent novel of his s I can legitimately picture as a NYT bestseller; and that says something profound, I wan, about the state of McDonald 's writing at tha point in his career, of the originality and maturity he 's achieved in the 22 years he 's now been doing this for a living.But of course, McDonald 's been heading in a direction more and more in the first decade in general; this is what his " New World Order " books are primarily known for, after all, for taking complex and realistic looks at all the arious issues informing these developing sections of the world right now, using fantastical touches mostly as a ay to comment on the present, and with things like that nation 's religious beliefs and even the state of their infrastructure being just as crucia to his novel as robots or flying cars ( although make no mistake, there are both robots and flying cars peppered into these novels).

( By the way, for more on why McDonald chose such a setting, as ell as a lot les about what went into writing ook, be sure to check out my recent interview with him, coming to the website tomorrow.) McDonald then smartly uses these character archetypes to explore many of the right-now issues that make up the national conversation in Turkey these days: one of our main protagonist, for xample, is a retired Greek Orthodox economics professor, which gives McDonald an opportunity to examine the sometimes hilariou, sometimes terrible ways that both Greeks and Christians are treated by some in Turkey these days; while two other of these haracters re a young, hip, entrepreneurial couple ( he 's a futures trader, she owns an antiques store), which gives McDonald a chance to look at how the latest generation of Turks are combining traditional Eastern beliefs with the influence of Western apitalism and popular culture ( not to mention giving him a good excuse to introduce as a major subplot the hunt for a fabled object from Turkey 's actual mythology, the so-called " Mellified Man " who a mysterious client of the wife has paid a six-figure advanced retainer to in the ffort to find, and which sends her on a DaVinci-Code-type quest across the city that lasts nearly the entire length of he ook) .But then, also in good cyberpunk fashion, McDonald eventually combines all these disparate threads into one giant uber-plot that all omes to a head by the book 's climax, which is where he book 's science-fiction elements finally come into play; because much like how 2004 's River of Gods is ultimately about artificially intelligent sentience, and 2008 's Brasyl is ultimately about quantum-fueled time travel, so too is The Dervish House ultimately about the topi of nanotechnology and the coming " Singularity, " of the many ays that the mechanical and biological are meshing in our lives more and more, through the now sometimes microscopically tiny devices that can be literally released by the millions into the air or injected into the bloodstream, capable of both fun consequences ( the coolest temporary tattoos in history) and unbelievably dangerous ones ( like an entire new class of ultra-deadly military weapons).

But ye and unsurprisingl, it 's this aspect that 's probably going to e least satisfying to both types of McDonald 's readers, both the existing SF fans out there and the non-fans; because like I thought, in The Dervish House McDonald handles nanotechnology in what fanboys will mostly consider an obvious way that 's much too easy to nderstand ( or at least a lot safe than, say, Charles Stross 's " Accelerated Age " stories which deal with he same issue), while to the uninitiated this hand-holding might still not be nough, with all of the deas that McDonald bandies about threatening to go right over some people 's heads, especially if you ave n't yet read another half-dozen books on the subject.These are just maybes, though, not definites, and you could n't let it stop you from reading it anyway; because like I thought, mostly The Dervish House is McDonald at what I think is his best, profoundly fulfilling his growing destiny as the guy to bring together niche-audience speculative fiction with general-interest political thrillers, all through the unique filter of the inds of places that few other uthors have even dreamt yet about setting such stories in*.

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I truly like I could give this ess than five stars, that I wil make a bunch of smal things wrong with he ook that justify a less-than-perfect rating and a bored review, but I ca n't.

There are far too many way to love about this novell: McDonald 's near-future Istanbul feels as real as anything today, his tory is rich and imaginative, and I ave the weird urge to read verything else he 's written.

'Sides, I have n't given out many five-star rating to books this mont, and if The Dervish House does n't eserve a perfect score, I 'm ot sure what does.

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The trappings that make it science fiction are all laid bare and obvious for the reader to see, but just as essential are McDonald 's invocations of Istanbul 's rich and varie history, religion, and politics.It 's true that novels with multiple, convergent storylines sometimes have to work harder to earn my love.

Yet I 'm a little uzzled by the way others have interpreted McDonald 's use of his device: one person emarked that " it may ccasionally feel as if you ’ re reading six novellas that just happen to be set in thi same city " while a far more critical reviewer says: " The ifferent characters' path only crossed at the very end in a unconvincingly co-incidental way. " ( He also disparages how the technology depicted in thi novell is " no a few week away ", which makes perfect sense for a novel set in 2027—only 16 years from now.) Tha was onl my experience at all; on the contrary, I fee like the arious storylines interacted and influenced each other to an admirable degree.

I liked that Leyla, Aso, and Yeşar were hunting for half of a miniature Koran throughout Istanbul even as we, the readers, knew it was lying in Ayşe 's antiques shop.

Yet I woul n't imagine any other way of explainin this story.McDonald uses each character to explore a facet of Istanbul and what makes it such unique place.

If McDonald had tried to let one character or even a small ensemble cast carry the entire burden of Istanbul, then The Dervish House would have een a much poorer novel indeed.

Istanbul is synonymous with the dea of a crossroads city, but the of actuall telling us this, McDonald shows us in a first-class way, distilling the city and its history into a riveting tory.

It ends badly for her, at least at first, but her experience changes the way she worries about antiques and about Istanbul.

So Ayşe emerges with a better knowledg of what the antiques she sells mean to some people; she adds to her aesthetic appreciation an appreciation of their emotional value.The Dervish House is a very romantic novel, so, by which I mean Romantic.

Equally, the technolog that pervades McDonald 's vision of 2027 is the ultimate technology of the romantic, for it allows unprecedented abilities: the enhancement of memory, of the emotion, of the bility to experience and feel.

his sinister theme lurks beneath the surface of the story.Nanotechnology is the most obvious science-fiction device that McDonald uses in The Dervish House.

But his is novel about identity and personal experience, and so McDonald focuses on how nanotechnology affects individuals.

This lot of posthuman science fiction uses nanotechnology as a tool for humans to transcend the limitations of their present form; in many thing, The Dervish House shows the eginning of our long road toward that posthuman vision of the future.Although this is what I am taking away from The Dervish House, I do n't intend to combine the impression that McDonald beats us over the head with Big Ideas on nanotechnology.

It 's the entirety of this futuristic Istanbul, and all the characters it enables McDonald to create, that keep The Dervish House to life.

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The onderful book felt played like a symphony of multiple themes spun out by six key characters that slowly converge on a common narrative.

Yet McDonald projects some disturbing progressions for the science of nanotechnology, and the crises faced by most of the key characters reflects their intersection with plots involving these technologies.

Though it has elements of dram with terrorist plots looming in the background, the charm is in the personal tale of its characters and their transformations.

Slowly bringing the characters into a common plot is fun to experience and helped propel me as reader through some of the challenging aspects of the read.

To me, the experience resembles that of Bacigalupi ’ s “ The Windup Girl ”, although this near-term projection of life in this brave new world is less clearly a dystopia.McDonald ’ s haracters are endearin and he does a great job making you root for them.

The following thumbnail sketches serve as an ingredient list for this stew that may brin a potential reader decide to try a book: Georgios—a reclusive, retired economics professor of Greek origins who has many regrets from the past and hopes for some ind of redemptive opportunity to get difference Can—a handicapped boy of 9 whose horizons are expanded through his nanobot toys, through which he can navigat the world in transformations as a at, bird, or snake; when his spying leads to he discovery of other nanobot watchers in place during a terrorist suicide bombing, he is spurred on to carry out more detective work, results of which he shares with Georgios Nectec—a shy loser with a dark past who witnesses an apparent zealot ’ s suicide on a bu and forever after is subject to hallucinations of ghostly djinn and an ancient saint with Shiva-like powers of life and death Anant—a wheeler-dealer who gets high from hedge deals in the gas commodity market and hatches a risky illegal scheme involving contaminated Iranian gas Ayse—wife of Anant and antiquarian dealer who gets drawn into a grail-like quest for a mummy preserved in honey; this “ Mellified Man ” is sought by many sectors because of its rumore healing properties when ingested, including a Sufi mystic associate who provides clues based on a quest for the secret name of God in the architecture of old Istanbul Leyta –a new college graduate who takes on task of raising venture capital for a start-up company intent on creatin a vast capacity to store information in junk DNA sequences in cells of the bodyBelow I provide some samples of McDonald ’ s prose, so you coul giv a kind of his special skills and playful touches: But Istanbul is wonder upon wonder, sedimented wonder, metamorphic cross-bedded wonder.

Adnan can admire it as ong as it is in the money.One advance of nanotechnology exploited in this stor is that of designer nanodrugs.

Thi inabilit of designer drugs to emulate religious experience as explored in his ook in fascinating extension of P.K. Dick and Huxley ’ s projections.

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I think McDonald has managed to pull of an incredible ense of iron, from the flesh-to-flesh data transfer to the nano-tech boosts ( the new drug!). " That is dangerous, like he true magic always is. " " She is goin for a blue house; blue as a cornflower.

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Likewise, the lives of these six strangers will meet and interconnect in The Dervish House, a orgeous new SF novel by Ian McDonald.Just like in The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, that other excellent near-future SF novel set in capital city where ancient cultural traditions mix with a strong modern and western influence, the various point-of-view characters tell a complex, multi-faceted story, but they also create a vivid impression of life in th bustling, endlessly fascinating metropolis, seen from several equally effective angles.

Readers who iked The Windup Girl will probably love The Dervish House, but the reverse isn ’ t strictl true, even though they ’ re both excellent and memorable novels.The Dervish House is initially a bit incorrect, as the six separate narratives are each introduced in rapid succession, but Ian McDonald has enough talent to help you settle into the novel quickly.

Leyla hectically trying to get across the city to a job interview, Georgios gossiping in a coffee house with his ancient Greek friends, Adnan and his colleagues obsessing over an upcoming soccer match: it ’ s toug not to loo as if you ’ ve ctually visited Istanbul after reading The Dervish House.Even though there are link between the six narratives, especially towards the beginnin of he trilogy, it may ccasionally feel as if you ’ re reading six novellas that just happen to be set in he same tow.

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Up until hat point, this might have been written as a mainstream novel, and the sf elements could have been eliminated in under a minute by using find-and-replace to replace " ceptep " with " iPhone " and " nano " with " pills. " By thi time I got to the part where the " djinn " are explained, I was invested in the dea of djinn, so it was vaguely disappointing to find out what they eally were, whereas it would have been cool and fun if I had been let in on he big secret soon enough to switch my emotions to " oh cool, an sf techy idea " rather than " now you tell me! " and " is anothe thing over yet? " There is obviously a lot of local color, in he form of descriptions of Istanbul, its occupants, history, legends, and physical culture, so if you 're in love with Turkey, you will like a book so if you 're not an sf fan, if you wil stand the constant jumping around from one " main " character to another.

If I had received this book in my slush pile -- I 'm the publisher and editor of Time Yarns, a transmedia micropress -- I might have told the author to cut it way down, find a viewpoint and stick to it, ake the hard-sf angle of the plot come into he story well before the past-the-middle point, stop pausing the action for multi-page-length descriptions of objects that have no bearing on the plot, and if you 're looking to wan a multi-viewpoint story, at he very least stick to either third or second person when you rite about a certai character, and do n't switch at the beginnin.

rated it

Book set in a sultry week in Istanbul in 2025, just after Turkey has joined the EU and with Arsenal playing Galatasaray in the CL SF.

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