My friend (and Tor.com novella writer) Rob Ziegler has a saying about a word, sentence, or section of a book which really blows him away: “That was so good, I want to punch the author in the face.” Rob (one of the nicer guys in the business) obviously only means that metaphorically, but I can sympathize with the sentiment…sometimes you run into something so good that as an author you can’t help wishing you had come up with it yourself.
Such was the case with my first reading of Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House, several years ago. Friend and fellow speculative fiction writer (also a Tor.com novella writer) Brad Beaulieu and I had tapped Ian to appear on our podcast Speculate as part of our set of shows on The Dervish House, and when I sat down to read it I expected to react as I usually do to good work: intrigued by the premise, impressed with the craft, and excited to read more. Then I read the opening sentence: “The white bird climbs above the city of Istanbul: a stork, riding the rising air in a spiral of black-tipped wings. A flare of the feathers; it wheels on the exhalation of twenty million people…”