Why I read it: I’m continuing my Vorkosigan series listen and this one was next. Or I’d skipped it. The reading order is somewhat fraught I must say. In any event, it’s kind of a tangent from the rest of the series so it fit where I was up to well enough.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Dr. Ethan Urquhart, an obstetrician on a planet forbidden to women, is Chief of Biology at the Severin District Reproduction Center and one of the busiest men on the planet Athos. Then a mysterious genetic crisis threatens Athos with extinction. Drafted to brave the wider universe for his cloistered fellows in quest of new ovarian tissue cultures, Ethan braces himself for his first encounter with those most alien of aliens–females of his own species.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): As is usually the case with books from the Vorkosiverse, I didn’t bother to read the blurb before diving in. So I had no expectations at all except that very likely Miles would not appear in this one given the title. (I was correct.)
Ethan is a doctor at the Reproduction Centre in the Severin District on Athos. It quickly becomes apparent that Athos is a very unusual place – there are no females on it. At all. The babies are all created from sperm donations from the male inhabitants who have earned sufficient “social credits” to be a father and ovarian tissue which is cultured to create egg cells. Once fertilised via an IVF-like procedure, the fetuses are gestated in uterine-replicators (just like the one in which Miles spent the latter part of his gestation).