Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Alert: The Dervish House

Ian McDonald's The Dervish House is rich and beautiful. It is a tale of nanotechnology, faith, the illusions of the world and their impact on humanity. It is a very human novel, firmly grounded in hüzün, the melancholic sense of decline which appears unique to Istanbul, once Constantinople, once Byzantium.

The novel begins with a suicide bomber on a crowded tram who kills nobody but herself, and unleashes angels of all kinds.

It's the story of Ayse, owner of a gallery of antiquities; Can, the almost permanently earplugged boy who controls nanobots; Georgios, an old radical 'experimental economist' who deals in information and probability; Adnan the rogue trader who is about to pull off the deal of the millennium with a little help from some friends; Necdet, who has begun to see the djinn and, more disturbingly, Hizir the Green Wanderer.

Most of all, it is a novel of Istanbul, mother of cities, daughter of its own rape.

It deserves its BSFA award. It is so much better than anything of William Gibson without having to descend into jargon, and it is a proper novel too. It will appeal to people who study development and post-colonialism and all that. Most of all, it will appeal not only to hardcore techie SF readers, but those who love good writing with character development and a sense of atmosphere. Rating: at least 9/10.

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