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The Terrorists of Irustan

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  297 ratings  ·  39 reviews
On the planet of Irustan, one woman is fighting back... Zahra IbSada is a talented medicant, and sees much of the joy in the lives of the women she heals-and much of the pain. She sees a wife brutally beaten, a prostitute suffering at the hands of her employers. And her best friend Kalen, a mother who is struggling to save her daughter from a cruel betrothal. Kalen begs Za ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by Fairwood Press (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Dec 19, 2012 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
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
Oct 02, 2012 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
Aug 22, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
The writing is excellent, but what a horrible world: where women are chattel, subjugated, and abused by men. An entire planet where this is the law of the land. I don't think I can go there right now.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5. I loved some elements of the worldbuilding, particularly the central idea of medicine being "women's work" and taboo for men, and I cared enough about the characters to keep reading. Alas, I found the story predictable and lacking in nuance. Many of the scenes did a better job telegraphing the political views of the author than telling a good story.

As far as this being a very second-wave feminist, white-lady take on a conservative Muslim-inspired culture, well, it could have been worse. Tha
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
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
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Like Handmaid's Tale, a terrifying portrayal of how theocratic totalitarianism can enslave women. This is a society on a far planet in a time with frequent space travel. The society mirrors the worst extremes of Taliban style Islam and Sharia law. Women are veiled, are the property of their father or husband, and have no rights.

The writing is good, the characters have depth and subtlety. Within this extremely patriarchal society, a range of male-female relationships are portrayed. There are hus
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Squarely in the 'sci-fi that's really just here to teach us about our current world' genre, this book has it all. A fantastic, feminist heroine realizes her friends need help only she can provide in a world where women are quite literally nonentities (at least as far as official records are concerned). In helping the few, she starts on a course toward a global revolution. The characters are all interesting, the world-building credible even where it leaves unanswered questions. Certain descriptiv ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
***Spoiler alert*** -- broad reference to the outcome of the story

I began this book with low expectations, as it came as part of a rather spotty bundle of science fiction written by women. The Terrorists of Irustan was thus a pleasant surprise: a thoughtful, well written novel about an offworld culture's misogyny and a small circle of women's battle against it.

Briefly, the plot centers on a female "medicant" (read: physician) who, along with her circle of friends, goes to extraordinary length
This book moved my impression of what a 5-star book could be. It has plausible character development, plot on multiple levels, a fascinating setting, characters who are different from one another, and excellent writing. It was so gripping to read about the dystopian aspects of the culture depicted, and such an attractive fantasy that allies would actually help, that it was difficult to tear myself away.

The only thing wrong with it, from my perspective, is that we never find out what becomes of o
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I'm getting old, if I was particularly tired, or just that the book is good, I had actualy tears almost at the end of the book. What a way to go, really really loved it, the setting, the develpment, the character interaction, the characters, well, the whole deal
Definitely highly recommended from me!!!
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man this book was so good! I couldn't put it down!!
Kate Page
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this. It's well written, with engaging, convincing characters and plotting. I got it in a book-batch of womens Sci Fi, and it's the best one so far.
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
Marsha Valance
On a harsh, patriarchal desert planet, medical practitioner Zahra Ibsada saves a 14-year-old girl from an abusive marriage by poisoning the groom, then must prevent a wholesale slaughter of similar offending males by their wives, while foiling an unexpected interplanetary murder investigation.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wiscon, scifi
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
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Jennifer Marie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catskill Julie
Jul 29, 2014 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
Aug 15, 2011 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 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 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.
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: used-book-finds
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.
Feb 05, 2008 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.
Bob Alberti
Jul 14, 2008 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.
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Louise Marley, a former concert and opera singer, has published nineteen novels. As Louise Marley, she writes fantasy and science fiction, including THE TERRORISTS OF IRUSTAN and THE CHILD GODDESS. Writing as Cate Campbell, she published the historical trilogy BENEDICT HALL.

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