The Genocidal Healer

Landed !
by James White | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0345371097 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 5/25/2019
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, May 25, 2019
I got this ex-library hardcover from Better World Books. It's another installment in the marvelous Sector General series about a huge interstellar hospital where the staff has to be able to treat beings of many shapes, sizes, and needs.

This one's told from the viewpoint of an alien, a Tarlan named Lioren, who as the story opens is attempting to reverse the decision of his trial for genocide - he wants to be punished, and everyone else is convinced that his actions were not criminal. His species is reserved and highly honor-bound, so he won't disobey direct commands and won't attempt suicide, but he dearly wants to be executed... Cue the Sector General folk, who decide that his punishment should be to work as an observer and NOT a practicing medic at the hospital. He's pretty darned desperate, poor being, but he gradually finds some interest in the trickier cases, including an aged human who's in hospice care but has already lost all interest in communicating with friends (among whom are numbered the highest-ranking medicos at the hospital), and a huge alien who refuses categorically to discuss its own planet, history, or treatment at all. Lioren's reputation and situation tends to make others feel that their own problems aren't nearly that bad, and - with some time and delicate handling - they open up to him, leading to some heart-warming scenes and some pretty dramatic reshuffling of diplomatic relations. And, yes, eventually to some thawing of Lioren's own rigid beliefs about himself.

There's a surprising note of religion here, handled well across the boundaries of so many different species - but with a suggestion that most if not all sentient species have some kind of "messiah" figure in their mythology. How this tracks to Lioren's well-considered agnostic viewpoint is part of the story, and while I think the book would have worked without that aspect, it was used to effect.

As always, White presents a vast variety of alien species - and presents many human traits as "alien" too, since we see them through Lioren's eyes. (Interestingly, while Lioren is referred to as "he" in the 3rd-person narrative, he always thinks of and refers to other beings as "it/they/them", even when aware of their genders among their own kind.) There are some wildly innovative ecosystems here, including the huge-alien species, so long-lived that procreation almost amounts to having different species spawning deep in the bodies of the vast elders. Oh, and the birdlike species that uses their needle-like beaks - with the help of specially-crafted instruments - to probe patients' bodies with speed and accuracy. (The cover-art shows this, with several other aliens pictured as well; I think Lioren is the goggles-and-multi-armed observer in the top center. It's relatively rare for SF cover-art to accurately depict scenes from the book, so I was very pleased with this one.)

Lots of humor in among the more serious issues, and a very satisfying conclusion. Love this series!

[There's a TV Tropes page on the series, with some entertaining tidbits.]

The series, in order of publication:

Hospital Station
Star Surgeon
Major Operation
Ambulance Ship
Sector General
Star Healer
Code Blue - Emergency
The Genocidal Healer
The Galactic Gourmet
Final Diagnosis
Mind Changer
Double Contact

Released 9 mos ago (5/21/2020 UTC) at Little Free Library, College Ave. in Manchester, New Hampshire USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I left this book in the Little Free Library on this beautiful day; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2020 Science Fiction challenge. ***

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