Group Read 27The Big Book of Science Fiction

Story #30 of 107: “Sector General” by James White

“Sector General” was first published in the November 1957 issue of New Worlds, and is the first story in the long running Sector General series. James White would eventually produce enough short stories and novels about his galactic hospital service that would span twelve books. “Sector General” was reprinted in the first book, Hospital Station.

As far as I can remember, this is the only story I’ve read by James White. “Sector General” is long, episodic, and ends rather abruptly. Dr. Conway is an idealistic young doctor with too many preconceived notions. In the course of the story, he’s forced to change his mind several times.

Most of the story is infodumping because White wants to world build his setup. The setting is a giant space station that serves as a hospital for any kind of alien species. Doctors can quickly acquire the needed biological knowledge for each species via education tapes downloaded into their brain.

If you love Star Trek and Star Wars you’ll probably love the Sector General series, it’s another galactic civilization. The writing in “Sector General” reminded me of a Star Trek novel, where the fun seems to be learning about an ever growing fictional universe.

“Sector General” did not work for me, although the series sounds interesting. It reminds me of other doctors in space stories by Murray Leinster and Alan E. Nourse. I find the premise of human doctors working on alien patients to be unrealistic, but still a neat idea. White chased after too many squirrels in “Sector General.” He was obviously more excited about all the ideas that came to him rather than focusing on storytelling structure. There was content for two good stories in “Sector General” if they had been worked out properly.

Rating: ***

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James Wallace Harris, 10/16/21

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