Monday, June 27, 2022

Star Surgeon, by Alan E. Nourse (author), Scott D. Farquhar (narrator)

LibriVox, June 2007 (original publication 1959)

Dal Timgar wants to be a surgeon. He's dreamed of it most of his life, and he has the intelligence and the discipline to do it.

Unfortunately, he's a Garvian, an alien, humanoid, but not human. No non-human has ever studied medicine on Hospital Earth; Dal is the first. And he's mostly not welcome.

When Earth developed a faster than light space drive, they also discovered a thriving Galactic Federation, composed of myriad different races. Each of them contributes some particular talent or achievement. Dal's race, the Garvians, are merchants, and especially good at managing people.

Earth's specialty is medicine. Since having a valued specialty is the price of full admission to the Galactic Federation, Earth, now "Hospital Earth," is determined to protect the reputation of its doctors and medical technology. 

Dal Timgar gained admission to medical school, and has graduated. He's ready for his first assignment on a patrol ship, the assignment all young doctors must complete successfully before getting full recognition as doctors in their chosen specialties. But there is opposition to Dal getting his assignment; there has been from the beginning. Have failed to stop his admission, they try to stop him at this point--and he achieves a highly conditional victory. He gets his assignment, but with conditions and with one of his teammates chosen by his biggest enemy.

Frank, a.k.a "Tiger" Martin is the Green Doctor, the internal medicine specialist, and a friend of Dal's from early in medical school. Dal is the Red Doctor, the surgeon. The Blue Doctor, the diagnostician, is Jack Alvarez, the choice of Dal's most determined enemy, and very hostile to Dal's presence in the medical service, never mind on the same ship.

This is a book that takes on racism, including structural racism, pretty directly, but also with grace. Jack's racism is obvious. Tiger, with the best of intentions, and loyalty to his friend, has an inclination to be a rather bull-headed "White Knight" savior, which Dal finds neither welcome nor helpful.

These three young men have to find a way to work together, while confronting some serious challenges on worlds Hospital Earth, and even the Galactic Federation, haven't been in contact with before. They all have a lot to learn. Aside from Jack's desire to find something that will disqualify Dal, and Tiger wanting to charge in and save Dal when there's a problem, Dal has his own temptations. He has a companion, a symbiote, and it's very, very useful. It's one of the things that makes Garvians such successful traders. And it would be extremely unethical for Dal to use it to help him in his difficulties with humans--at least according to the ethics he's learned on Earth. Will he resist? Will he succumb to temptation?

This is an enjoyable book, with decently drawn characters, and real growth in those characters, including the ones one might not be tempted to think of as good guys

It's not as good or exciting as I thought when I was racing through all the science fiction in the library in the 1960s, but it is good, and satisfying, and making thoughtful points I didn't consciously notice as a kid.


It's available free as an audiobook on LibriVox, and as an ebook on Project Gutenberg, and I am reviewing it voluntarily.

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