Medical SF from the early 60s

Hospital Station (Sector General, #1)
by James White

Medical science fiction. A massive hospital in space, catering to a multitude of aliens with different needs.

“Each section has a different atmosphere and habitat to cater for the many different species… how to design a spacesuit for a surgeon with eight legs?“

A bit very dated and conservative in terms of gender roles. Human characters are male, all aliens are „it“. Eventually a female nurse is mentioned and pursued by the MC in the off. Bizarrely she is not really considered a person nor a member of the staff. Very odd. It made me wonder about the personal life of the author, it feels very immature. Or just very, very old-fashioned, even for the early sixties. If you can get past that, this is an entertaining enough read.

Conway, the MC of all but the first story, is a doctor on the station. He generally does not show a lot of respect or trust for his fellow humans and alien colleagues, does not communicate well with others and is pretty worried about his own career and sense of importance. Not a very likable fellow. 

The lack of communication and withholding of information feels like a gadget to increase suspense. Something seen a lot in contemporary romcoms, where I also don‘t like it. There is also quite a bit of information sharing happening in the off, leaving the reader in the dark. Not very satisfying.

I read somewhere that the author was a pretty influential figure in SF in his time, although he did not win any major awards, as far as I can tell. There is definitely a Hard SF vibe going on. It shows in the different habitats he describes in his hospital. The whole thing is a little dry though. I had hoped for more emotions and drama, more ER and House, M.D. in Space… there is plenty of action with all kinds of odd aliens, but it all remains a little one-dimensional.

Read as part of the omnibus Beginning Operations. The individual parts seem to be collections of novellas and shorter works, that were bundled into books eventually. I am pretty sure that I will continue with the omnibus, as I am interested to see how the author and his style will develop.

Still to read: Star Surgeon, copyright © 1963, and Major Operation, copyright © 1971.

Further reading: Murray Leinster’s Med Ship series was mentioned somewhere.