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Mon, 29 Apr 2024
Ultralords and a Boy Detective
# 11:32 in ./books

The Dervish House
By Ian McDonald

Score: 5/5

It's sometimes the case that I read a book, want to review it but either never get round to it, or start a review and never finish it. For a book I enjoyed as much as The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, I really need to make that extra effort. This 2011 novel deserves high praise.

It is a little different from the start: the setting is a near future Istanbul, a city with a vast history and a multitude of stories. The novel has been classed as "sci-fi", even a form of "cyberpunk", but designations such as these, like so many genre pigeon-hole's, do it a disservice. Yes, there are some futuristic elements: advanced personal technology, nano-technology, AI. And we mustn't forget the shape-shifting robots! But it takes these elements and treats them the same way we treat our smart-phones, crypto-currency and AI chat-bots. They're part of the scenery, or a child's toy.

Whatever the genre, it's a thriller and adventure story. A nano startup chasing financial investment and also a missing "document" essential to this. A wheeler and dealer commodity trader trying to pull off a less than straight-up deal. A hunt for a mysterious historical artifact, perhaps only a legend. A bomb on a tram that might cause more than physical damage. A boy's dangerous game spying on people who have a monstrous plan. And an old man with a chance at getting back at a past tormentor and perhaps a reconciliation with a lost love. There is lots going on and many threads to keep our interest, with a small cast of believable, funny and colourful characters. I think I did laugh out loud at least once.

There's action, emotion and tension but what raises the book far above the average is the setting in the ancient city and our immersion in it, old meeting the new. A very good, well written novel and an author I will be sure to pick up again.

© Alastair Sherringham 2023
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