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The Dervish House Hardcover – July 27, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr; First Edition edition (July 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616142049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616142049
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I gave Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven its perfect score a few weeks back, I was persuaded that no other speculative fiction work could possibly even come close to it in terms of quality. And yet, I knew full well that the ARC for Ian McDonald's The Dervish House was sitting on my desk, practically begging me to read it. And still I believed that Kay's latest would reign supreme as the best SFF book of 2010 -- at least in this house. The more fool me, I know. . .

Considering how much I loved River of Gods, Brasyl, and Cyberabad Days, I'm aware that I should have waited a bit longer before granting Under Heaven its crown. After all, every McDonald title I've read since the creation of the Hotlist ended up in my top reads of that year. Call it Canadian patriotism or whatever you like, but I really wanted Guy Gavriel Kay to finish in pole position at the end of 2010. Unfortunately, Ian McDonald had another think coming for me.

The Dervish House is without a doubt his best and most accessible science fiction novel to date. And to put it simply, it just blew my mind. Believe me, I did try to find some shortcomings and facets that left a little to be desired. All to no avail, of course. The Dervish House is about as good as it gets, folks. McDonald's past novels had already set the bar rather high, no question. But this one, at least for me, is as close to perfection as a book can get.

Here's the blurb:

It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shock waves from this random act of twenty-first-century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this one book there's a hunt for a mummy, a dodgy gas deal, terrorists hoping to employ nano-technology, soccer, and a child detective. And a real-estate deal. And... There's a lot going on, all of it draped over the luscious stage that is Istanbul.

I really don't want to give it all away, so I'll say little more. Suffice it that all these threads get woven together to tell a really great story.

If you've been to Istanbul, that's a bonus, as you'll be able to picture the streets and neighborhoods. Also, you'll fully grok how it's perfectly possible for Istanbul to have an underground world that's barely known, and in which historical artifacts just get lost. You may even find yourself wanting to buy an antique Istanbul house, just so you can clear it to its original beautiful architecture.

Dear Lord, the more I think of it, what a great book. He's got the history of a place like Istanbul down pat, and can project forward to a new generation of "Young Turks". This is just brilliantly well done. The more I reflect on it, the more I love this book. I'll be re-reading it for years. So, thanks, Ian McDonald. Actually, more like "Go raibh maith agat".


The weather is an actor in this book, just as in Kurosawa's "Stray Dog".


This is the second book I've read by the author ("Brasyl", previously). The man knows his "Gaeilge" (Irish), and he's obviously been to Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul - two of my favorite cities. I feel like we're living parallel lives, but while I'm only taking pictures, he's writing great books.


Something else that occurs: I think the EU's rejection of Turkey, along with growing Islamist sentiment in Turkey itself, is likely to keep this book mostly a work of fiction, Apart from ongoing ethnic cleansing (see <[...]), the rise of neighborhood shaykhs and more neighborhood shariat law, I suppose. Pity that.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a Turkish SF reader, it was a very interesting experience for me to read this book. As for the content, I'll be brief: There are nice details as the "mellified man" but the story is a bit mediocre. I can't understand how some people talk about the "intertwined, super deep plots" etc. in their review. I think they probably have never read Dan Simmons, Frank Herbert or even Isaac Asimov... But these are of course, question of taste. You may like or dislike a story for different reasons.

What I would like to emphasize here is something else. The book, almost everything in it, places, names, characters and dialogues look and sound extremely unnatural. Reading this book for me was like watching a TV drama about some event in Turkey, BUT: The scenario is written by Americans who never been to Turkey in their life, all Turkish characters are played by American actors. Imagine Angelina Jolie and Brat Pitt playing a Turkish couple, speaking in English while adding a couple of words in Turkish in their sentences from time to time. Basically, the "Turks" in this book look like articificial models. That's the general impression the book gives.

And I sincerely don't believe that the author has conducted an admirable "ground work", as some readers claim. You have to be from here, of course, to understand that. I think that the author came in Istanbul, passed a couple of weeks here (maximum), went to Kaş also, got back to his country with a dozen of tourist guides, city maps, an English-Turkish dictionary (maybe he uses an online one, I'm not sure), perhaps a "Short History of Turkey" style book... And he wrote this novel.
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