Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe write about Belfast next time, 8 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Dervish House (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)
As an avid reader of cyberpunk and a former resident of Istanbul, I was sure that I would enjoy The Dervish House. And I did, in the beginning. Then the mistakes started piling up and finally the inconsistencies and lack of credible detail have ruined this book for me.

Dedicating pages in the beginning of the book to Turkish pronunciation is all well and good but there were spelling mistakes in at least half of the Turkish words and names used in this book - For example, it's Aslantepe not "Aslanteppe", Hacettepe not "Haceteppe", Osmanli not "Ösmanli", Meryem Ana Firtinasi not "Firtanisi" as it was repeatedly misspelled, meaning "Tempest of Mother Mary" and definitely not "Wind of September" especially since it happens in mid-October.

Characters don't feel authentic, not least because they say things like "I will see you when I see you" that are impossible to say in Turkish in any meaningful way, they serve pistachios with coffee (always served with alcohol, never with coffee) and they refer to each other by their last names, which NEVER happens in Turkey. Turks didn't even have surnames prior to 1934. It is pretty obvious that the author doesn't know this - Haci Ferhat's descendant is called Beshun Ferhat, which is highly unlikely given that "Ferhat" was his given name and Haci was an honorific title meaning "Muslim who has done the Hajj to Mecca".

There were so many things that didn't ring true, and one was Adnan speaking in English with a trader from Baku in Azerbaijan, saying the other guy just didn't speak good English. Why on earth would these two people struggle with English over the phone anyway, given that they both speak Turkish?!

All of the above to one side, my personal favourite which truly shows the author's ignorance about Turks and Turkish is when Mr Ferentinou says to Can "You said 'he'. Interesting that we assume robots are male". Highly unlikely that Can would or could ever say such a thing, since THERE IS NO "HE" OR "SHE" IN THE TURKISH LANGUAGE. This just made me laugh :-)

In short, The Dervish House would have been a pretty awesome book if it were set in a city author is actually familiar with, with characters he understands, who talk in a language he knows. Honestly, I think Mr McDonald should write about Belfast, where he lives, and leave places like Istanbul to those who know them a bit better.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Aug 2013 08:03:20 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Aug 2013 08:05:11 BDT
Benedict says:
This work was nominated for both Hugo, Clarke and Locus. It actually *won* the British Science Fiction and the John W Campbell Memorial awards.

I would venture to suggest that most people who read this novel will not be Turkish speakers OR residents of that country.

And none of us can guess what might have changed over the next 15 years any more, say, than someone guessing what might have changed socially or linguistically during the 15 years since Mustafa Kemal's ascendancy.

What am I saying?

IF there are any flaws in McDonald's research - and I say "if" because I would not be surprised if thare are alternatives spellings that would account for some of the nit-picking - I do not think that they will ruin the story for the vast majority of the readership.

And maybe all bar one or two of those intimately familiar with the Turkish idom will be able to suspend their disbelief and enjoy this offering from one of science-fiction's modern masters.

Finally, I would recommend that the reviewer *not* read Hoban's "Riddley Walker" or else thereby risk HIS head exploding ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2013 14:38:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Aug 2013 14:41:06 BDT
Z de MC says:
I don't mean to hurt your feelings, and I am saying this in the nicest way possible, but I know what I am talking about and you don't. (Sorry)

There is no "alternative spellings" in Turkish, simply because it is written 100% phonetically. "Aslantepe" means "Hill" and "Aslanteppe" means "Author doesn't know how to spell this name" :-)

There is no 'he' or 'she' (gender pronouns) in the Turkish language. There is only 'it' as third person singular. There hasn't been a distinction between she/he in this language, ever, and verifiably at least since Turks left Central Asia 1,000 years ago and this major trait of the language isn't about to change in 15 years. Therefore, it is NOT POSSIBLE to say "You said 'he'. Interesting that we assume robots are male" in Turkish.

What am I saying? ;-)

I am saying that this isn't about "alternative spellings" or "IF"s, but about some toe-curling ignorance on some very basic points.

No doubt you are right that people who don't know any better will enjoy this book despite its glaring errors. For those of us who are familiar with the places he has written about and the language he claims the characters are speaking, the story is not realistic and the illusion of the future world he has constructed is shattered.

P.S.: No, this is not comparable to Riddley Walker nor the post-apocalyptic story "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" in Cloud Atlas (which I read and loved, by the way). Those were written entirely in a future (corrupted/evolved) dialect of English. Not written entirely in English with several glaring mistakes thrown in that shows the author just doesn't know much about the places he is writing about.

P.P.S.: "15 years since Mustafa Kemal's ascendancy"? The man fought in WWI and died in 1938. We are now in the year 2013. You say "nit-picking", I say "fact vs ignorance" :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2013 21:37:19 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Aug 2013 21:39:12 BDT
Benedict says:
You have almost entirely missed the point.

1) 99.9% or more of the people who read the novel won't care a jot about the linguistic faux pas you have so cleverly and modestly identified. So one has to wonder who are you trying to convince that the "errors" matter?
2) I am sorry that you missed my juxtaposition of the major changes to Turkish society and written language in Mustafa Kemal's time - especially during the late 1920s and 1930s - and the fact that the action of this novel takes place about 15 years from NOW when one might imagine further seismic changes accompanying Turkey's entry into Europe.

This said, I am quite content for you to have the last word.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Aug 2013 13:27:24 BDT
Z de MC says:
What does it matter to MY OWN Customer Review what OTHER readers think or care about? My review is about what I thought: It went well until the glaring errors ruined the book for me. FOR ME, personally. How strange that you feel I have to be told off that other readers might disagree?! Especially since you are referring to people who are NOT as well informed about the place where story supposedly takes place.

UK joined the EU and English language didn't change. France joined the EU and French language didn't change, either. Why on earth would the Turkish language, whose grammar has remained intact over the last 1,000 years across continents change in 15 years if Turkey joins the EU? Such radical change that 70 million people suddenly start talking with gender pronouns (he, she), which have never existed in this language :-)

I understand that you are upset that your favourite author (dad? brother?) got told that his book has many errors, but it does, and your attempts at rationalising them don't make sense. Sorry.
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