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The Terrorists of Irustan
Louise Marley
Ace Books, 323 pages

John Jude Palencar
The Terrorists of Irustan
Louise Marley
Louise Marley has been a classical concert and opera singer for 15 years. She sings with the Seattle Symphony, has concertized in Russia and Italy, and is alto soloist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. She is a frequent recitalist, specializing in American sacred music. She teaches voice at Cornish College of the Arts. She holds a Master's Degree in Voice, and she's also a graduate of the 1993 Clarion West Writer's Workshop. Her first novel, Sing the Light, was published in 1995.

Louise Marley Website
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A review by James Seidman

Louise Marley's latest novel, The Terrorists of Irustan, is a dark sad look at a colony planet where women are terribly repressed. Women have almost no rights, must remain veiled, cannot go outside without an escort, and must suffer with however their husbands choose to treat them.

In general, women must either be homemakers or accept menial employment. The one exception is the medicants, women who provide medical services. Because the Irustani religion prohibits men from dealing in the medical arts and sees any illness as a divine warning, all medicants are women. Despite their years of training, men treat them with no more respect than they would other women.

Zahra IbSada is one of the most talented medicants on the planet. In her practice, she sees quite a few women who have been beaten or otherwise mistreated. So she is very sympathetic when her best friend's daughter is to be married to a man whose previous two wives were apparently beaten to death. Despite her vows to do no harm, when it comes down to the life of her friend's daughter versus the life of a wife-murderer, Zahra decides to strike back at the worst elements of Irustani society. Being a terrorist is not easy work, and Marley vividly depicts the stress it places on Zahra and her compatriots.

The Terrorists of Irustan is not light reading. The issues it deals with are terrible and vivid. Nor can we even mentally dismiss this society as an unrealistic fictional caricature of humanity, given its strong resemblance to Afghanistan's society under the Taliban movement.

Marley's writing has a quality that lends it a certain profundity and presence rarely found in science fiction. After completing the book, I felt as if I had actually experienced a great moment in history, rather than merely having read a story. Despite being a tragic, painful tale, The Terrorists of Irustan is a gripping, worthwhile, and tremendously enjoyable story.

Copyright © 1999 James Seidman

James Seidman is the director of software development at a hot Internet startup company. Consequently, he needs the excuse of doing book reviews to give himself time to read. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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