A fascinating story about a man seeing the larger galaxy outside his isolated world. Ethan of Athos, although usually listed as the seventh book in the Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold, only briefly alludes to Miles Vorkosigan. It is really a story about Ethan, a young doctor responsible for reproduction on Athos, a very isolated world which is composed solely of men. The vast majority of men there have never even seen a picture of a woman, let alone had any contact with one. In some ways, the plot reminds me of a young Amish man undergoing Rumspringa, the time the youth are encouraged to live outside their community before they make their adulthood commitment. The book is written in the style of a Science Fiction Mystery.
Briefly, the Athosians use uterine replicators to reproduce. The ovum stock they have been using is over two hundred years old—from when the planet was originally settled—and is beginning to fail. Ethan sends for new stock off world, but instead receives miscellaneous waste tissue. Another Athos off world contact is not scheduled to take place for another year. Ethan is forced to leave Athos in search of ova to use to replenish their stock. In his quest, Ethan is befriended by Elli Quinn, a member of the Dendarri Mercenaries founded by Miles Vorkosigan. He also gets mixed up in the life of Terrence Cee, a man seeking refuge.
Bujold wrote Ethan of Athos before she began to publish the books that would later become the Vorkosigan Series. While Elli has much of the same spunk of Miles and his mother Cordelia, the book has a much more philosophical tone than some of the others in the series. It explores homosexuality and looks at motherhood in some less common ways. Even if I had never read another book before from the Vorkosigan Series, I would have enjoyed this one. It makes my respect for Bujold even stronger.