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The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley

The Terrorists of Irustan (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Louise Marley

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186663,528 (4.13)44
Title:The Terrorists of Irustan
Authors:Louise Marley
Info:Ace (2000), Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:novel, science fiction, feminism, resistance, women's studies, oppression, feminist fiction

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The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley (1999)


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It’s been some time since I had to read the ending words of a book through my tears, but The Terrorists of Irustan had me reaching for a tissue to mop up the moisture. Although labelled as science fiction, this book speaks of the human condition and how slavery can cause a life to be joyless, empty and unfulfilled. On the planet of Irustan, the veiled women are mere chattels, they belong body and soul to whichever male is the head of their family, be it father, husband or brother. This is a society that is Arabic in nature, they live by their inflexible religion but life has stagnated to the point where woman have no rights, in fact they are not even considered as people. This is a satellite planet, a mining consortium whose minerals are very important to Earth so the resident’s lifestyle is allowed to flourish as long as the mines continue to supply the much needed materials.

Zahra IbSada, is a medicant, a healer, and this profession is one of the very few that allows women a slight degree of independence. She has been thoroughly sickened by having to treat abused women and children only to have to return them to the care of their abuser, but it is not until one of her friends is in crisis that Zahra crosses the line and ensures that at least this man will no longer be able to dictate who he cedes his daughter to. Of course, once this line has been crossed, it becomes much easier to do it again. Travelling down this road goes against her healing nature, but Zahra’s final hope is that her acts of terrorism can cause a slight change that will make things better for the younger women that follow.

This was a thoughtful, wonderfully composed story that deals with feminist issues . Through Zahra’s friendship with a earth woman who disguises herself as a man in order to move about the planet freely, we learn that even women on Earth have issues that are not being met in their futuristic society. Although the plot is fairly predictable, the author has created such realistic, vital and engaging characters that this story totally pulls the reader into this exotic world. The author does not flinch from evoking powerful emotions and when a book speaks this strongly to my heart, I can’t help but give it a full five stars. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | May 26, 2015 |
Tiptree longlist 1999 ( )
  SChant | May 10, 2013 |
Marley does an excellent job of setting up a horribly claustrophobic society in which women are veiled, sheltered, set aside, property. Through an interesting quirk, the women are also the healers, and the men want nothing to do with dealings of the body. It's this prejudice of the men that Zahra is able to exploit to make her statement and do what she can for the women around her.

That said, it's a flawed book. The two women of Zahra's circle in the worst domestic situation are the two married to much older men. (If this were a society already moving toward change, this could be understood, but the society is portrayed as more-than-static, this is one carved in stone with artisans coming back from time to time to reinforce lines dulled by wind and weather.)

The relationship with Jin-Li is also troublesome. On a whole base of Earthers stationed there to handle import & export, only one person bothers to understand Irustani customs? Only one culturally sensitive person, and yet this person develops a fascination with Zahra, a fascination that seems to be heading in a sexual direction. Then we find out that Jin-Li *spoiler* and the whole thing just seems shabby. Yes, this puts Jin-Li in a position to be even more sympathetic, but again, someone has to be in a situation like that to see customs and to empathise with the damage they cause? It didn't have to be "on-screen"; it didn't have to go into great detail. It could've been covered in Jin-Li's thought process.

Overall, the book is good, a good read. But it could've been better. ( )
  GinnyTea | Mar 31, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this enormously. It may be heavy handed, but I just loved so much about it that I was willing to let that pass. The idea that a fundamentalist Muslim population would be recruited to work a particularly difficult mining planet in exchange for having their own world, preserved from outside influences - its so interesting. And the way that the society develops and gets stuck and how the women start to resist, oh I just like it! ( )
1 vote bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
Irustan is a strange place. A distant planet where things are much different. Men are free to dress as they like, go where the please, and treat their wives however they feel like without repercussion. The women are suppressed, wedded against their will, and forced to hide every inch of their flesh in public, no man is allowed to see them. They are not allowed to speak, or to show interest in anything but their husbands. So...I guess, it's really not so different after all. This might technically be a science fiction novel, but you could just as easily pretend it takes place in the middle east.

Zahra is a medicant. She treats the women who come to her clinic covered in bruises, with broken bones, as they shake with fear with their husbands looming in the next room. She does this objectively, this is how things are, she is 'just a woman,' what is she to do? She heals, but she cannot change the way things are. But when her friend's daughter is to be ceded to a man who has killed 2 of his previous wives, Zahra realizes something must be done. With fear and determination, she commits a single act of terrorism, and this act will reverberate across all of Irustan.

Now, I was raised by a single parent - my mother - who worked hard to support two children; myself and my little sister. I am the last one to harbor sexist beliefs, but I admit I do have a hard time reading feminist literature. It is far too common for all men to be portrayed as sexist pigs, slime and scum of the earth, vile stupid morons who are barbaric and disgusting and who enslave women or beat their wives. Naturally, I'm defensive. It's hard for me.

The Terrorist of Irustan is not one of those novels. The author represents both genders with positive and negative characters, there are respectable men who respect their wives alongside those 'scum-of-the-earth' types, and there are those poor women shackled to the discriminatory customs of this prejudice-ridden society who are aligned with women whose murderous rage is simply frightening. This added a sense of realism to the book, and really helped the novel hit home for me.

This, in addition to the plot, made for what must be one of the best books I've read this year. It was simply amazing, wrought with fear, sorrow, desperation and ultimately, hope. It is a tale of oppression, and the desperate acts that must be performed to change the misguided traditions of a secluded group of people. Anyone, regardless of gender, should have no problem connecting with the book.

This was an emotional read for me. At times I wanted to break down and cry my heart out and other times I wanted to raise my fist in triumph, and it is made all the more intense by the real-world implications it caries. Louise Marley has written a truly remarkable book, and I'm happy to have read it. 5 stars, and fully deserving! ( )
15 vote Ape | Sep 2, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441007430, Mass Market Paperback)

In this brilliant novel from the author of Sing the Light, a talented medicant defies the rule of men-and changes the lives of every woman on the planet.

"A dark, richly imagined tale...a thoughtful meditation upon the dangers of fanaticism and the strength of the human spirit."-Sharon Shinn

"Rich with alien atmospherics."-Publishers Weekly

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:25 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A group of women in space resort to terrorism to combat male abuse. It happens on the desert planet Irustan, a mining colony where women wear veils and are treated as slaves.

(summary from another edition)

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