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.
McDonald takes the history of Istanbul, both real and imagined, and forges a multi-faceted and fascinating character out of the city itself; then he adds in the experiences of six people whose lives are about to intersect in the most unexpected ways. Over the course of a week, following a suicide bombing in which only the bomber dies, these people will discover conspiracies, legends, and long-dormant memories. In the not-so-distant future, five years after Turkey became part of the EU, the city that straddles Asia and Europe is again the center of global trade. Three seemingly disconnected stories meet in the streets and coffee houses of Istanbul: the travails of a young man who was caught in the blast who suddenly sees djinn, the efforts of an art dealer set on a mad quest for something even the buyer believes is a mere legend, and the greatest stock-market scheme ever imagined. McDonald creates a magnificent knot of intrigue, thrills, and daring adventures, with the flair for character and setting that make his tales so satisfying to indulge in. --Regina Schroeder
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