Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Ethan of Athos


Ethan of Athos will probably be the first and only time I'll ever root for a society that thinks women are demonic. So seriously, kudos to Bujold on that one.

The basic premise: Athos is a planet that was founded by a group of men who wanted to escape from women completely. They founded the planet and organized it based on a religion that is basically Christianity but with all of the "women are the source of sin" stuff amped up to one million. The men reproduce with uterine replicators, and the plot of the book is that their ovarian cultures are dying and one of their doctors must go out into the wide world (of women) and find more.

Trust me, I have no idea why the very nature of the book didn't have me wanting to chuck it across a room. When I wrote out that paragraph I was like, "but, wait, what?" Because nothing in there is false, that is the plot of the book. The Ethan of the title basically ends up embroiled in a ridiculous galactic conspiracy through no fault of his own, and is constantly being saved by a really awesome woman named Elli Quinn. Figuring out the conspiracy is half the fun, so I won't go into it too much.

But basically, even though Ethan of course figures out that not everything his religion taught him was correct, he doesn't suddenly go "OMG, I want to sleep with this chick!" There's no transformation of meeting the right woman, he's gay and perfectly comfortable with that (not that he knows any different, really, but that's not the point). I thought that was a nice change of pace, and that was the main reason I didn't want Ethan to figure out everything was wrong and lead Athos back to the ways of heterosexuality.

The only qualm I had with the book is it suffered from Sci-Fi Naming Syndrome, if only a mild case. There were two or three planet names in the book that I could never pronounce even for cash, and every time the name came up it made me completely stall for a second before my eyes passed over it, my brain still trying to figure out what it was. Seriously writers, don't get weird with your names unless they only happen once! And even then, you still probably shouldn't.

In general, Ethan of Athos is a good hard sci-fi comedy. Which doesn't sound like a genre that exists, but it's definitely hard sci-fi, and it's definitely funny just as often as it's full of action, so there you go. I recommend it to people who like sci-fi, like stories about sexuality or gender politics, and people who enjoy a good laugh that still makes you think.

Side note: ignore the covers, they're apparently all terrible. The one I have doesn't even fit the book, I think they got it mixed up at the cover factory.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having read the book, what were the names that you couldn't pronounce?

Elizabeth said...

It was the two main factions, Bharaputra House and Cetagandan. Which don't seem that hard when I take the time to type them out just now, but they're still, IMHO, too many syllables and not easy enough to just say and move on. It really halts the cadence of the sentence every time they showed up.

Again, just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I can see that. I guess I've gotten used to them so they don't seem that difficult to me any more.