The title character and protagonist in Ethan of Athos is Dr. Ethan Urquhart, a physician who works at one of the many Rep (Reproductive) Centers on Athos, a planet inhabited only by men. Athos had been founded two centuries earlier by a small group of misogynists who assigned all blame to women for evil in the universe. Children are produced there by inseminating ovarian culture in vitro and raising each fetus in a uterine replicator. Ethan’s job is to oversee a battery of those replicators.
A planet inhabited only by men
But now there’s a problem. Some of the 200-year-old uterine cultures are no longer fertile, and others are quickly deteriorating. The Population Council has ordered 450 new uterine cultures from a biological supply house on a distant planet. However, when they finally arrive, Ethan discovers they’re all dead. The Council quickly presses Ethan into taking off a year from his job and his live-in boyfriend to locate a new supplier somewhere in the galaxy. Carrying all the planet’s meager foreign exchange, he sets off on his quest.
Ethan of Athos (Vorkosigan Saga #7) by Lois McMaster Bujold (2011) 224 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Homicidal spies, a genetic mutant . . . and women!
Naturally, everything goes wrong from the time Ethan lands on a transit point called Kline Station. He is plunged into a bewildering adventure involving a team of homicidal spies from the notorious Cetagandan Empire, a genetic mutant they’re pursuing, the obsessively fastidious staff of Kline Station, and . . . women! Ethan’s greatest challenge comes in the person of Commander Elli Quinn of the Dendarii Mercenaries, who is on a secret mission from Admiral Miles Naismith, the undercover identity of Miles Vorkosigan. (Vorkosigan himself, the protagonist of the Vorkosigan Saga, never appears in the story.) Quinn proves to be Ethan’s protector, but he’s terrified of her. After all, she’s a woman!
Like all the previous books in the series, Ethan of Athos is lively to a fault. The action is nonstop, the characters intriguing, and the dialogue often amusing. The Vorkosigan Saga is simply fun to read. Ethan of Athos is the seventh novel in the series. And as the Vorkosigan Saga continues, the story gains richness. If you’re reading the series in chronological order, you might wonder what might come next after a planet inhabited only by men.
About the author
Lois McMaster Bujold has been writing the acclaimed Vorkosigan Saga for more than 30 years. The first book in the series was published in 1986. As of 2018, there are 17 Vorkosigan novels in print. Apparently, Bujold has won more top awards for her offbeat space opera than any other writer in the science fiction field. She has even equaled Robert A. Heinlein’s record of four Hugo Awards for Best Novel. And she won the Hugo Award for Best Series for the Vorkosigan Saga as a whole.
For further reading
You’ll find all the books in the Vorkosigan Saga at The pleasures of reading the complete Vorkosigan Saga. And if your taste runs to the dark side of science fiction, check out my new book, Hell on Earth: What we can learn from dystopian fiction, in which I review 62 dystopian novels.
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- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
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