Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ethan of AthosDr. Ethan Urquhart is a reproduction specialist on his planet, Athos. Athos is unique in that it was settled as and still is only populated by males. All their babies are nurtured and born in in uterine replicator machines. They have used genetics and off world eggs and human tissue to produce their sons.
Something is very wrong with their last order. Part of the batch is ruined. All of the original purchase has been replaced with inferior product, even cow ovaries. There is no viable tissue in the shipment at all. Ethan is sent as a doctor and a diplomat of Athos to Kline Station, the space station that is the last stop before their shipments come to the planet.
As soon as he arrives, Ethan is caught up in…something. First a woman (a woman!), Commander Elli Quinn, approaches him, then he is kidnapped, tortured, and questioned, escapes with Quinn and hides out in her quarters for a week or two, then… Everything is new and different from Athos. Somehow, in his quest for good tissue and eggs for reproduction, Ethan has stumbled into a situation of stolen experiments and espionage. Quinn is a mercenary trying to get the research and experiments from the Cetagandians who captured and tortured Ethan. He is out of his depth and has to rely on Quinn’s help.
Ethan of Athos is quick paced and cute. The intelligent doctor is suddenly a hick when he gets into a different society. His is a planet of farmers and agriculture – with no women to distract the men or lead them to sin. Kline Station is a cross roads of cultures, spies, thieves, and sexes.
The missing ingredient from Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel is Miles Vorkosigan. Quinn works for Admiral Naismith, Mile’s alter ego, but he never appears in Ethan of Athos. Instead Bujold uses Ethan’s naivete and power to keep the story going. While a likeable book, Ethan of Athos fits into the Vorkosigan saga but doesn’t shine in it.