Visions of Paradise

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hospital Station

Recently Tor Books has republished all of James White’s Sector General books in trade paperback omnibus editions, and the books have gotten generally good reviews, so I decided to try the first volume.

The original stories in the series were novelettes published in New Worlds and New Writings in SF, then gathered in book form as Hospital Station. Each novelette is set on a huge floating hospital which serves the entire galaxy in the distant future. Three races, including humans, dominate galactic affairs, but the hospital serves all races, including some so minor that nothing is known about their members until one of them shows up at the hospital needing immediate attention.

The hero of all the stories except the first one is a human doctor named Conway who serves as an emergency room doctor, usually assisted by another doctor or nurse from a non-human race. The plot of each story is similar: a patient from an obscure alien race arrives, and Conway struggles to learn enough about its biology to save its life. These stories are basically mysteries, except rather than dealing with crimes and violence they deal with illnesses and cures. Since I strongly dislike reading about the former, I enjoyed White’s approach much better.

Keep in mind that since all the stories deal with alien beings, the resolutions to the mysteries–that is, Conway’s cures–walk a fine line between legitimate solutions and deus ex machina. Fortunately, White tries really hard to be honest to his setup and his clues, and even when he crosses the line a bit, his stories are still interesting reading.

Novelette was a good length for these stories, since the repeated format might have grown boring at novel-form (although I will likely find out for myself since the next two-thirds of the first omnibus are novels). Overall, although basically puzzles at heart, the stories were enjoyable reading, a change of pace from more “serious” reading.


  • Well, shucks. I can't comment over on Out of the Depths so I'll do it here. I just wanted to say good luck on the new school year. I remember being excited at the start of a new year but that's a long time past. I, too, wanted to be a writer so I quit the edication business as soon as I qualified for retirement, which was in '82 when I was aged 52. And I wasn't very good. I wrote several fantasies as a ghost writer and they made me good money. Then I wrote a veeerrry long fantasy, and on my own, I could not get an agent. Then wrote a couple of westerns, one of which sat for a year at a publishers, waiting for publication. Instead the publisher folded. So much for our writing careers. But you are obviously a good teacher and well-liked by your students. So say Amen to that. As you well know, not all teachers are good nor are they liked. You should feel youirself successful. So have a great year, even with the Statistics class. One of my worst classes in college, by the way.

    By Blogger Frank Denton, At 8:24 PM  

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