Friday, July 29, 2011

The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald

I have once more funded a "free" sf item, in the public interest--now that I am finished with the 2010 award nominees, they can go to the library.  The last is one I was particularly looking forward to--The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald.

In my last post I stated that Africa has a relative shortage of speculative fiction on it.  But Turkey--damn near none.  I had a great time reading this novel, perhaps the most pleasurable part being rolling the place names around in my head.  McDonald offers a brief pronunciation guide at the beginning, and as I went through the book it became a real pleasure to be able to properly pronounce names like Sarioglu (though the accent marks are not possible here). 

The story is set in near-future Istanbul.  Near-future work is always a real challenge--one is either not speculative enough and it reads like yesterday's news, or completely wrong.  Istanbul's age grounds the speculation, though, and gives it a very full and real backdrop.  Nanotechnology as a mental aid forms a solid backdrop for the story, and a tech start-up tale (one of five well-managed narrative threads) makes it geeky enough to hold interest while McDonald develops all the characters those threads require.  The characters don't make you cry or anything, but they are very genuine and insightful.  I learned a lot about Turkey and people generally.  The book is not an easy read, you have to keep paying attention, but it rolls along well and picks up at the end just as it should.  If you missed out on this one, go back and get it.  4 stars!

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