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The Dervish House

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  4,316 ratings  ·  477 reviews
ISTANBUL: QUEEN OF CITIES. Here histories, empires, and continents meet and cross. It is the mid-twenty first century and Turkey is a proud and powerful member of a European Union that runs from the Atlantic to Mt. Ararat.

In the sleepy Istanbul district of Eskiköy stands the former whirling dervish house of Adem Dede. Six characters' lives revolve around it.

A retired
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published July 27th 2010 by Pyr (first published February 2009)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
July 2010

Oh, my. That's a beautiful cover. I think I'll have to read this.

I know, I know, judging books by covers is a bad thing and I shouldn’t do it. This is why I haven’t read "...And Ladies of the Club", Helen Hooven Santmyer’s epic noviel about a reading group. Sure, it sounds like it might be interesting, but it also looks like a cheap romance novel, so no deal. I’ll wait a few years for the vampire/zombie/monster mash-up, hopefully titled "...And Ladies of the Stake." But Ian McDonald
Oct 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
I couldn’t even finish The Dervish House. I got about 40 pages in (a full ten percent) and dropped it. A ton of characters were introduced, but not a single one succeeded in getting my attention or sympathy. I liked the setting (Istanbul), but got very, very tired of the would-be poetic description. The author went on for pages – in flowery present tense – about everything. Fireworks took ten pages to go off, and internal monologues lasted for three or four pages in the middle of dialogue. All ...more
Ben Babcock
I didn't want to give this book five stars, but Ian McDonald hacked my brain. I had heard enough about The Dervish House—my first novel by McDonald, incidentally—to be fairly confident I would like it. Yet it is not the sort of novel that inspires love at first sight; rather, it tantalizes, flirts, and seduces its way into your heart. It accomplishes this through McDonald's style, the way he describes the city of Instanbul, invites us into its streets and its politics and the eponymous ...more
Jason Pettus
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

(This is being published today for the first time in honor of "Ian McDonald Week" at CCLaP. For an overview of all the content regarding McDonald being posted here this week, you can click here.)

So what exactly are we talking about, anyway, when we talk about "cyberpunk," the subgenre in science-fiction
This wonderful book felt played like a symphony of multiple themes spun out by six key characters that slowly converge on a common narrative. The novel is so embedded in the cultures of Istanbul that Istanbul itself becomes a key character itself. Set in the year 2027, the scene is just around the corner, and the story often doesn’t appear to be science fiction. Yet McDonald projects some disturbing progressions for the science of nanotechnology, and the crises faced by most of the key ...more
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Necdet, a troubled young man, is witness to what looks like a botched suicide bombing on a crowded city tram; afterwards, he starts seeing djinn and other supernatural creatures. Can, a nine year old boy with an amazing robotic toy — and a heart condition that confines him to a silent world — accidentally becomes involved in the intrigue. Ayse, a gallery owner, is contracted to find a mysterious and elusive relic, while her boyfriend Adnan, a successful trader, works on his own scheme to become ...more
Erin Lale
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I received an electronic copy of this book in my Hugo voter packet. So I was reading it with an eye to seeing if it deserved an award, and I was holding it to a high standard. That may be why I was so disappointed.

This book has some really good ideas: original, sf'nal, even hard. Unfortunately, the reader has to plow through 250 pages of lead-up to get to them. Up until that point, this could have been written as a mainstream novel, and the sf elements could have been eliminated in under a
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biopunk, sci-fi, economics
Fascinating whirlwind of a future Istanbul, the oh so famed Constantinople thrown into a world of swarmbots, gray ooze of nanotechnology terror threats, and AI assisted economic hijinks.

The one thing I love most about Mr. Mcdonald's books are the levels of depth and exploration of the world he has created. I place the tech ideas and the wonderfully odd legends like the man of honey on a second tier of coolness, followed by wonderfully non-traditional heroes and anti-heroes that wouldn't normally
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the last of the Hugo-nominated novels for this year, and wow did I save the best for last.

The Dervish House is everything I always hope for when I open a William Gibson novel, and was so pleased to find here. Cyberpunk, sure, but in this incredibly vibrant setting (Turkey right after it has joined the EU) with a lot of sub-plots (Mellified Man, Nano Terrorism, ancient artifacts, insider trading, kind of, a clever boy and his bots).

One thing I love is McDonald's writing. Here's an
Gumble's Yard
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Book set in a sultry week in Istanbul in 2025, just after Turkey has joined the EU and with Arsenal playing Galatasaray in the CL SF. The book follows the stories of six characters living in a Dervish house.

At times baffling, the books is however incredibly evocative of the current Istanbul and of a future world. The book is like much of Neal Stephenson futuristic books but like his historic books is firmly based around Economics as well as exhibiting huge amounts of historic research (even if
Jeannette Nikolova
Nov 17, 2013 rated it did not like it

There, I wrote that. Even if you don't read the rest of the review, you would at least know my opinion.
It was a very boring account of events nobody cares about. Seeing all of the five-star reviews on its page, I cannot help but think that this is one of those books that people claim to love because someone at some point said that it's genius and suddenly people like it so much.
I was frustrated throughout the whole thing. The author, for unknown reasons, decides to write half the
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An n-dimensional, immersive SF novel about the dervishes in 2027 Istanbul. It's a totally engrossing book that demands reader attention, not a casual book to go through on a quick read. Not to say that this is some scholarly tome weighty with its own self importance but rather Ian McDonald attempts to fill this with very accessible characters striving for very real dreams --- the options trader hopped up on nanodrugs to get the edge in the financial world, the antiquities dealer following arcane ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jim by: Cindy
For me, this incredible book is as near to perfection as I am ever likely to see. This could be my template for a five-star book – a definite masterpiece. Having just read another classic that also pushed onto my all-time favorites list – Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita – I was struck by just how completely the great writers can take possession of your mind and your life. All they require is some of those too-brief periods when you can sit and really concentrate on their wondrous stories and ...more
One of my favorite aspects of good science fiction is its ability to peer into its murky scrying bowl and divine absorbing pictures of possible futures based on current trends, cultural histories, and good old-fashioned chance happenings. Through such activities we are able to look at possible futures for ourselves and society and attempt to sway events accordingly. Unfortunately so much science fiction is written by white, comparatively affluent, straight men that this practice can lend itself ...more
Dawn Marie
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi
Although a geek girl at heart, I’ve never really read a great deal of Science Fiction. Some Bradbury, a dash of Heinlein, a little Gibson, fair bit of LeGuin, but not enough. Of what I read of Bradbury, I loved Dandelion Wine the best – a glass of nostalgic strawberry lemonade – sweet as childhood memory, with a metallic tang of old-school horror. Heinlein seemed to really, really like porn (and his mom, apparently?), and I can respect that, but I can’t say I enjoyed his work. Gibson caught my ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful! The book started out slow and I had to drag myself through the first hundred pages before I even understood who most of the characters were and why they mattered. If not for that, I would give it five stars. The slowness is partly due to the intricate and poetic writing style. Normally I read very quickly, but this book requires you to read every word, and rewards you for that effort with fascinating story. It is not light reading, but it has plenty of humor and joy.

The setting is

It's taken me quite a while to finish reading this novel. I came close to abandoning it a few times because I didn't see where it was going and - more particularly - I was having difficulty caring about the characters. However, it eventually started coming together. It even became a bit of a page turner and, surprisingly, I ended up caring about the characters more than I ever thought I could.

Set in Istanbul in the near future, The Dervish House centres on a number of people who live or work in
I nearly didn't read this book. The sample failed to interest me. In fact it seemed so over-written and dense that I wasn't sure what the book was about after the better part of the first chapter. However, in-part because the book was Hugo nominated and in-part because it was the book club read for the month I persevered and bought the book.

Rereading the first chapter made a lot more sense the second time around, and almost the very next page after the sample had ended the book came
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A twisting dance as six stories entwine in the heart of near future Istanbul. The old world and the ultra new, the ancient and the nascent future whirl together around the old Dervish House in Adem Dede Square.
Heat struck Istanbul, at once archaic and enigmatic then industrial and grimy, but also thrusting and modern, the palpitating heart of new European future Turkey, the crossroads of East and West, makes a fascinating and atmospheric setting as the stories spiral ever faster around each
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 4/5
World: 5/5

Ian McDonald continues to excel with so many of the components of a good story. He makes it interesting: Every McDonald book I have read has been situated in an exotic location which he calls forth vividly with an indisputable eye for detail, backed by thorough research. He makes it meaningful: Each of the near-future, cyperbunk books he has published between 2004 and 2010 offers a layered look at society. Every location is a site of
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I have long been enamoured of Turkey. Actually, strictly speaking I have long been enamoured of the idea of Turkey: the decadence, the luxury, the it’s very different there. Over the last number of years I have come to the realisation that this idea, or dream, of the country is a very European one, and a very colonial one in many regards – it’s a view of “the East” that has existed in “the West” at least since the Romans had their snooty ideas about Egypt and Persia. Despite being well aware of ...more
Genia Lukin
Jul 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I am going to go out of my way and say that this is not a bad book at all. It's actually quite well-written, and the atmosphere the author creates is engaging and vivacious. The science-fiction elements are quite well-done, the cyberpunk feel is very much in place, the city of Istanbul is interesting...

Sadly, there were a couple places where the novel really fell flat for me; and these flat places completely ruined my experience, to the point where I found myself skimming more than I was
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book took me a long time to read, was mildly interesting throughout, and much better now that I'm not reading but reflecting back on it. It was a great story and I loved how everything was woven together through the stories and the character, but it seems to me, especially with the end, that this is a story about Istanbul, not about any of the characters.

It was a very complex novel, which makes it difficult for me to break down in any meaningful way all that was happening all at the same
Barry King
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is one of a growing trend of very finely written, well researched novels, that, if it had dealt with any other topic than genre, stands shoulders above most mainstream fiction. It centres its narrative around the title location, an old tekke in Istanbul where all the main characters reside or hold shop. It is a love story on several levels: old love regained, old love reborn, love of the world rising through adversity, and love of God realized in the atoms of the universe. But most of all, ...more
Clay Kallam
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Maybe it just seems that way, but I have to think there were more books like Ian McDonald’s excellent “The Dervish House” (Pyr, $26, 358 pages) back in the day.

“The Dervish House,” set in Istanbul in the near future, combines science (and comprehensible science, no less), fiction (fleshed-out, flawed but sympathetic characters) and a complex, satisfying plot that keeps the pages turning. We’ve got terrorists, high-level business deals, an intriguing future, romance, a Boy Detective, all handled
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully intricate, layered and immersive. McDonald masterfully weaves together an impressive number of threads and incredibly deep knowledge of Istanbul and its rich history, into a fantastically ambitious near future cyberpunk story of high tech intrigue, high stakes finance, religious mysticism, conspiracy theories and the nanotech revolution. McDonald's portrayal of a hot, crowded near future Istanbul, lurking with ancient secrets and mystery is simply superb. Reminiscent on a number of ...more
Goran Skrobonja
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Currently translating this well-constructed and imaginative novel to Serbian. Not THE best McDonald, but very, very good! The Serbian translation will be titled "TEKIJA", and should hit the bookstores this October.
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of complexity
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work; res ipsa loquitur
The Dervish House gives the impression that it could easily be as messy, sprawling and complex as Istanbul itself. It can't, of course; no single work of fiction could approach the complexity of even the most modern and mundane of cities, much less the ancient metropolis that stands at the crossroads between Asia and Europe. But after a leisurely start, The Dervish House ended up being amazing anyway.

Complex and multithreaded, this novel defies easy synopsis. Its plot is a mix of ancient and
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Repost 2011 review:

This is really a difficult book to review. After finishing River of Gods a while back and seeing this was coming out I was really looking forward to it, but it took me a month to finally plow through it. It's written in the present tense, which takes a bit of getting used to. Contrary to the claims of many literary types, I feel like present tense narration adds distance, like trying to "watch" a movie by having someone else watch it for you and describe what's going on over
Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it
One of my favorite moments in The Dervish House is when Ian McDonald outlines an unusual think tank that is intended to anticipate terrorism. This think tank will be given a minimal amount of data and will then be asked to make intuitive predictions.

The backgrounds of the members included are quite interesting. One of the participants is a "pscyhogeographer," or a person that traces the history of a city's geography and its impact on people's lives. Why do people on one side of a street
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Ian Neil McDonald was born in 1960 in Manchester, England, to an Irish mother and a Scottish father. He moved with his family to Northern Ireland in 1965. He used to live in a house built in the back garden of C. S. Lewis’s childhood home but has since moved to central Belfast, where he now lives, exploring interests like cats, contemplative religion, bonsai, bicycles, and comic-book collecting. ...more
“He's never fought with religion; what is the point of railing against such beauty, such intimate theatre, such chime of eternity? He can treasure it without believing in it.” 9 likes
“Water splashes and runs in a film across the glass floor suspended above the mosaics. The Hacı Kadın hamam is a typical post-Union fusion of architectures; Ottoman domes and niches built over some forgotten Byzantine palace, years and decades of trash blinding, gagging, burying the angel-eyed Greek faces in the mosaic floor; century upon century. That haunted face was only exposed to the light again when the builders tore down the cheap apartment blocks and discovered a wonder. But Istanbul is wonder upon wonder, sedimented wonder, metamorphic cross-bedded wonder. You can’t plant a row of beans without turning up some saint or Sufi. At some point every country realizes it must eat its history. Romans ate Greeks, Byzantines ate Romans, Ottomans ate Byzantines, Turks ate Ottomans. The EU eats everything. Again, the splash and run as Ferid Bey scoops warm water in a bronze bowl from the marble basin and pours it over his head.” 8 likes
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