Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hugo Awards 2011 - Novel Nominee - The Dervish House

Nominated for Best Novel:
The Dervish House
by Ian McDonald

Art by Stephan Martiniere
The Dervish House is a spectacularly well written novel set in 2027 Istanbul, Turkey. Numerous characters are centered around the ancient Adem Dede Square. The occupants of a old dervish house and the shops on the square are woven into a tale that starts with a bang — a terrorist attack on a train.

Necdet is on the train and sees the woman's head explode. He staggers home, forever changed.

A boy, Can Durukan, hears the explosion and sends his toy remote controlled robot out to see what is going on. He finds or than he bargained for.

An antiquities dealer, Ayse Sarioglu, is on the trail of a fabulous artifact, an object so odd and curious that I had never heard of it before, and now that I have, I'm a little creeped out.

Ayse's husband, Adnan, is a commodities trader with the deal of his life coming up.

The author, Ian MacDonald, has come up with such a new (to me, at least) SF idea for the technological leap in this story, that I will leave it for readers to discover for themselves. It is very cool. The world created in the novel is believable and perhaps inevitable. I was reminded a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, due mostly to the unusual and similar setting — old world meets high tech. The cities each have their own unique feel.

While I ended up loving the book, I'll admit had a hard time getting into it. The first hundred pages seemed to take forever to read, with numerous unusual character and place names, some of them similar, to untangle and sort out. There were also pages of history (both regional and personal) to fight through.

The middle hundred pages saw the characters and story taking over and I started to enjoy where MacDonald was going. The boy, Can, is the stand out character for me.

The final hundred pages was a dervish of action, suspense, and a fitting and spectacular conclusion. I highly recommend this book and it is a strong contender for my vote in the Hugos.


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