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StarDoc by S. L. Viehl

Review by Jojo

StarDoc by S. L. Viehl wasnít my first attempt at SF stuff - that honor belongs to Julian Mayís Pliocene Exiles series, of which Iíve read two and started the third. StarDoc was, however, my most recent attempt in Operation Open More Reading Options. The fact of the matter is, I enjoy SF movies. I really, really do - when they have a good story. Story is all important. So, with minor reservations and high hopes, I settled into StarDoc.

The World
StarDoc opens up on Terra (Earth) but quickly moves to Kevarzangia Two (K2), a planet just starting to be colonized, on the edge of its galaxy. K2 is inhabited by some 7 million sentient creatures, and humans are in the minority. It should be noted that, though humans have been a part of inter-space colonization for some time, humans from earth are very conservative in their procedures. Comparatively few choose to live off-world, and no non-Terrans are allowed to settle on Terra. As a result, the general view of other aliens is that humans are bigoted jerks.

The Characters
This book is told from first person point of view, so for the whole of the book we see things through the eyes of one Doctor Cherijo Grey Veil, a Terran physician who is fleeing her world - most especially her father, Doctor Joe Grey Veil.

We also meet an assortment of wonderful characters, from Dheen, the pilot that took Cherijo off Terran, to Dr. Mayer, Cherijoís new boss, from Ana, the administrator who is assigned to her settling into the planet, to Alunthri, the large, walking, talking, clearly sentient Ďpetí that has petitioned a number of times to be declared sentient and gain its freedom. And then thereís ::sigh:: Kao, the Jorenian - big, blue, and honorable - as well as Duncan Reeves, chief linguistic and empathist.

The secondary characters and space fillers add to the book - so many shapes, sizes and forms. A book teeming with non-human creatures, many of which were humanoid, was bound to suck me right in.

The Plot
Is fairly straight-forward. Cherijo learns of a horrible secret regarding her parent, Dr. Joseph Grey Veil. Shocked and repulsed by this, Cherijo flees to a far away planet. Sheís accepted there based on her credentials (at the time of the story, sheís already been a practicing physician for seven years or so) and based on the fact that the only FreeClinic in K2 is sorrowfully understaffed.

Once there, she is bombarded with a load of trying situations as all main characters should be, that test and try her again and again. She faces prejudices based on her extraordinary abilities as a physician and on her humanness. As time goes by, her fatherís desire to have her returned to Terra grows more obvious. From galaxies away, he is able to use his influence to make life harder and harder for her, until....

Well, no. Thatís what reading the book is for ;)

The Grade
I loved this book. Part of my curiosity in it was piqued by a really negative review over at Amazon.com, which claimed that this book made little sense. Cherijo is faced with alien physiology that she has no experience with and yet sheís able to save many lives. While this is true, she does actually study such things in her off time. Furthermore, I feel that itís explained fairly well why she is so special, why sheís able to do some of these things.

Another quibble was that it come across time and again that men are jerks. Iíll admit that the more hostile of the creatures we come across - from far from humanoid to human - it tends to be the males that give her the most hassle. Perhaps Iím making assumptions that arenít there, but it comes across to me rather that the male population vastly outnumbers that of the female population on K2. Most of the people we come across are male. With that in mind, I think it fits in nicely. And not all the men were jerks. There were quite a few lovely ones....

I really adored this book. It was a nice light read, with some very touching scenes, that stole my day from me yesterday.

Four amulets out of five.

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