I have had these books of my shelf for almost two years. You know how kids eat, where they save the best for last? These books have been my mental dessert through moving, and school, and… all sorts of mental and physical upheaval. It’s been one year since I came to Ohio, and it has been a good year. My dear First Reader and I are no less in love than the day we got home. My books are unpacked, and added to, and still, I kept looking at these books and thinking “I wish I had time.”
This last week I was sick, and finally made time. I pulled the James White books off the shelf, looked at them, determined that while Alien Emergencies comes first in the scheme of the omnibus collections I own, I didn’t have the first book (yet, has been ordered) so I started with General Practice. Two novels in one cover, Code Blue-Emergency and The Genocidal Healer, this was everything I had hoped for since the impulse purchase at my favorite used book store.
I grew up the daughter of a medic. Dad was one of the first Paramedics in the states, and for thirty years, I knew the radio tones, the mad dash for the truck, and the spray of gravel as he ran to save a life, catch a baby, or whatever had sparked that call. He at times had to be certified to fight fires, and it was during routine certification for ice rescue that they discovered his enlarged heart, and medically retired him. I always wanted to follow in his footsteps, but I waited too long. Emergency medicine is by and large a young person’s game, physically challenging. Also, with the prospect of supporting alone four children, I couldn’t justify a job with little pay. Reluctantly, I gave it up.
Which has nothing to do with the book, except that medicine in fiction is something I usually enjoy very much… if it is well done. And this is supremely well done. In the first half of the book we are introduced to Cha Thrat, an alien surgeon who took on the risk of saving a badly injured human, a species she had never even seen before, and what happens to her as she comes to Sector General, the vast space-station hospital. As an introduction to that, it is an excellent place to start. Cha Thrat as a character is fascinating, as are the other aliens she comes to know, some of whom appear in the next book as well.
I’m not going to spoil the story. You will cheer on the alien as she struggles to adjust to being away from home, adjust to various genders or lack thereof (yes, I know this is a sore topic right now, but trust me when I say that White does it well, delicately, and with real purpose to the story, not a message stick up it’s arse). The scenarios are interesting, the care is oddly realistic.
The second half of the book, the second novel, is more about the workings of a mind. Not so very alien, here. I can see a human of great honor reacting to the idea that he had been responsible for the wholesale death of a species by his hasty reactions. This book is less about medicine, and more about psychology. It’s still excellent, and I really liked the last line.
Need I say more? I highly recommend this book, and the others in the series. I will be tracking down the ones I don’t already own.
This, this is what classic Science Fiction ought to be. A sense of wonder, heroes you can root for, great characters, and a whole universe to explore!