Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bad Men: The Terrorists of Irustan

The Terrorists of IrustanLouise Marley writes smart and emotionally resonant books that explore particular ideas, whether it's an examination of a violently patriarchal religion or a link between ghosts and musical instruments or children that blur the line between saviors and victims.  The Terrorists of Irustan is the patriarchal book, where veiled women pass from their father's control to their husbands in a religion clearly based on conservative Islam.  On the planet Irustan this religion is complicated by a strong taboo placed around the body, so that only women can address illness, which means that the only educated women are the medicants who train on the complicated medical systems provided by the galatic government.

Marley examines the women's lives from different angles, looking primarily at the educated Zahra who struggles against the restraints binding her, but also from the galactic Jin-Li, who has problems with gender issues.   In clear parallels to the modern world the galactics tolerate the limits placed on women in the name of religious freedom and the valuable minerals Irustan provides, but this also involves compromises and betrayals.  However, the connections between Islam and the Book are too close for comfort; Marley has made up her own planet so she controls all the events but that makes the statements about anything in the real world suspect.  I would have preferred either fewer similarities or a clear identification; the book itself ends up muddled as the answers come too easily.  (Well, the author's answers; the characters themselves have tough times.)

It was good enough that I'll keep an eye out for more of Marley's books, but I hope she takes her imagination farther afield next time; sometimes distance is necessary to get the focus right.

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