Zach's Reviews > Ethan of Athos

Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
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Feb 19, 2011

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Read in February, 2011

I was a little disappointed that this book didn't star my favorite space dwarf, Miles Vorkosigan, instead giving the spotlight to the titular character and his planet. But Bujold's premise of a planet composed entirely of men, made possible by uterine replicator technology and ovarian cultures, was interesting enough to make up for my disappointment.

Ethan comes from Athos, or the "planet of the fags" as it's known to the rest of the galaxy. Established several hundred years before the beginning of the story by some well-meaning misogynists, Athos has been entirely insulated from women for generations, and women are hated and feared with the fervor only xenophobic island-dwellers can muster. But the ovarian cultures which have sustained their reproductive abilities those many years are starting to break down, and the replacements ordered from off-planet are fraudulent. The task to replace them falls to our hero Ethan, who must conquer his fear of women as he leaves Athos for the first time in his life.

From there, Ethan's adventure to discover the whereabouts of the missing culture shipment or to replace it rapidly devolves into a standard Bujold mystery tale, full of near-assassinations, double-crosses and intrigue. Not that that's a bad thing; Bujold is excellent at telling this kind of story. Only, I wish she had chosen to spend more time reflecting on the fascinating premise of a world without women. As it is, Ethan's background certainly informs his character and motivations, but he spends most of the book away from home, and we mostly learn about Athos's culture in a rather second-hand manner during the main narrative. One of the things I like best about this series is Bujold's female perspective, brought to this most male-dominated of genres. Not telling us more about Athos and its history seems like a missed opportunity in this respect. What's here is certainly compelling to contemplate, but my curiosity is unsatisfied.

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