Tales of Sector General (Sector General, #9-11)

By James White

Rating: 4 stars

This omnibus collects the penultimate three volumes of the Sector General series – The Galactic Gourmet, Final Diagnosis and Mind Changer. These three books continue White’s theme in his later books of getting away from Sector General itself in one form or another.

The first deals with the arrival at the hospital of Gurronsavas, the greatest chef in the galaxy, (a Tralthan FGLI) to become the chief dietitian. The first half or so has Gurronsavas settling into life at Sector General and finding interesting ways to make the food better for some of the more exotic life forms. Obviously, things go horribly wrong, and in the second half, he’s hiding out on the ambulance ship Rhabwar and involved in trying to help a fallen civilisation on a planet that mostly refuses help. This book continues the fine James White tradition of having aliens as protagonists and very few humans, something which I’ve always enjoyed (I’m still tickled pink by the description of Pathologist Murchison, described in detail in earlier books as a particularly voluptuous woman, as the one with yellow fur on its head and the ridiculous, functionless protrusions growing from the front of its thorax).

Final Diagnosis is the first Sector General book to be told from the point of view of a patient. The patient also happens to be an Earth human and starts of as quite xenophobic – something that the inhabitants (both staff and patients) of the hospital soon wean him off. There’s much more of a medical mystery about this one, and it involves the patient having to work with staff, going right up to diagnostician level (Conway from the earlier books gets a walk-on part here) to figure out his illness.

The final book, Mind Changer is the one that I’m most ambivalent about. The protagonist here is O’Mara, Sector General’s irascible chief psychologist. I always enjoyed O’Mara’s appearances in previous books, but I didn’t necessarily like the idea of getting into his own head and seeing what makes him tick, even if that does give a way to do flashbacks to the early days of the hospital. This book sees O’Mara promoted, on his way to retirement, and this gives us a look into his head, as he mulls over his options and thinks about the situations that got him to where he is today. One of the things I liked about him was that he was inscrutable, and usually a plot device to nudge the plot in the direction of where it needed to be, so the idea of deconstructing O’Mara is a bit odd. It does work though, and still feels like a Sector General book.

As I’ve said when talking about other Sector General books, I’ve always loved these gentle, non-violent space operas where wars are treated as police action and the vast majority of species work together, exemplified in this great hospital – this shining beacon in space, telling all that we have more in common than what divides us, whether the “us” is a basic oxygen breathing DBDG or a telepathic VXTM that exists from the direction absorption of radiation.

Book details

ISBN: 9780739401590
Publisher: Science Fiction Book Club
Year of publication: 1999

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URL

Powered by WordPress