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on 23 April 2012
Now this is interesting; although this is most definitely a story in the Vorkosigan universe, we are not with our usual protagonist or situation; this is a side jaunt, if you will. In fact, readers who have picked up Bujold's 'Falling Free' will find a similar feeling with this novel.

This time around, our main character is the titular doctor, a member of a male-only society that reproduces using cloned ovarian tissues. When their stocks of female material become unviable, Ethan is chosen to go out into the universe to retrieve some more in order to vouchsafe the future of his planet.

As opposed to the self-assured, charismatic Miles Vorkosigan, Ethan is an endearingly timid and naive protagonist, who finds himself hopelessly out of his depth on a strange space station. When his mission goes drastically wrong, and he finds himself caught up in something much bigger, he is even forced to accept the help of... A WOMAN.

Said woman is Elli Quinn, a minor character from Miles's early career, now a fully-realised and delightfully snarky presence. She manages to aid the hapless Ethan while exasperating and confounding him; their interplay is frankly the highlight of the book, and makes what could be quite a flimsy plot into a highly enjoyable journey.

Ethan of Athos might not be a particularly important installment in the overall Vorkosigan saga, but it is a touching and well-written self-contained story in its own right.
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on 5 January 2001
Ethan of Athos is a very pleasant addition to Bujold's 'Vorkosigan' books. It takes a bit of a side route from her main timeline, concentrating instead on Elli Quinn and one of her adventures while working for the Dendarii Mercenaries.
The idea of an all-male society (only possible with advanced technology) is well explored, as is the culture clash when a member of this society (Ethan) has to deal with that most mysterious entity - a woman.
This however, is merely one thread of an amusing, engaging plot involving interplanetary espionage, genetics, space station life and eels (yes, eels - I won't spoil the plot by explaining them).
If you've never read any Bujold, but you like quality writing and convincing characters, this is a great book to start on, with very little 'past history' to deal with. If you've read and liked anything else by her, you should enjoy this book.
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on 24 March 2003
This is a very good story, well plotted with a sympathetic hero who is out-of-the-ordinary. The atypical swaggering hero, he is the casual everyday-Joe who is caught up in events beyond his knowledge. Happily he is, unbeknownst to him, benignly guarded by Elli Quin, of the Dendarii Mercenaries.
Better yet, this story is well written. It is set in the future universe of Miles Vorkosigan (of which there is a whole series) where uterine replicators free men from the shackles of women - at least for a few centuries before senescence proves the nature of genetics is female.
It covers lightly but incisively homosexuality-homophobia, and the everyday-Joe, and the rights to freedom, and commercial exploitation. It also includes spies and espionage, and urban tactical warfare, and conflict within an enclosed urban area.
If it all sounds like heavy-going reading in a science-fiction space-opera novel, then it's obvious that you haven't picked up a Lois McMaster Bujold book _ever_! She writes her stories so well that your imagination can produce a movie from the sketches of her words.
Buy this book and read it! I won't regret it.
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The plot (without spoilers): The male-only planet of Athos is running out of genetic stock, and so Dr Ethan is sent out into the wild (and woman-infested) universe to, um, stock up. This being Bujold, endless complications ensue, in a labyrinthine but logical way, and with interesting characters, not good and evil but shades of these... Commander Elli Quinn, of Miles Vorkosigan's Dendarii Mercenaries, is on a solo mission and intersects with Dr Ethan: with surprising consequences for all concerned.

My opinion: like junk food, Bujold is very addictive - but her output is much too smart, funny and wise to be junk lit. These are good books! Very easy to read, re-readable every few years, tense, puzzling, with a sustained universe (the Vorkosigan Saga, of which this is a 1986 off-shoot) and very 3-dimensional characters. Junk food for smart people with a sense of humour, I would say (rather smugly, but there you go). Recommended! 9/10
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on 12 August 2011
This is a typically exciting story with the added interest of an exploration of the implications of the available technology.

Uterine replicators, which allow a fetus to develop outside its mother, were introduced in "Shards of Honour" having been invented on Beta Colony some two hundred years earlier to help with medical emergencies. On the wealthier planets no babies gestate in the old fashioned way.

Athos was settled by the Founding Fathers not long after the uterine replicator was invented. They brought ovaries, replicators and men and have created a society without the source of all evil: women. Unfortunately, the original ovaries are deteriating and must be replaced. The first attempt the purchase new ovaries online is a failure and a doctor, Ethan, must go out into the galaxy to inspect the product before purchase. We have both the excitement of the plot he finds himself within and the amusement of Ethan's difficulties in meeting - its the correct medical term and one should not be embarrased to use it - women.
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on 30 March 2013
Ethan is a young man looking to get ahead in life and start a family when his career hits a problem: the fertility clinic where he works is running out of viable eggs. And the obvious solution of asking for or buying new donations is impossible as Athos has no women and is isolationist to boot (we're told that they have religious reasons for this, but the book doesn't go into this). So when the purchase goes wrong (they receive a pile of biological waste instead of eggs) Ethan is sent to proquire replacements. Of course he will be rewarded for this if only he can resist the evil siren call of... women.

Given the gynophobic nature of Athos, naturally the first person Athos runs into is Eli Quinn (on a mission from Miles, though at first we're just told that she's visiting her "Home Planet", Kline Station). After she rescues Ethan from an assassination attempt, she acts as a sort of native guide for the naive Ethan and they are drawn into a world of Cetagandan spies, Jackson Hole enforcers and telepathic agents.

While this is a rather disposable book in the grand sweep of the Vorkosigan series (there is a reference to the goings on here in, I believe, "Cetaganda", but it otherwise has almost zero impact on events elsewhere), it does have some suitably "Bujoldian" touches. Women are referred to (on Athos, at least) as "Uterine Replicators with Legs" and Athos is one of the few planets where childcare costs are fully accounted for (a cynic - especially a female cynic - might comment that when a men have to bear the costs of bringing up a baby, of course they fully account for childcare costs). Kline Station's "Hat" is "terrified of (xeno-)biological infections", which results in a scene where Eli in a suitably "Milesian" moment brings the wrath of Kline Station down on a Cetagandan agent by accusing him of having an STD.

Overall, it'll keep you amused for a couple of hours but isn't exactly a "Must Read".
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on 10 April 2011
Don't start this one thinking Miles is in it. You'll only be disappointed. The little guy is mentioned quite a bit though and one of the major characters is Elli Quinn, some might remember her from The Warrior's Apprentice. The main protagonist is this chap Ethan. He lives on a male only planet inhabited by blokes who live in superstitious dread of women (otherwise known as uterine replicators with legs). The fun starts when he has to leave his home planet in search or a replacement supply of ovarian cultures to replace the failing existing cultures, without which his society can't reproduce. Due to massive culture shock (women everywhere) Ethan soon gets up to his neck in trouble. It's all quite light hearted but very amusing.
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on 14 June 2003
I quite enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, but the last 3rd let me down. The concept of an all male planet based on the idea of a monastary was well done. The Athos prejudice against women was a bit on the strong side until you consider that, after all, the planet's residents had never seen women in their life. To them, heterosexual sex would seem disgusting because they had no knowledge of it or of the female sex. To be sure, Athos isn't a planet I would ever want to be even near to, but their attitude towards women would be as natural as our attitude is toward those who are totally alien to us.
My disappointment with the latter part of the novel stems from my feeling of just plain tiring of the characters. I would still recommend it to most science-fiction readers, but not as strongly as CETAGANDA.
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on 8 February 2015
The only one of this series I just didn't care for. It fails to have any of the fun of other books in the Vorkosiverse.
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on 12 April 2016
Love it. I'm working my way through this series and will definitely go on to Bujold's other books/series.
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