The Dervish House

Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 21 hrs and 25 mins
4 out of 5 stars (186 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone, it seems, is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st-century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.

Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing 100 million, Istanbul swollen to 15 million, Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

The ancient power struggle between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from 25 years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist prime minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions' League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher.

The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core - the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself - that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama, and a ticking clock of a thriller.

©2010 Ian McDonald (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Award, 2011

"This is a brilliant, jewelled machine of a novel in which lives trigger events in other lives, in a sequence that skirts chaos and disaster, but ends with gorgeous order." (The Independent, UK)
"McDonald takes the history of Istanbul, both real and imagined, and forges a multi-faceted and fascinating character out of the city itself; then he adds in the experiences of six people whose lives are about to intersect in the most unexpected ways…. McDonald creates a magnificent knot of intrigue, thrills, and daring adventures, with the flair for character and setting that make his tales so satisfying to indulge in." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Listen, but then read

This is a wonderful book, a literate and engaging political, futuristic, sci-fi, spy, thriller, travel, mystery, history, romance, picaresque, philosophical coming of age story. Yes, it defies type casting. It is so intriguing, it will send you straight to Google Maps satellite, Wikipedia, and maybe even the non-fiction stacks of the library. You will want to know more. I love to get my serious thinking with a spoonful of the sugar of imagination and plot. The heroes are many and all unlikely. The villains are bad enough, but not incredibly evil, actually real. The same might be said of the near future setting, which is entirely plausible. Well done, Ian McDonald! Jonathan Davis is a great narrator, managing to find just the right voice for each character without resorting to falsetto women and children or exaggerated accents. My one complaint is that, as the recording is paced, and I am sure this is editing, not narration, there is no pause between apparent chapters, resulting in a seamlessness inappropriate to the story. Just the littlest pause when the scene changes would have eliminated momentary senses of dislocation for the listener as the plot moved forward. This novel deserves to be listened to, but then read with leisure for thinking about McDonald's ideas.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sci-fi and a bit of anthropology - nice!

This story Offers an insight into Turkey and a fascinating sci-fi novel set in the near future it's sure to keep you enthralled. Things started a little slowly and at first I wasn't that impressed with the reading or the prose, but stick with it for an hour and you will be enchanted right to the end. Some interesting ideas, I will be looking out some more Ian McDonald books as I really enjoyed this one!

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Maybe too thought provoking

Genre: Sci-Fi not too distant future - Turkey

Rated: R sex, language, some violence, adult themes

1st or 3rd Person: 3rd person, 5-6 main characters followed in different settings

Static or Dynamic: Dynamic, it's a changing story but it moves Sloooooowly...

Art or Entertainment: art. This book has incredibly little entertainment value. It is meant to be a critique of many things, economy, technology, religion, politics etc. I say too thought provoking with pain because I'm all into things being conceptual but the lack of excitement made this book very hard to sit through. I gave the story a 5 because it is incredible but I gave it a 3 overall because the execution was a little undressed. There doesn't need to be a lot of action but I need to feel like I can identify with the characters and feel their anxiety. Unfortunately, sense their are 5+ independent main stories to follow, I couldn't get too attached to any of the characters which was a little bit of a let down.

Linear or Non-Linear: semi-non-linear. There are so many characters and parts of the book are historical references that it feels like the book is more of a nebula of ideas than a coherent story. That's not a bad thing but it can really urk some people who want it told to them straight forward.

Narrator: Jonathan Davis is a good voice actor and I'm glad he took the time to get the Turkish names right. Their c's are pronounced like j's in English among other things and he got it right. Good job sir.

Plot Outline: I will preface this by saying that if you don't know who Ataturk is, you need to at least wiki him. Additionally, if you don't know a lot about Muslim lore, you might need an informed friend or a wiki page open while you listen. The plot is generally 1 a boy with a disability trying to embark on a conspiratorial adventure, 2 an old man economist who can predict terrorist attacks via stock market figures exploring his past and adjusting the future, 3 a cunning art dealer who is contracted to find a seemingly impossible ancient treasure, and 4 her husband who is a hot shot stock broker who invests and crushes people with his tactical prowess who is trying to set up a long con, 5 a young country woman who is trying to make it as a small time lobbyist/sales manager for a new technology, and 6 a young man who experiences a terrorist attack at the very beginning of the book who starts seeing Djinn and some Islamic folk lore entities that you might have to read up on. It's a very conceptual book and were I Turkish myself I might have enjoyed it more though it was still entertaining to encounter. The story revolves mainly around most of these characters having something to do with this old Dervish house in Istanbul. Most of the stories end up blending into each other. The plot is complexly designed and it deserves a lot of credit. I just wish it were easier to follow ~~
my warnings for people are if you are overly patriotic about Turkey, have strong Islamic views, or can't stand economics, this book might ruffle your feathers, or it might not.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

In a league of its own

This is unlike anything I’ve read. It’s a futuristic sci-fi thriller with a slow burn, intelligent, intriguing, sexy, mystical, and intricate. The characters are fascinating and very well drawn, the writing is excellent, the problems confronting the characters are creative, well thought-out, and believable. The narration is terrific; Jonathan Davis strikes exactly the right notes and draws us in to the story. This is not an easy-listen book. It demands focus (particularly at the beginning, when the characters and aspects of this age are introduced). It is well worth the effort. The writing is lush, descriptive and evocative, and it brings Istanbul and this particular future very much to life.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Almost put me to sleep while driving

What would have made The Dervish House better?

More action earlier in the book and at least a couple appealing characters

What was most disappointing about Ian McDonald’s story?

It's not very engaging

Would you listen to another book narrated by Jonathan Davis?

Yes

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I suppose if you love politics, dreary cities, and eccentric child-savants with obscure health problems you might like it

Any additional comments?

To be fair, I gave up on the book after listening for an hour. I could not get engaged with the characters, the plot (or apparent lack thereof), or the setting. It was just depressing me.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • M
  • 09-01-12

Beautifully written, but very complex

I loved the writing style of McDonald, which was beautifully descriptive and lush. Unfortunately I found the plot(s) to be so complex that I couldn't follow all the threads across the whole novel. This probably says more about my cognitive ability (or lack thereof) than the book itself.

More cerebral readers will probably appreciate the multiple storylines and how they intertwine, but I found them difficult to keep straight.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent Book - Great Listen

What made the experience of listening to The Dervish House the most enjoyable?

Complex storyline with rich character development. Narrator's voice inflexions were spot-on for all of the characters. A lot of different story lines that all somehow come together in the end.

What did you like best about this story?

It made you feel like you were living in the city of Instanbul and absorbing the culture. Also like the way the author incorporated current themes & international threats into the plot.

Which scene was your favorite?

I was stationed in Turkey for 2 1/2 years, so I think the scenes around the Galata bridge brought back the best memories.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. It is a long book with very complicated plot lines, but the author and narrator made it easy to follow throughout the book.

Any additional comments?

Not sure I would classify this as science fiction, but the nonotechnology developments used throughout the book made it very interesting.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Ambitious, literary hard SF

I liked a lot of things about this novel. which is set in a near-future Istanbul -- in the year 2027, to be exact. Just enough time has passed for some cool new technology to have been invented and -- perhaps more importantly -- for Turkey to have joined the European Union (perhaps not the most reliable assumption on the part of the author given current events, but who knows), putting itself on a path towards a new future. Yet, not so much time has passed that McDonald can’t explore the obvious present-day themes found in a 21st century supercity coming to terms with a complex, multilayered history and many competing visions for its future.

These themes are reflected in the separate stories of several different characters, who live or work around the titular Dervish House, an old building that once belonged to a religious order, but has since been converted into apartments and shops. There's an old Greek economist haunted by choices he made during the political troubles of the early 1980s, who is recruited for an unusual think tank. There’s a testosterone junkie commodities trader plotting to make a big score through a financially complicated, semi-illicit deal. There’s an arts dealer searching for a bizarre Ottoman-era relic called a mellified man, believed to have strange powers. There’s a young woman trying to escape her provincial, family-freighted past (with amusingly mixed success) by getting in on the ground floor of a nanotech startup. There’s a troubled slacker who lives with his devout brother and begins having strange religious visions after witnessing an unusual suicide bombing on a tram. Finally (and perhaps most symbolically), there’s a shut-in “boy detective” who spies on the world through a rather amazing toy robot, because his heart condition prevents him from going outside.

While I thought that some of the emotional connection with the characters got lost in the intricacy of the plot, I enjoyed the E.L. Doctorow-like way their stories swirled around each other (more in terms of different views of the same reality than direct interaction, though there’s some of that, too). McDonald’s skill as a writer lies in his ability to immerse the reader in the jostling imagery, attitudes, and energy of a place. Not that I’ve been to Istanbul, but this novel matches impressions of it I’ve gotten from other literature. If you want a heady stew of cyberpunky near-future speculation, science fiction, folklore, symbolism, social commentary, and subtle wit, you’ll probably be pleased. Fans of Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, or Paulo Bacigalupi take note.

That said, a few things undermined my enjoyment. First of all, it bugged me (a tech guy) a little that McDonald waves his hands and invents some technology out of thin air, without much regard for plausibility. Yes, I get that fiction is supposed to push boundaries, but the all-purpose transforming bit-bots and nano drugs he describes were a little too cartoonish for me to take seriously. Secondly, his writing gets transparently show-offy in places. Characters give long, excessively eloquent impromptu speeches that are really just the author stepping in to say “here’s how I think markets work”, or “here’s what social networking is in the context of traditional Turkish culture”, or “here are some cool things I learned about the architecture of Istanbul”. As I said earlier, McDonald could have provided a few more reasons to care about the characters.

Then again, if you like cyberpunk or hard sci-fi, you’re probably used to that sort of thing. Even if McDonald does try a little too hard at times, I think a lot of readers will be impressed with the highly visual, world-in-motion quality of the writing -- as others have said, this book would work well as a movie. Ultimately, The Dervish House is really about the kaleidoscopic sense of obsessions and possibilities that fill one of the world’s great cities.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

"Only God is eternal, and Istanbul."

Istanbul, Queen of Cities straddling Europe and Asia, is the setting for Ian Macdonald's entertaining novel The Dervish House (2010). It's 2027, Turkey has been in the EU for five years, and near-future technology is everywhere: autodrive cars, cepteps (advanced smart phones that connect to the Internet and read data onto your eyeballs), and everywhere nanotechnology, as in business card handshakes, police swarm bots, BitBot boys' toys, a Nano Bazaar, and a potential nanotech human evolution. But the past also pervades this sf world, from the many old legends, histories, and places of worship and trade comprising the city to the titular tekke (dervish house). Through the old tekke Macdonald connects a disparate set of point of view characters, each of whom is touched by the apparent suicide bombing of a tram car that opens the novel.

Necdet, a young man with a drugged and violent past, is living in the tekke with his older Islamist brother Ismet, and is standing next to the woman who blows off her head in the tram, after which he gains the ability to see djinn. Can, a bright nine-year-old with a heart condition that requires him to wear nano ear plugs, becomes "the boy detective" investigating the bombing from his sound-proofed tekke apartment. Retired experimental economist Georgios Ferentinou who, as a Greek is living in the tekke as "an exile in his own city," reluctantly collaborates with Can. Ayse Erkoc, who runs an art gallery in the tekke specializing in religious artifacts like miniature Torahs and Korans, sets out on a quest to track down an "antiquarians' legend." Ayse's husband Adnan Sarioglu is a high stakes trader for Ozer Gas and Commodities, playing with his three friend/colleagues TV animation Ultralords of the Universe as they work on his multi-million-euro scheme. And after the bombing makes Leyla Gultasli miss an interview for a marketing job, she begins to discover that the noisy family she escaped to live in the tekke may be more interesting and helpful than she'd believed. The varied characters all feel alive, funny, moving, impressive.

Macdonald works into his story many details of sensual, spiritual, political, and cultural Istanbul life. Adnan going to a mosque, attending a football match, and getting his ear hair burnt off by a barber. Can drinking an airan (yogurt and salt drink). Leyla visiting the Grand Bazaar and Ayse the Egyptian Bazaar. Ayse meeting a fisherman on the Galata Bridge and mistrusting a client cause he's wearing the aftershave of Galatasaray's star striker. Georgios gossiping with his friends at the Adem Dede teahouse and remembering the coup d'etat of 1980. Various characters passing to the Asian or European side of Istanbul via bridge or tunnel or ferry. And so on. He even uses neat, Istanbul-apt similes, comparing things to the Hagia Sophia, mosques, Janissaries, baklava, halva, and the like. He also works into his story plenty of fractal images, economics, obsessions, little/big, love, religion, prejudice, tolerance, history, technology, and city.

He writes some memorable lines:

"A whisper of the world steals into Can's ears."

"… in the eternal light of Greek and Armenian icons, through the hair-fine, eye-blinding detail of the Persian miniaturist to the burning line of Blake's fires of Imagination. Why deal in beauty, but for beauty?"

"Smell is the djinni of memory; all times are one to it."

"Mr. Ferentinou has taught him to see the blood beneath the world's skin: the simple rules of the very small that build into the seeming complexity of the great."

"The meat is fragrant, cumin and garlic tempering the mild rankness of the lamb, the tomatoes are warm and filled with the sun. . . . The bread smells like life."

"God save us from young men of religion."

"He's never fought with religion; what is the point of railing against such beauty, such intimate theatre, such a chime of eternity? He can treasure it without believing it."

The novel is at its most compelling when Macdonald launches into one of his lyrical, vivid, imaginative riffs on a storied artifact or forgotten garden or firework display or Terror Market or stork flight or BitBot swarm or waking city or peripatetic urbomancer, or, especially, the Mellified Man. I'd never heard of the heal-all honey-mummy, but Macdonald takes this Arabic/Chinese legend and flies with it: "When the lid is removed what remains is a human confection. Honey suffuses every channel and organ; honey fuses with flesh; honey permeates every cell. Sugar is a powerful preservative and antibacterial. The unfamiliar sun turns the thing in the coffin to gold. Now the Mellified Man's true work begins," curing every illness from cancer to cataracts for people who eat pieces of his body.

The novel is also at its most compelling in its first half or so when we wonder whether or not Necdet is really seeing djinn, whether or not the fantastic has invaded the science fictional, the mystical the physical, and when the various quests of the various characters are in their mystery-filled and history-drenched early stages. In the last third, Macdonald moves into page-turning, sf thriller mode, and the novel loses much of its early exotic allure.

And I never understood just what the ceptep super smart phones look like or how the nanotech sprays temporarily increase people's concentration or memory and then leave their brains. The fate of the half Korans felt wrong. I'm also a bit unsure about the ethical position of the novel. About things like illicit artifact trading, digital gas trading and company bankrupting, imposing of "street shariat," and nanotechnology mind tampering, it seems a bit soft or pat.

Jonathan Davis gives yet another fine reading of an sf novel, smoothly handling the exotic Turkish names, appropriately enhancing all the moods, and generally informing everything with his dry wit.

Fans of Istanbul or near-future, post-cyberpunk sf with a heart and imagination should like The Dervish House.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great place and great imagination

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, very imaginative and great characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Dervish House?

Completely different take on a Istanbul.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The only problem is the book switches between different scenes frequently with no pause or break.

Any additional comments?

The only problem is the book switches between different scenes frequently with no pause or break.

2 people found this helpful