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Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
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Title:Ethan of Athos
Authors:Lois McMaster Bujold
Info:Baen (1986), Edition: First Thus, Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Reviewed, Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, novel, Science Fiction, military science fiction, Romance, homosexuality, gender, space opera

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Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986)


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The planet of Athos is a one-gender planet. The colony was begun by a group of religious brethren who believed that women were the root of all evil. They brought ovarian cultures with them when they began and have been using them for over 200 years to reproduce. The geneticists remove the X gene so that all babies are born male from replicator machines. The problem is, the original ovaries are running down, dying out and there are no more to use because the planet is extremely isolated from the rest of the galaxy. Hence, Ethan's mission. Go buy some more ovaries.

As a story, it was a lot of good fun. I did get a bit tired of "sparking" eyes. One thing I love about Bujold, is that she stretches your mind about medical ethics and "what ifs." This was certainly such a read. What if we had the capability to make a one gender race of people? Should we do it? Would it be healthy? Would it be wise?

The author subtly gets you to think about these questions when she takes Ethan off of Athos and exposes him to women and the rest of the world. This was a pretty great read on several levels. ( )
  MrsLee | Sep 22, 2014 |
Oh Ethan. You naive young man you.

This was a really refreshing take on a single gender culture, neither utopia nor dystopia. But I was mostly focused on how much I enjoyed Elli and Ethan's interactions throughout all the shenanigans, and later Terrence.

Basically a nice little story in this series canon. ( )
  cendri | May 30, 2014 |
3.5 stars

Originally posted at Fantasy Literature: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/ethan-of-athos/

Athos is a planet of men. No women are allowed — they are evil and they ruin good men. Since there isn’t a lot of immigration to Athos (their advertising campaigns just don’t seem to be very effective), they need to create baby boys to keep the population from dying out. Dr Ethan Urquhart is one of the men who’s responsible for using stock ovarian cultures to create and incubate male babies in uterine replicators. When the ovarian cultures begin to give out, Ethan orders new stock, but when it arrives it is full of the wrong kind of material. Something has gone wrong. Now Ethan must be sent off-planet to find new ovaries. Ethan is pretty nervous about his quest — he knows that there are women out there and that they are all out to capture and degrade men. He plans to stay well away from them, get his job done, and return to the safety of Athos as fast as he can.

But Ethan gets tangled up in interplanetary politics — someone has some dastardly plans for Athos and it has something to do with the wrong ovarian cultures Ethan received. Now he’s in mortal danger. Fortunately, he’s not alone because the beautiful mercenary Elli Quinn, who we know (and love) from most of the other VORKOSIGAN books, has been investigating this plot from the other end. If Ethan wants to stay alive, he must work with Elli (a woman!) to solve the mystery.

If you can get past the silly premise (an all-male planet) which, of course, is meant to be silly, you’ll find that Lois McMaster Bujold has not only provided us with a fun story (how can this not be fun?) with all the usual Bujold elements (genetic engineering plots, shooting, hiding, torture, escapes, rescues, etc.) but has also provided us with a little more substance than this type of unisex planet story has received by pulp writers in the past. Bujold lets us see an all-male culture at work.

Unlike the better VORKOSIGAN books, Ethan of Athos is somewhat predictable and has a naively incompetent protagonist, but it’s still a worthy read. Here we get to know Elli Quinn better and we learn how she feels about Miles Vorkosigan (the main protagonist of the series) and why she admires him so much. Miles never actually appears in Ethan of Athos, though Elli talks about him a lot.
Ethan of Athos is the third book that Lois McMaster Bujold published, but the events related in this story occur much later in the VORKOSIGAN SAGA, between Cetaganda and The Borders of Infinity. It doesn’t really matter when you read

Ethan of Athos, though, because it’s more of a side story. New readers could even start here, if they like, or it could be skipped all together. It’s not important to the rest of the series, but it gives us more insight into Bujold’s world and allows us to get to know Elli Quinn better. Plus, it’s amusing. I read Blackstone Audio’s version narrated by the excellent Grover Gardner. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Ethan Urquhart is a doctor on Athos and is Chief of Reproductive Biology at Sevarin District Reproductive Center. Athos is a male only planet which has kept itself fairly isolated from the rest of humanity since its founding. But now there is a problem - the ovarian cultures they have been using to produce their sons are dying and more must be procured. When the shipment from Jackson's Whole arrives it is not what they ordered and someone has to travel off-world and personally secure the right genetic material. Ethan is the chosen representative and from the moment of his arrival at Kline Station he is dragged into local politics, mercenaries, spies, and the dreaded contact with WOMEN. In fact, it is only an alliance Ethan forges with a woman mercenary that allows him to survive to carry out his mission.

I really enjoyed this story even though it is not really part of Miles Vorkosigan's storyline except in a very indirect way. The all male society is somehow believable and Ethan's culture shock is well done. This one may get read again...
  hailelib | Mar 28, 2014 |
Not enough Miles! (Actually, no Miles, at all, beyond a couple mentions of his name.)

I was amused by the idea of the monks of Mt Athos founding a colony world, and using reproductive technology to ensure that only male babies would be born. My hopes that Bujold would at least touch on the issues of a world that entirely negates the value of the female half of the human equation were not met, which is one reason I couldn't rate the book any higher. It was an ok story, but more like an extended short story than a novel. None of the characters felt compelling, and the plot and villians were pretty lackluster. Only one use of "sardonic", though, so that's an improvement. ( )
  duende | Feb 6, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lois McMaster Bujoldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Elson, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gutierrez, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jainschigg, NicholasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruddell, GaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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COPYRIGHT PAGE NOTICES (for a mass-market paperbook edition):

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

First printing, December 1986. Second printing, January 1992. Third printing, April 1994.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067165604X, Mass Market Paperback)

Our hero is a quiet, upstanding citizen of Athos, an obstetrician in a world in which reproduction is carried out entirely via uterine replicator, without the aid of living women. Problem: the 200-year-old cultures are not providing eggs the way they used to, and attempts to order replacements by mail have failed catastrophically. But when Ethan is sent to find out what happened and acquire more eggs, he finds himself in a morass of Cetagandan covert ops and Jackson Whole politics--and the only person who's around to rescue him is the inimitable--and, disturbingly, female--Elli Quinn, Dendarii rent-a-spy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:24 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Dr. Ethan Urquhart is Chief of Biology at a District Reproduction Center. He delivers babies from uterine replicators. You see, on Athos there are no women. In fact, the planet is forbidden to them. Isolated from the galactic community by distance and a lack of exploitable resources, the Athosians have peacefully lived their peculiar social experiment for 200 years. But now, the ovarian cultures dating back to the original settlement of the planet are giving out. With the future of Athos at stake, Ethan is chosen on behalf of his cloistered fellows for a unique mission: to brave the wider universe in quest of new ovarian tissue cultures to replenish Athos' dwindling stocks. Along the way, he must tangle with covert operatives, killers, telepathy, interplanetary politics, and perhaps most disturbingly--an indomitable female mercenary named Elli Quinn.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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