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The Terrorists of Irustan

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  225 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
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.
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published July 10th 2000 by Turtleback Books (first published 1999)
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Dec 19, 2012 Ryandake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is my third or so read of this book, so, not a first impression...

this is a maybe uncategorizable novel--it has SF elements, certainly (civilization on a distant planet), dystopian ones (a society in which women are veiled, largely uneducated, pretty much property although not called slaves), feminist ones in droves, and social commentary up the wazoo. so what is it?

i don't know, but it's unique, and it's heartbreaking, and it will remain on my shelves forever.

as i read through this time, i
Oct 02, 2012 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How many times in your life do you get to read an unforgettable book that makes an impression on you? As a lifelong reader, I've read and forgotten more books than I could count. Only a precious few end up on my "recommend to the book club ladies" list. I made them read this one and they agreed it was a marvelous choice for discussion.

In a setting that favors Earth's Middle East both in lands and customs, the struggle for women not to just survive but thrive somehow in a male dominated society
I didn't think they wrote feminist SF like this anymore. Okay, I know this book is not particularly recent, but it feels like it should be from the 80s. Not that I am complaining. It's a Handmaid's Tale sort of dystopia, one that in this case is a fictional future far-right take on Islam. With, yes, veiled women. Our heroine, Zahra, is a "medicant" (please note, in case you have done the same thing, that I read this as "mendicant" about five times; no, that would be a different sort of book) who ...more
Take a far-right, imagined extremist version of Islam, dump it on a futuristic mining planet, add a hefty helping of additional gendered slavery, and season with fed-up female resistance, and you have the strange brew that is The Terrorists of Irustan. In Margret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, there's a line somewhere about how extremist Eastern religions are not that far from extremist Western religions, and The Terrorists of Irustan is a little bit what I imagine a faux-Middle Eastern counterpa ...more
I quite enjoyed this book. It was a pleasant little feminist queer surprise in a genre heavily populated by straight white men. Especially considering that I just picked it up rather randomly as the library was closing.

That said, I'm troubled with the use of the veil as a symbol of women's subjugation. It's not the main subject of the book, but it is used as dramatic effect to symbolize and reinforce the fact that the women are powerless and confined. I suppose that is the historical meaning of
Catskill Julie
Jul 29, 2014 Catskill Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful, thought provoking and disturbing. I read this when it came out and gave it to my nieces. The characters and the story are very affecting and have stayed with me all this time.

To another reviewer below, the veil exists to repress and control women and, most egregiously, (try to) make women responsible for the misbehavior of men--ie, women are responsible for "enticing" men to lust for them, "dishonor" them, rape, gang rape, stone, kill them. They see women as unholy, lesser creatures i
I enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories which pull setting material from cultures other than western Europe and the U.S., since I feel like I learn a bit about those cultures and the unfamiliar feel of the setting makes the story feel fresher (books that come to mind in this category include Enchantment, later entries in the Ranger's Apprentice series which start with The Ruins of Gorlan, The Blue Sword, and The Thief). If you couldn't tell from the cover, this is another of that sort, altho ...more
Jennifer Marie
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May 08, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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Elizabeth Richardson
The Terrorists of Irustan is a beautifully written book exploring patriarchy on a distant colonized planet. While there is an underlying comparison to be drawn between extreme Islamic groups and Marley's novel, she deftly displaces the setting enough to allow the focus to be the characters’ struggles in a more universal sense.

The story is strongly character driven, highlighting the careful and dangerous social negotiations between friends and family. But undercutting this is a richly described s
May 10, 2012 heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, wiscon
Using the servant's tools to dismantle the master's house.

Irustan is a world where all the women are veiled and all the men are conscripted into service in the mines that make the planet profitable. The gender lines are extremely sharp. Men are the public, working face, and women are hidden, behind the scenes. Men also have nothing to do with the needs of the body. Women are responsible for cooking, cleaning, washing, and crucially, healthcare.

I have seen several commentators talk about the reli
Miss Ginny Tea
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 t
Aug 18, 2011 Ayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time I read this book I don't think I really understood its significance. It's easy to identify with the characters and the reader suffers through their hardships and celebrates their triumphs. The women of Irustan are the same women who suffer injustice and lack freedom in our world today. Zahra, the main character, gives these women a voice and shows how women can take hold and change their fate with education, determination, and love. Terrorists of Irustan is a testament to the stre ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Cassie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting but sad book. It was a bit hard to read sometimes, since the female characters are so helpless to protect themselves in so many ways. Still, it's an interesting commentary on womens' lives in the Middle East (though of course it was a fictional, future sci-fi colony modeled on the current Middle East) and the way religion and tradition shape society.
I learned a lot about Prion diseases reading this book, I actually ended up reading about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease because of it, but the characters and story are rather shallow and predictable and there's a certain heavy handed morality to the whole thing that is just a little off-putting.
Melinda Tate
Nov 11, 2010 Melinda Tate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic portrayal of suffragettes all over the world. This is about a veiled society that defines different as terrorist. It is not what we now know to be TERRORISTS but one can see how a culture has to change when the rules of old hold it in stasis. It will fail.
This book is incredible. It is powerful, with graphic, emotional detail. I haven't read this book in two or three years, since it's out of print, and I still am enthralled by it, and the story inside. Definitely worth the read.
A heavy-handed attempt at politics via sci-fi characterized by abrupt, impossible character shifts. But an interesting-to-read criticism of Islamic extremism written well before 9/11 and all the hooey that followed.
Rachel Madsen
Mar 17, 2011 Rachel Madsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the few sci-fi books I own. A dramatic, lyrical read, with a feminist slant that is somewhat belabored. Still a good story with strong,likable characters.
Feb 05, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this a while ago, but it remains in my mind as one of those really great reads.

If you liked A Handmaid's Tale, you'll probably enjoy this.
Mar 13, 2016 Lynne marked it as to-read-scifi  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-by-women
I loved Marley's Singer series, and hooray feminist lit. OTOH, so many possible ways to slip into Islamophobia. Let's hope she hasn't.
Dec 17, 2009 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, brilliant, and realistic work of political fiction. This is a good sci-fi novel for people who don't like sci fi.
Jan 02, 2013 Jodi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Marley creates a very different world, and peoples it with wonderfully well-fleshed characters. I really enjoyed this one.
Dec 16, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, feminist
Clearly a political book and meant to be a critique of modern Islamist states. Yet I still could not put it down.
Bob Alberti
Jul 14, 2008 Bob Alberti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF fans with an interest in feminist issues
A captivating feminist tale set on a planet settled by Muslims.
Aug 29, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5.
Mar 06, 2010 Bridget rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Very thought provoking.
Scarlett marked it as to-read
Jul 25, 2016
Katta marked it as to-read
Jul 24, 2016
Jenni marked it as to-read
Jul 24, 2016
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Louise Marley, a former concert and opera singer, has published sixteen novels. Writing as Cate Campbell, her recent books are historical fiction. As Louise Marley, she writes fantasy and science fiction and occasionally young adult fiction.
More about Louise Marley...

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