Homer's Travels: Book: Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book: Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House"

My last two works of fiction have been interesting reads.  What has made them interesting is the settings.  In most of the science fiction and fantasy books I have read the action takes place in cultures with similarities to North American and/or European cultures.  "The Golem and the Jinni" and my latest, Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House", both take place in different cultures.  "The Golem and the Jinni" involves Jewish and Syrian Christian cultures (though it was in early twentieth century New York).  "The Dervish House" takes place in a near future Istanbul.

"The Dervish House" takes place around 2027.  The book weaves the lives of a group of people living in an old Dervish house.  The people range from an old Greek economist to a child with a heart condition.  A religious interpreter of the Koran to an antiquities merchant.  The book takes these disparate lives of  half dozen people and the people they interact with and watches how their lives tangle during a five day period after a terrorist bombing on a city tram.  In the end you have a story about cultures, religions, finances, and nanotechnology.

I consider the different culture of eh book as a plus but I have to admit it was hard at first to keep the different Turkish and Greek names straight in my head.  This led to a slow first third or so but I eventually got everything straight and I started to care for the characters and where they are going.

I only have a few little things that bugged me.  First the nanotechnology in the book - a central figure in the book -  seems a bit too sophisticated for 2027 (I could be wrong about this ... time will tell).  The second is a lot happens in those five days.  Too many things.  A month would have been more realistic to me.  Lastly, the author has a bad habit of abruptly shifting from the present to flashbacks.  Some of the transitions were so unexpected that I became confused and had to reread parts to figure out where and when I was.

Despite these issues, I enjoyed reading about the inhabitants of the Dervish House.

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