Isolated from the galactic community by distance and a lack of exploitable resources, the Athosians have peacefully lived their peculiar social experiment for two hundred 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.
©1986 Lois McMaster Bujold; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I read, I write; I listen
I have read all of the Vorkosigan series and I almost let this one go becasue there was no Miles; that would have been a huge mistake. This story is great!
Set in Buold's universe, Ethan comes from the male only world of Athos where woman are stricly forbidden. Having no woman on the planet they must replensih the population by two methods: recruits and uterine replicators. Since not many males are willing to come to Athos they rely heavily on the former method. Ethan's job is to bring heathty new baby boys into the world and when the good supply of ovarian tissue becomes nearly depleted, it becomes his assignment to go out into the universe and procure more.
Once off world he comes face to face with the first woman he had ever seen; Elli Quinn.
Louis bujold writes with her usuall mastery and I can't imagine anyone reading her books other than Grover Garner.
The absence of Miles Vorkosigan in this installment of the Vorkosigan series was not as ruinous as I had at first feared. On the contrary, the story was just as intriguing and witty as the others in the series.
In a previous review an audible listener seemed to take offense at the word "peculiar" being used to describe the lifestyle on the planet Athos, even going as far as to accuse the writer of being homophobic. Completely ridiculous - an entire planet of men that are scared to death of women (forcing them to have to procreate using 200 yr old uterine cultures) is a bit peculiar no matter what your view on homosexuality is. Being forced to be homosexual (like all the men of Athos) is quite peculiar indeed. Nevertheless, great concept and great writing. Bujold never fails to amaze me with her creativity and wit. The entire series is worth your next few month's worth of audible credits.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
Ethan fits very nicely into the Vorkosigan series though not at the beginning, even though this was the first of the books to be published. If you delight in the wit, wisdom and tight plotting of Bujold's masterful Vorkosigan stories, you will be pleased with this piece despite the fact that Miles never appears directly in the narrative.
LMB is entirely original, consistently surprising the reader with her inventiveness while remaining unerringly consistent in her rendering of a very complex and fascinating world and a marvelous cast of characters. In addition, her stories are always deeply human, based on problems which rise naturally and honestly from the motivations, confusions, fears and aspirations which we all share. Happily she does this without wallowing in turgid inner monologues, maintaining instead a light and entertaining style which is never far from a smile or a chuckle. As a result, there is always a lot more wisdom present in her writing than we notice at first blush.
This is one of TWO books of Lois Bujold that I think are her very best work. The other being "Falling Free". (note that I really enjoy all of her books) I noted that one reviewer objected to the phrase "strange perversion" or something which pertained to the All Male Colony of Athos. this is like objecting to and wishing to eliminate the n-word from the works of Mark Twain in the theory that it is not politically correct. and like Twain, Ms. Bujold gives her characters life and meaning BEYOND the stereotypical. Making such stereotypes nonsensical. Ethan is a sympathetic character who is trying to help his home cope with serious problems. To do this, he travels into the unimaginable and terrifying Galaxy where not only is he a stranger in a strange land, but he has to deal with those difficult and dangerous FEMALES! Of whom he is terrified because of the militant evangelical fervor with which his home world denounces them as creatures with unimaginable powers and hidden abilities to destroy a man! they may be right! I would Be FASCINATED to hear the back story about Athos! Why are they so repulsed by Women? What happened to their founders to cause them to create a planet where women are forbidden? And how is this so very different from the world of Barrayar and it's nearly pathological anti Female military? And how much of our OWN prejudices does this reveal!
I want BACK STORY! I want MORE INFORMATION DAMMIT!
I really love this book. It is fascinating and fun. Bujold at her very best. Only Falling Free may be better!
I adore British literature from the Victorian Age through World war II, primarily, and fantasy, but also enjoy mysteries once in a while.
I adore Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan space operas...but I put off reading this one since he doesn't appear and I just didn't think I would be as captivated. I have now listened to the Audible recording three times and find the exciting plotline completely enthralling. What charms me the most are the comedic elements. The unique storyline is equaling compelling. The narration is superb! Highly recommended...I look forward to my fourth listen in a few months time.
How would that work? Ethan of Athos, follows naturally on Cetaganda because both stories are a meditation on the nature of reproduction without sex, and the role that men, women, and sex could have in the process; what might happen if the unscrupulous get hold of the process, and so on. Of course, all Bujold's books are also liberally drenched in nail biting action, wicked plot twists, great humor, and excellent characters. We meet Ellie Quinn (sic?) again, for example. I think Bujold is incapable of producing a bad book or character, and Grover Gardner is incapable of interpreting her work with anything less than perfect pitch.
What a pleasant surprise this book was. I now wish I'd read it in order (before Brothers in Arms), but at the time I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy it or not since it didn't have Miles or any of the 'usual' characters involved. I liked Ethan and all the rest and found myself wishing the book were longer.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
The story stands alone from the "series", though there are recurring characters you'll recognize if you've read other books in the series.
The story is fast and interesting. I'm not a big fan of the "women as foreign and misunderstood" theme in it, but I suppose that's the premise of Athos. There isn't much explanation as to why Athos was made into a woman-less world (not sure how one could explain this in any sensible way) or much investigation of the issues that would arise in an all-male world but I suppose the point of the story was to see how Ethan did in the big bad world.
Ethan did alright. The story is enjoyable. There's some fighting and some mystery but no blood 'n gore or sex. I don't recall any foul language either.
The narrator is distinctive. He reads well, and doesn't over dramatize.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
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.
This was the first Vorkosigan series book I read and I regretted it. Without the background of other books in the series, it is just a fun adventure. I read this one first and did not read another for about 5 years.
That said, it is a good read if you have already read The Warrior's Apprentice. It is especially good if you have also read some of the later Miles books.
I had my doubts about this book but decided to take the plunge and was very happy I did. More Sci-Fi than Fantasy the narators voice has a wonderful twilight zone feeling to it which after a few minutes I was hooked on. The story line is interesting though it does need half an hour to get going, and the characters well-rouded. It does have hints of M/M but on a world without women what do you expect really? And most surprising of all there is actually a female character I DONT want to hit over the head! How wonderful! Try it, you'll love it.
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