Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Dervish House (Book)

Nanotechnology. Djinn. Terrorist Attacks. Long QT Syndrome. Gas Scam. Think Tank. Mellified Man. Family. Lampooning. Bit Bot Monkey. Microjustice. Gossiping Old Men. Programmable Nucleic-Bio-Informatics. Unrequited Love. Public Suicides. Corporate Fraud. Leaps of Logic. Religious Belief.

I’m in love with Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House: interesting and complex characters, fascinating technology, and a fast moving plot. I can easily understand why the book won the 2010 British Science Fiction Association and 2011 Campbell awards, and is nominated for the 2011 Hugo, Clarke, and Locus Science Fiction awards. The story is set in the near future in Istanbul. The title refers to an old Dervish house that has been converted into apartments and shops. The main characters are associated with the house in some way. The story takes place over five day and has six main characters. [The book’s dust jacket has a list, and I recommend writing down the actual names of the characters to help you remember.] I am still not sure how McDonald managed to put so much into one book

The story opens with an atypical suicide bombing on a tram not far from the Dervish house. Necdet, a troubled young man who was also riding the tram, begins to see djinn afterwards. Leyla, who has just graduated from college with a degree in marketing, misses her job interview and so is available to take a job with a distant relative involved with a startup nanotechnology company. Can, a nine year-old boy with a heart condition, decides to become a “boy detective” to find out more about the bombing. Georgios, a retired Economics professor, gets pulled into the excitement through Can and later through a think tank. On the same day, Ayse, an art dealer, is approached by a man who wants to find a legendary treasure, and her husband Adnan, a trader, begins to put the final touches on a gas scan. The various plots intertwine.

Every time I think of the book, something new comes to mind. I like the coverage McDonald gives to nanotechnology. He shows examples of the good, the bad, and the revolutionary—Human 2.0. I like the way that the characters grow and change throughout the story. I also enjoyed learning a little about Istanbul and its history.

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