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The Terrorists of Irustan Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2000

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

On Irustan, a planet settled long ago by humans, the Book of Second Prophet painstakingly details the proper way of being. Despite space travel and advanced technologies, men are the absolute decision makers. Women, draped in shapeless silks, their faces heavily veiled, are chattel. Only a select few get a glimpse at independence by becoming medicants, who are trained in the medical sciences. Such work is regarded as too distasteful for men. The beautiful Zahra is a young wife, a talented medicant, and a murderer. Sickened by a world of abusive husbands, Zahra's choice to kill is believably righteous, but it is fraught with treacherous subsequent ramifications. Marley realizes Irustan in dynamic detail, and she manages real, consistent character development so that not only does Zahra mature, but secondary characters subtly grow as situations demand. Throughout, Marley's acclaimed, exquisite prose and her universal themes of feminist heroism light the book brightly. Karen Simonetti --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Feminist science fiction from the author of the paperback Receive the Gift, etc. According to planet Irustan's inflexible religious code, women must be secluded and veiled, and are given away at the whim of the household's chief male. Nearly all men work in the rhodium mines, where they unavoidably inhale dust and become susceptible to a fatal disease; despite wearing masks, they require regular treatment. Their religion, however, bids them disregard their bodies, so men cannot be doctors. Zahra IbSada, the wife of Qadir, chief director of mines, is a ``medicant,'' Irustan's nearest equivalent to a doctor, diagnosing and treating with the help of machines imported from Earth. Despairingly, Zahra treats wives battered by their husbands, certifies as healthy 14-year-old girls being forced into marriage, and, disregarding Qadir's prohibition, patches up prostitutes injured by their clients. Then her friend Kalen, whose daughter Rabi will be given to the brutal Binya Maris, asks Zahra to intervene. She refuses, but secretly helps Kalen administer a fatal disease-causing agent. Zahra becomes friendly with offworld deliveryman Jin-Li Chung, who turns out to be a woman. When another friend begs for help against her adamant husband, Zahra again intervenes. Jin-Li's Earth boss, suspicious of the two unexplained deaths, orders him/her to spy on Zahra. But the brutality continues. Should Zahra persist with her covert terrorism, thereby risking detection, or join with her friends and start a revolution? Thoughtful and effective, despite the familiar backdrop and obvious developments. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reissue edition (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441007430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441007431
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,692,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Louise Marley, a former concert and opera singer, writes stories of the fantastic. Sometimes set in the past, sometimes in the future, and often in a curious present, her novels tend to be feminist, often musical, occasionally dark, but always with compelling, colorful, and complex characters. Louise is in demand as a teacher of writing workshops for adults and young adults.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Marley's beautiful, compelling science fiction novel is at once heartbreaking and uplifting, as it follows the frustrated lives of women living in a repressive religious society. The world of Irustan is detailed, subtle in its range of customs, and wholly believeable. The empowerment of a small group of women through acts of biological terrorism is exciting in its inexorable unfolding.
I absolutely could not put this book down!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Megan VINE VOICE on July 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is impossible to read this book without the perspective of 9/11 and the subsequent "war on terror". "Terrorists of Irustan" raises a slew of uncomfortable questions that have gained startling relevance in the last several years, many of which, unfortunately, have been stifled and deflected to the point we're encouraged not to think about them. For this reason, I think "Irustan" - which deals with Islam, women's rights, terrorism, and self-defense vs. pre-emptive action, among other things - has gained in depth and meaning since its original writing.

On the planet of Irustan, Muslim fundamentalists who follow the "Second Prophet" have created a society that's just to the right of the Taliban. One of the peculiarities of Irustani society is the focus on the mind and soul to the exclusion of the body, which means that medicine - with its fixation of disease and imperfection - is seen as a practice fit only for women. Zahra ibSada is a medicant who has had it up to here with patching up abused women and children and sending them back to the husbands and fathers who own them, so when a friend comes to her in desperation because her young daughter is about to be given to a man who has already killed two wives, Zahra steels herself to do the unthinkable.

At first, Zahra tries to limit her actions to self-defense, acting only to save the lives of her friends and their children. Soon, however, she realizes that simply reacting will not be enough. She must seek to outright change her society if the abuse is to stop, and that's when she moves into the tricky realm of terrorism. She starts choosing victims carefully, hoping to send a message, knowing all the while that each step could be her last.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was the first book in a new book club some friends and I formed. The book was chosen in August, 2001, but it wasn't until after 9-11 that I actually picked up the book to read. It was very odd and disconcerting to read at that time due to the title and subject matter, but I think in a way it helped me deal with emotions I was going through in the aftermath. As someone who has a degree in Anthropology, I'd previously ended up reading little bits and pieces of depictions of Islamic life - and fundamentalist Islamic life - enough that it was pretty obvious Marley did her homework prior to writing this. But it brought ethnography to life in a metaphorical context. It took what could have been a story easily played out here on Earth, and isolated it away enough to take it soley on its own terms.
In a previous review here, someone said this is not her best work. If it's not, I'm impressed - this book was enough to make me want to read pretty much anything else she puts in print.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Bittner on May 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because the author wrote to my sf/f book group to introduce herself. I wanted to see what her books were like, and now I intend to seek out more. I expected the book to be like "The Handmaid's Tale," but, though the themes were similar, I thought Marley's writing was more full-blooded than Atwood's (perhaps because she is more familiar with the science fiction genre). The book is beautifully written--Marley has a distinctive writing voice--and ultimately heartbreaking. I did cry at the end. The characters are subtly and fully drawn. Although not without a few small faults (I didn't quite buy Qadir's conversion), I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading thoughtful, thought-provoking science fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked this up at the library on a whim and found I couldn't put it down. Other reviewers have covered the plot summary, so I won't elaborate on that. I will say that the powerful emotions evoked by the darkly realistic tale kept me awake and thinking. Midway through the book, the events play out somewhat predictably, but the focus of the book is, rightly, not so much about the plot as it is about making the reader think. A powerful story, it reminds one of how women have been treated throughout the ages, first as property and later, as lesser citizens until today, when such repression still occurs in parts of the world. Yet it's such a well-written book that I'd recommend it even to the non-feminists among us. It's a story of one woman, one character who fights against her world in order to change it. The author has fashioned a masterly portrayal of the protagonist that will be remembered by the reader long after the book has been put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jody Carson on July 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was a true pleasure to read; although classified as sci fi or sci fantasy, it appealed to me, one who normally reads more mainstream. It parallels the injustices on Earth that women face at the hands of their "religion" and the men who created the religion. The main character is brave, stoic, smart, and true-to-life. She slowly moves from acceptance of her fate to challenging the powers-that-be on behalf of her sisters. The plot is satisfying and worth the time spent. Check it out!
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