I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The familiar old SF "planet of women" chestnut is reversed in the planet of Athos — an all-male planet made possible by the invention of the uterine replicator. Ethan, drawn out of his beloved Athos by a quest, finds himself an alien in more mainstream human society, and cannot help but find women disturbing aliens as well, especially the ultra-competent, ultra-beautiful Elli.
Ethan of Athos is Lois McMaster Bujold's third novel. It departs from the concerns of the Vorkosigan family to explore the ramifications of advanced biotechnology, turning many a cliché on its head along the way.
Men like writing about all-female planets, so why shouldn’t a woman write about an all-male planet, Athos? Although we don’t see too much of Athos in this novel—quite quickly it becomes apparent that Dr. Ethan Urquhart will have to leave the womb of his planet and deal with out-worlders, a scary proposition for someone who has been raised to believe that women are dangerous.
Ethan is a talented doctor, in charge of conceiving test-tube babies and establishing them in the uterine replicators that Bujold introduced earlier in her Vorkosigan saga. But the ovarian cultures that have been providing eggs for fertilization for centuries are aging and becoming unreliable. When a long awaited replacement shipment is filled with garbage, the high council on Athos is both enraged and chagrined. Someone must go to sort things out and obtain the necessary new ovarian cultures. Ethan, for a variety of reasons, draws the short straw.
For those who are seeking more adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, you may safely skip this volume. He is present only as a distant commanding officer to Elli Quinn, the first woman that Ethan meets and who helps him achieve his goals despite himself. An interesting look into the operations of prejudice and the results of sheltering away in restricted communities to avoid the people that you are prejudiced against. I personally would be very interested to see more of Athos and explore its society further. I’m sorry that Bujold didn’t produce more volumes about Ethan or his brotherhood.
Book 218 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.