Review: Space Doctor

Awhile back I had discovered James White’s Sector General books and reviewed them on the blog. In comments afterward, Lee Correy’s Space Doctor was recommended. I should fill in some background. My dad was in emergency medicine all my life that I can remember. As a paramedic, EMT, and sometimes fireman, he was usually on a volunteer squad when we moved to a new location. I grew up reading his textbooks and being taught first aid, later taking first responder classes and search-and-rescue training. I know what is demanded of a response in wilderness settings, and the concepts behind Space Doctor were all the more interesting to me against that backdrop.

This is a hard science fiction book, but not unapproachable, I found it a fun read without long info-dumps (which can be a failing of Hard SF). Correy goes into the necessary details of planning, and constructing, a small but fully operational hospital on a space station. I really enjoyed this part, and the emergencies sprinkled through the book that illustrate the needed equipment – and sometimes the shortfalls of it. The author’s background shows, here, and leads me to believe I can trust it to be as accurate as possible given that we aren’t already in space. Anyone who works in industry will get a groan and laugh out of the busybody bureaucrat who works for ISHA and tries to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

The characters are not fully developed, but they are sketched vividly enough to let the reader fill in the blanks. Although I love characters, I was satisfied with what I was given. Other than the main doctor, we don’t see into the other characters heads, filling in emotions and motivations through deductions. There is a plot, which was the First Readers question when I was telling him that it is hard SF.

Interspersed with story are entries from the doctor’s personal journal. This passage reminded me very much of why a certain brand of dark humor exists among men who see death, maiming, and horrible things on a regular basis. I am very familiar with it from my father, and the First Reader’s veteran military version.

I know there’s a change taking place in me; my sense of humor’s coming back. Maybe the Greeks were right after all; they maintained that the purpose of humor is to preserve one’s perspective. On the other hand, how does that jibe with the humor of a pratt fall? (No pun intended.) Or ‘gallows humor”? Have to think about that sometimes.

Near the end of the book I discovered a quote that fit very well with yesterday’s posed question of “are women human?” and the answer that we are all individuals. I just had to share it – and then laughed at myself, for complaining aloud that unlike an ebook, I can’t simply press a button and create a bookmark or highlight a passage. I had to get up and go find a pencil (yes, I wickedly mark the margins and underline passages in my best beloved books) and a post-it to flag the page for later. I’ve been spoiled!

This should reinforce what I was taught: People can and usually do react differently from individual to individual. Homo sapiens Mark One Model One is a generalization. There’s something know ans a Gaussian distribution, the bell-shaped curve. It gives us headaches occasionally, but better the bell curve than total equality that narrows the curve to a single point on the graph. We don’t need to worry. Not even our mass-produced machines can avoid the statistical reality of the Gaussian distribution. Why should we try to shoehorn humanity into a single point on the graph when the universe is constructed differently? There’s no such thing as “equality” in the universe, or in –

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and can recommend it if you enjoy science fiction and medicine. If you haven’t yet tried James White, by all means do so. I would also recommend David Burkhead’s EMT, which is set on a new Moonbase, and is hard SF in a short-story setting.


One response to “Review: Space Doctor”

  1. Mark Robinson Avatar
    Mark Robinson

    Thanks for the review. It brought this book to my attention; I’ve read other of Mr. Correy’s works (Manna, Shuttle Down), but had somehow missed this one. No longer, as a copy jut arrived in the mail today. Looking forward to a good read!