About the Book
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 Zahra for help, and although it goes against her medicant vows, Zahra reluctantly agrees. But this silent act of terrorism will have far-reaching consequences—for herself, and for all the women of her planet.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
“One of feminist sf’s new champions, Marley creates a convincing Arab-like milieu on the desert planet Irustan, where for 300 years male colonists have extracted a dangerous living from the rhodium mines, deliberately maintaining their primitive dominant-male culture. The triple-veiled women of Irustan, virtual slaves to their men, embody far greater—though unacknowledged—courage, especially medicants like Zahra IbSada who use cast-off Earth medicine to treat sick and dying colonists the men fear to touch. Faced with one horrifying case of wife and child abuse after another, Zahra and her fellow wives of Irustani official wreak a powerful vengeance on their tormentors. Marley deftly skirts the potential peril of blatant propagandizing by rounding most of her male characters, especially Zahra’s husband, Qadir, into plausible, if narrow-minded human beings. She also sketches a bittersweet same-sex subplot between Zahra and Jin-Li Chung, a worker forced to masquerade as a man to escape destitution on teeming Earth. Rich with alien atmospherics and seething with issues of gender and prejudice, Zahra’s dark journey into revolution offers some sensitive signposts to understanding.
“Louise Marley deftly creates a detailed world full of complex characters so believable that they make you feel all their emotions with them: rage, powerlessness, rebellion, terror, determination, and hope. A dark, richly imagined tale . . . a thoughtful meditation upon the dangers of fanaticism and the strength of the human spirit.”
—Sharon Shinn, author of Archangel
The Terrorists of Irustan was published in 1999, two full years before the events of September 11th. The book was, in fact, inspired by the takeover in Afghanistan by Taliban and the subsequent appalling treatment of women and girls; I was no less moved by the fate of young boys pressed into military service, and also by the effects on men whose mothers and wives and daughters lost their freedom to work and study, and move about unescorted.
The characters in The Terrorists of Irustan are not Muslim, but in preparing to write the book, I read several excellent books on Islam and the lives of women who are veiled. These are worth checking out:
- Beyond the Veil, by Fatima Mernissi; a magnificently written work examining all sides of the issue of women who live a secluded life.
- Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks; a courageous visit to the hidden world of Islamic women by a Western journalist.
- What Everyone Should Know about Islam and Muslims, by Suzanne Haneef; a short book by an American Muslim woman explaining her feelings about the Islamic life style.
Because the world of Irustan is an analog of a Middle Eastern society, I tried to understand something of the Arab peoples and their culture.
- A History of the Arab Peoples, by Albert Hourani; offers insights such as: ” . . . although the depiction of living forms was not explicitly forbidden by the Qur’an, most jurists, basing themselves on Hadith, held that this was an infringement of the sole power of God to creat life . . . Surfaces were covered with decoration: forms of plants and flowers . . . highly stylized . . . patterns of lines and circles . . . “
- Tales, Hazrat Inayat Khan; teaching stories in the Sufi tradition, drawn from parables, fables, legends, and stories of prophets and saints.