James White’s “Sector General” series

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Overview
Books in the “Sector General” series
Links to Sector General-related pages

Overview:

The series is set on a huge space station which is a hospital for many intelligent species. It also includes trips by spaceship, into space and to other planets, to rescue or treat patients.

Earth at this time is part of the Galactic Federation, consisting of many planets, and many species, across the Galaxy.

The series follows the experiences of Dr Conway, faced with the task of treating patients of many different species. Some of the patients belong to species he has never seen before, which presents him with the problem of how to determine what is wrong with a being when you don’t know what is normal for it. This requires a certain amount of detective work and intuition. In between cases, Conway attempts to pursue his romance with Nurse Murchison.

Conway and Murchison eventually marry. Murchison is promoted to Pathologist, and continues to be an important character is the series, both on the hospital station and in the ambulance ship.

One influential character at the hospital is Major O’Mara, the Chief Psychologist. With his sarcastic and bullying manner, he ensures the mental health of the staff, and proper working relationships between them, which can be quite a job with the large number of medical staff at the hospital of all different species, and the types of stress they can be under.

One of Conway’s colleagues, who features significantly in the series, is Prilicla, an insect-like being with iridescent wings, from the planet Cinruss, who has empathic abilities.

A significant element in the series is the Monitor Corps, the Galactic Federation’s military organisation, which keeps peace across the Galaxy. Sector General hospital is administered by the Monitor Corps, and Major O’Mara is an officer of the Corps. It is the Monitor Corps which often locates disabled spaceships, and brings the injured beings from them to the hospital. And when the ambulance ship is put into use, it is Monitor Corps personnel who crew the ship.

When the Monitor Corps was first established, all its personnel were Earth-humans – as the Corps was established by Earth. But as time passes, non-Earth-humans are accepted into the Corps. During the main sequence of this series (chronologically from “Hospital Station” onwards), the Corps still consists predominantly of Earth-humans.

In the later books, the focus moves away from Conway to other characters, although Conway and his colleagues continue to appear in the story.

Because of the many languages spoken at the hospital, all staff have translator units, which are linked into the hospital’s Translator computer. Spaceships have similar less sophisticated computers.

The wards in the hospital are set up with the appropriate environment for the patients. The temperature, artificial gravity, and atmosphere (including underwater) are different in different wards, and the doctors often have to change into protective suits between wards.

Medical staff must learn a four-letter classification system, which is used to describe beings of all different species, and must be able to classify any being on sight. For example, Earth-humans are classified as DBDG. Prilicla’s species is classified as GLNO.

Doctors make use of Educator Tapes – especially for critical treatments such as operations. These tapes are recorded from the minds of experts to provide information on the treatment of beings of their own species. The doctor has the contents of the tape loaded into his mind, so he ‘remembers’ the information required for the treatment. A peculiar side-effect of this is that the doctor experiences the expert’s thoughts and feelings as well, including that being’s likes and dislikes for food and environment.

I found this a fascinating series, in quite a unique setting.

Books in the Sector General series:

Hospital Station (1962)
This novel collects together a number of short stories previously published.

  • Medic (1960) (Original title: O’Mara’s Orphan) [“Medic” also published in The White Papers (1996)]

This story occurs during the construction of the hospital, when O’Mara has a labouring job. O’Mara is suspected of being responsible, through negligence, for the death of two Hudlarian workers, so is waiting for the decision on his future. He is required to look after their child – a creature the size of an elephant – in his living quarters, with all the problems of feeding and cleaning it while it proceeds to wreck the place.

[The inhabitants of the planet Hudlar are here called Hudlarians, but in the rest of the series they are referred to as Hudlars.]

  • Sector General (1957)

Dr Conway is a junior intern, and has been at Sector General for two months.

He is required to treat 23 units (individuals) of a Telfi hundred-unit gesalt being, and has to take his first Educator tape, to load the recording of a Telfi mind into his own mind. But afterwards, he delays having the recording removed. He starts to feel cold and lonely, ending up lying next to an oven, and getting quite burned before he is rescued.

Conway is dismayed to discover that Major O’Mara, the Chief Psychologist, is a member of the Monitor Corps, the military organisation which keeps peace across the Galaxy.  And there are other Monitors working in the hospital. What are these military killers doing in a hospital?  But then the Monitors bring in injured combatants from a war between Earth and the Kelgians, and Conway starts to change his attitude. [This war presumably was the one intended to be described in “Occupation: Warrior”, before it was changed to a non-Sector General story.]

In another incident, a spaceship crashes into the hospital, and Conway must immobilise the occupant who is playing havoc with the hospital’s artificial gravity equipment.

  • Trouble with Emily (1958)

Conway assists a non-human medical researcher in its telepathic experiments with a dinosaur, in a huge spaceship docked with the hospital. The creature is a large brontosaurus-like creature, but from a different planet from Earth, which the technicians take to calling Emily.

  • Visitor at Large (1959) [also published in The White Papers (1996)]

Conway has a new assistant, whom he is mentoring: a junior intern called Prilicla, an insect-like being with iridescent wings, from the planet Cinruss, who has empathic abilities.

A shapechanging visitor arrives at the hospital. It is a young child of a patient in the hospital. But the visitor becomes scared with all the beings approaching it when it arrives at the air lock, and runs off causing lots of damage. Because it is able to change shape, it is difficult to capture. In the end it is up to Conway and Prilicla, and a group of Monitors to solve the situation.

(This is the first story in which Nurse Murchison appears.)

  • Out-Patient (1960)

Conway is promoted to Senior Physician.

Monitors bring in a wrecked spacecraft. On board Conway finds a patient of an unknown species. It appears to be in the shape of a doughnut, with a spreading growth on its skin. X-rays show that is it is actually curved round with its tail in its mouth, so is unable to talk to them. It becomes distressed when they attempt to treat it.

Conway suspects he knows what is wrong, but feels he can’t tell anyone. He does nothing for the patient except diagnostic tests. All the staff start to think he is failing in his duty, and just letting the patient die.

Tableau (1958) (short story) in “The Aliens Among Us” (1969)

This story has no obvious connection to Sector General, but is the forerunner to “Accident”, in the book “Sector General”. [The author possibly didn’t originally intend it to be part of the Sector General series, but linked it into the series by writing the sequel. And later Sector General stories include the Orligian species, introduced in this story.]  The main part of the story is set more than 266 years before the stories featuring Sector General hospital.

Earth is at war with the Orligians. MacEwan is in a fighter spacecraft attacking a large Orligian spacecraft. He rams the other craft, disabling both ships, although the Orligian pilot manages to land the ship (with MacEwan’s embedded in it) on a nearby planet. MacEwan is critically injured. He comes face to face with the Orligian pilot, Grulyaw-Ki. When the Orligian starts communicating with telepathic equipment, MacEwan discovers the misunderstanding which started the war.

The framing story is set 236 years later, with MacEwan having been kept in a stasis field, until his injuries could be cured. Grulyaw-Ki had also stayed within the stasis field as his companion.

[The telepathic equipment is never mentioned in the rest of the Sector General series, although such equipment would be useful. It has to be assumed that its use was discontinued, or is restricted.]

Occupation: Warrior (1959) (short story) in “The Aliens Among Us” (1969)

[The author explains in “The Secret History of Sector General” in “Ambulance Ship” that this story was originally intended as a Sector General story, but the editor thought it was too grim to be tied to Sector General, and made him delete all references to the Monitor Corps (changing them to the Stellar Guard), the Federation, Sector General Hospital and Conway. However, later the author brought the character Dermod into the Sector General novels (as a Monitor Corps Fleet commander) in “Star Surgeon” and later stories. And the Kelgians which appear in this story are one of the races in the Sector General series.]

The Guard ensure the peace of Galactic civilisation. This includes controlling how wars are conducted. Earth is about to go to war with the Kelgians – a large caterpillar-like species.

Under the Guardsmen’s oversight, inspectors from each side select the combatants from the other side. Consequently, only the weak and cowardly are chosen. The Guard hopes that they will lose heart, and hostilities will not last long, so there will not be too much loss of life. The Guard also choose the planet where the war will be waged, and what weapons and equipment is provided, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing sides.

Major Dermod is not happy with this. He sees the Guard as tyrants, ruling the Galaxy. He gets himself selected by the Kelgians, by pretending to faint at the sight of the Kelgian inspectors. And conspiring with the General, he thinks of a plan that will result in the defeat of the Kelgians, and the humiliation of the Guard.

He stirs up the troops to make them enthusiastic, and ready to kill the enemy. He trains the men, and organises an ambush of one group of the enemy. And when the Guard psychologist arrives to try to demoralise the men, he puts the Guardsman under arrest.

But things do not go to plan.

Countercharm (1960) (short story) in “The Aliens Among Us” (1969), “The White Papers” (1996)

As Senior Physician, Conway is required to take an Educator tape to operate on a patient of the crab-like Melfan species. He also has to train three Melfan doctors in the procedure, so they can assist him. Unfortunately the presence of the Melfan personality in his mind has the side-effect of making the female Melfan doctor physically attractive to him.

But then Nurse Murchison arrives to assist in the operation.

Star Surgeon (1963)

Incorporates: Resident Physician (1961) and Field Hospital (1962)

A large pear-shaped being is brought in by the Monitor Corps. It is unconscious, and has a bad skin condition. But it resists treatment. The Monitors had found some evidence that the being had had a companion – its doctor – on board its spaceship, but who is now missing. Maybe the patient had murdered its doctor.

Conway and Nurse Murchison are dating regularly at this time.

The situation with the large pear-shaped being, whose name is Lonvellin, is resolved, and it is discharged. Beings of its kind typically seek out planets to provide assistance to. Lonvellin finds a planet called Etla, inhabited by humanoids, where there is a lot of sickness. But they are also xenophobic, and they won’t let Lonvellin leave its spaceship. So Lonvellin calls in Conway and the Monitor Corps to assist, since Earth-humans are of similar appearance to the people of Etla.

Conway and the Monitor Corps investigate and treat the people of Etla. They learn that Etla is part of an Empire of 43 worlds, in a part of the Galaxy not previously explored by the Galactic Federation.

But then they discover that the government of the Empire is deliberately spreading disease on Etla. The worlds of the Empire have been making charity donations for Etla. The corrupt Imperial government has been siphoning off a lot of these funds, but they need to keep the diseases going in order to keep the donations coming in. Now the Empire perceives the Monitor Corps as a threat to this income. Conway and the Monitor Corps have to leave Etla in a hurry.

But the Empire knows the location of Sector General, and will no doubt attack. Conway is in charge of the evacuation of all patients and most of the staff. The Monitor Corps remains to defend the hospital, and make it their base. Some staff remain, including Conway, Murchison, Prilicla and O’Mara, to treat casualties from the coming war.

And the attacks commence. Conway finds himself extremely busy treating casualties. Dermod (from “Occupation:Warrior”) is the fleet commander for the Monitor Corps.

Things in Sector General become chaotic as the staff attempt to treat casualties while missiles are destroying parts of the hospital. Then the Translator computer is destroyed. The different beings at the hospital can’t communicate with each other.

Major Operation (1971)
This book collects together the previously published novelettes: Invader (1967), Vertigo (1968), Blood Brother (1969), Meatball (1966), and Major Operation (1971), and adds linking material.

  • Invader (1967)

Dr Mannen, a friend and colleague of Conway’s, makes several mistakes during an operation. Has he become incompetent in his job, or is there some environmental factor? O’Mara asks Conway to find out. He discovers that Prilicla was observing the operation, and detected a psychic echo at the time of the mistakes. It had also detected the same echo when two of the nursing staff made mistakes with the instruments. And other staff have been making unexplained mistakes. Is there some kind of disembodied intelligence affecting the staff?

But it eventually turns out that an object was inadvertently picked up from the alien planet, Meatball, by the Monitor Corps ship Descartes, and brought to the hospital. This object is a tool that changes itself to any form the user thinks of. So this tool had been taking the forms of various surgical instruments, and confusing the staff. But once they realise what is going on, the tool proves quite useful.

  • Vertigo (1968)

The Monitor Corps are anxious to contact the intelligent life on the planet Meatball, to obtain more tools of the kind from “Invader”.

They observe a primitive spacecraft taking off from the planet’s ocean, but which then appears to get into difficulties: the third stage rocket fails to separate, and the craft spins uncontrollably. They capture the craft and transfer it to Sector General: they leave it in space near the hospital station.

Conway, Prilicla and Monitor Corps Lieutenant Harrison have the job of extracting the pilot. This is difficult because of the ship’s spin. When they try to stop the spin, Prilicla reports the pilot’s feelings of distress; it must need the spin to stay alive. The craft is full of water because the pilot is a water-breather. They must get access without losing the water into space, or damaging the fragile metal hull.

When they recover the pilot, they discover that is a doughnut- shaped being, which must be constantly rolling to stay alive. On the ship it had a frame where it could continue to roll while staying in one place.

  •  Blood Brother (1969)

The doughnut- shaped being (referred to as a roller), that was rescued in “Vertigo”, is named Surreshun. However, its species are not the ones responsible for changeable tools.

Conway goes to the planet Meatball on Descartes, with Surreshun returning with him. Surreshun introduces him to the roller community in their underwater habitat.

Meatball is full of living things of all kinds, in competition with each other. Another species is a large carpet-like creature (strata creatures) covering vast areas of land. The rollers had dropped dirty atomic bombs on the strata creatures, killing them or making them sick, and messing up the planet’s ecology.

Conway attempts to find the equivalent of doctors on Meatball, and travels underwater with another roller called Camsaug. Conway is attacked by some creature, and injected with poison. But then a jellyfish-like being wraps itself around him, extracting his blood, purifying it and returning it: this species must be the doctors of Meatball.

  •  Meatball (1966)

Conway returns to Sector General on Descartes, to confer on how to address the problems of Meatball. He is accompanied by Surreshun and the jellyfish-like creature (referred to as a leech). They have not yet learned how to communicate with the leech.

The planet Meatball is now being called “Drambo”, which is the name the rollers use.

The leech causes consternation when it apparently attacks a patient being transferred by staff, but it in fact cures the patient.

Conway and the Monitor Corpsmen plan how they are going to solve Drambo’s problems – in particular the strata creatures. Conway recruits other doctors of various species to assist.

We learn in this story that Conway and Murchison are now married. Presumably they got married between the novels “Star Surgeon” and “Major Operation”. Murchison has recently qualified as a senior pathologist.

  • Major Operation (1971)

Conway is back on the planet Drambo (previously called Meatball). After some months, Murchison joins him there, in her role of pathologist.

Of the surviving strata creatures, the worst-affected is the largest, the size of a subcontinent, on a land mass of its own.

In some ways the creature is plant-like. It has a symbiotic relationship with various plants and animals. Farmer fish contribute useful plants to the strata creature’s interior, and clear away the harmful ones. The leeches (which we now know are unintelligent) perform the role of leucocytes within the creature’s body.

The creature requires surgery, which will be performed by firing missiles at it, from the Monitor ships in orbit, while using tractor and pressor beams.

However the creature feels threatened by the Earth-human intruders on the ground, and attacks them with the thought-controlled tools in the form of spinning blades. (So they have found who creates these tools.) Conway and Murchison must find some way to communicate with it.

Spacebird (1973) (short story) in “Ambulance Ship” (1980 Corgi edition), “Futures Past” (1982 Ballantyne edition)

The Monitor Corps finds a large bird-like creature in space, and brings it to the hospital. Apparently lifeless, there are some indications it is not quite dead. Was this someone’s patient, given up as a hopeless case, and dumped in space?

Custom Fitting (1976) (short story) in “Futures Past” (1988 Orbit edition), “The White Papers” (1996)

Set sometime around our own time, in Britain on Earth.

George L Hewlitt, a tailor, is approached by Mr Fox from the Foreign Office, about a commission. Fox introduces the client, a centaur-like being called Lord Scrennagle of Dutha.

Lord Scrennagle is the first extra-terrestrial to visit Earth, and is the ambassador from the Galactic Federation. He needs to have suitable clothing to present his credentials to the Queen of the United Kingdom, as well as attending an official reception. Later he would visit other heads of state.

Fox thinks a horse blanket would be sufficient. But Hewlitt wants to do a proper job. He wants Lord Scrennagle to make a good impression, and accepts the challenge: to produce proper suits of clothes (for the ambassador’s unfamiliar dimensions), for formal and casual occasions.

[At the time it was written, there would have been no obvious connection between this story and the Sector General series, except mention of the Galactic Federation, and this description is at odds with the rest of the Sector General series.

“Custom Fitting” apparently has the Galactic Federation as already existing when Earth has barely ventured into space. The novels “Emergency – Code Blue” and “The Genocidal Healer” describe the Galactic Federation as beginning as a loose association of the star-travelling cultures of Traltha, Orligia, Nidia and Earth. “Final Diagnosis” states that the Federation was established with the cessation of the Earth/Orligian war (see “Tableau”).

However, “Final Diagnosis” firmly establishes “Custom Fitting” as part of the Sector General series. The character Hewlitt in “Final Diagnosis” is a distant descendant of George L Hewlitt in “Custom Fitting”, and has inherited the business, which is now a big company. Also a Duthan (the same centaur-like species as Lord Scrennagle) appears, and the planet Dutha is mentioned, in “Final Diagnosis”.

The discrepancy about the Galactic Federation might be explained by saying that the Federation at this time is not the same one that existed later in history. Maybe the earlier Federation came to an end, or maybe it was absorbed into the later Federation, when it was reconstituted.]

Ambulance Ship (1979)

[Includes an introduction “The Secret History of Sector General”. The author tells the history of his writing of the series up to that point. An expanded version appears in “The White Papers” (1996).]

The novel includes the short stories Contagion, Quarantine, Recovery (all 1979, written for “Ambulance Ship”).

  • Contagion

The spaceship Rhabwar has been fitted out as an ambulance, to answer distress signals from spaceships.

The medical personnel assigned to the ship are Conway, Murchison, Prilicla, and the Kelgian Charge Nurse Naydrad. Captain Fletcher is the captain of the ship, and has a crew of Monitor Corpsmen.

A distress signal is received from Monitor ship Tenelphi, which had been investigating a derelict spacecraft.

Rhabwar arrives to find the crew all ill and unconscious, apparently with an infectious disease. But one crewman is missing, the ship’s doctor, Dr Sutherland. He must be on the derelict spacecraft.

The derelict is a huge generation ship. In the early days of space travel, before the hyperdrive was developed, these ships had set off from Earth for various habitable planets, expecting to take many generations to reach their destinations. After hyperdrive was developed, spacecraft went after the generation ships and rescued the occupants. But this one had gone off course and been lost. And all the occupants are now dead.

Conway and Prilicla must go on board the derelict. It is huge, so the search for Sutherland will take some time. But they must be quick, as all three ships are in danger of falling into the sun. And except for Conway, who has kept his spacesuit on since they encountered the Tenelphi, all the Earth-humans on board Rhabwar have caught the disease.

  • Quarantine

Rhabwar responds to a distress signal, and they find a spacecraft which has exploded into several pieces. The occupants, who are of a fox-like species they have not encountered before, are all dead, except for one young injured female.

They return the patient to the hospital, only to have several of the operating staff collapse, with breathing difficulties. This results in the operating theatre being quarantined, and Conway must find the cause before their life-support fails.

  • Recovery

Responding to a distress signal, the crew and medical staff of Rhabwar find an alien spacecraft. It has no visible markings, but some rough patches – including some marking out the entry hatch. Conway concludes the crew are blind.

Inside the ship they find three dead bodies. The two smaller ones are crew members. The other is a larger creature, apparently an unintelligent animal they were transporting, which got loose and killed them, but was killed by one of them.

Prilicla detects the emotional radiation of two individuals. Maybe they are one of each species. But the corridor to them is filled with bars and rods. Captain Fletcher accidentally presses a switch which sets the bars in motion; the corridor becomes something like a noisy torture chamber. They can’t get to the two beings.

Everyone starts getting headaches. Conway remembers a similar sensation when working with a telepath (in “The Trouble with Emily”), and figures out that the smaller survivor is telepathic. They manage to establish telepathic communication.

The large creature attacks – but where is the smaller creature? What they discover is surprising.

Sector General (1983)
Includes the short stories Accident, Survivor, Investigation, and Combined Operation (all 1983, written for “Sector General”.)

“Accident” is set in a time before the hospital is built. The remainder of the novel continues the adventures of Conway and the ambulance ship.

  • Accident (Also published in “The White Papers” (1996))

This story is set in a time before the hospital is built.

It is more than 30 years since Earth-human MacEwan, and Orligian Grawlya-Ki were released from the stasis field in the story “Tableau”. (In this story, the Orligian’s name is slightly different from in “Tableau”.) These two beings have been travelling around the Federation, campaigning for peace, emphasising friendly informal relationships between intelligent species. But some of their supporters have been too violent in their protests, and now MacEwan and Grawlya-Ki are being deported from the planet Nidia.

They are in the spaceport when a ground vehicle, carrying chlorine-breathing beings, crashes into the terminal. Some beings present are killed, and others injured. The chlorine is contaminating the oxygen atmosphere, and the chlorine-breathers are in danger of dying from the oxygen atmosphere. And the security system is not letting anyone leave the terminal.

MacEwan, Grawlya-Ki, and two Hudlars, are all kept busy rescuing beings of several species, and trying to treat their injuries, while having trouble breathing themselves.

They are again hailed as heroes, and this incident inspires the eventual building of Sector General.

  • Survivor

Rhabwar finds a wrecked spacecraft. There is one survivor: a large creature in a snail-like shell. Conway spends hours operating on it, but it is still critical. Everyone is exhausted and depressed.

Prilicla reports to Conway that it is experiencing empathic hypersensitivity. It fears it is critically ill.

They return to Sector General. Another team proceeds to operate on the snail-like alien.

Conway is concerned for Prilicla. He takes a Cinrusskin Educator tape (against O’Mara’s advice). But it doesn’t help much in solving Prilicla’s illness, and makes Conway feel very disoriented.

Wandering around the hospital, he learns that patients are reporting a general increase in pain in various parts of the hospital. And then he figures it out.  The presence of the snail-like alien somehow caused the depression feelings of the ambulance crew, and is responsible for Prilicla’s hypersensitivity and the patients’ general increase in pain.

  • Investigation

Rhabwar responds to a distress beacon, and they discover that the alien ship had crashlanded on a nearby planet.

A crewman shuttles Conway, Murchison and Fletcher down to the planet in the landing craft. The planet has strong winds and sandstorms. This limits the times when the lander can travel to and from the planet.

They discover three different kinds of creatures outside the wrecked ship – all unconscious, with injuries, and apparently amputated limbs.

Fletcher thinks there may be a criminal amongst the aliens – a murderer and a cannibal. He keeps his gun handy.

They find more individuals inside the ship. Some of them are dead.

They arrange for the creatures to be transported to the ambulance ship.

Conway, Murchison and Fletcher have to take shelter inside the crashed ship overnight, and there is a sandstorm. There are also mobile thorn patches, which gradually approach and threaten them.

But is there a murderer, and where is it?

  • Combined Operation

The ambulance crew discover the segments of a large spacecraft scattered through an area of space, each of which appears to contain a dormant creature inside – or are they all parts of a large creature something like the Midgard Serpent?

They call in many Monitor Corps ships to reassemble the spacecraft. The segments are cylindrical, and connect end-to-end, making up a huge open coil. The framework holding them together has been destroyed, and must be rebuilt. This is a huge operation, and must be completed before all the segments fall into the sun. And they must find a suitable destination planet for the creatures.

Star Healer (1985)
O’Mara takes Conway off the ambulance ship, so that Conway can consider a promotion to Diagnostician, and in the meantime Conway is sent to the planet Goglesk. (Prilicla is promoted to head of the ambulance ship’s medical team, and the shapeshifter Danalta is added to the team.)

Individual Gogleskans cannot stand close physical contact of other individuals – either other Gogleskans, or other intelligent beings, except for reproductive purposes, or caring for children. However, when they are threatened, they group together in a mindless mass, and destroy everything in sight.

Conway gets to know a Gogleskan healer called Khone. But his attempt at close contact results in a telepathic transfer of Khone’s memories (Khone treating him as a friend), and an injection of Gogleskan venom (Khone treating him as a threat).   Conway almost dies before being taken on board the ambulance ship and returned to Sector General.

After he recovers, he accepts the provisional promotion to Diagnostician, which includes the dubious privilege of retaining several Educator tapes in his mind for long periods of time. Conway receives Hudlar, Melfan and Kelgian tapes, as well as retaining the Gogleskan personality from Khone. This is quite disorienting, but also provides useful insights in his treatment of patients.

He also attempts to solve the long-standing problems of several species: as well as the Gogleskans, the Protectors of the Unborn (from the story “Recovery” in “Ambulance Ship”), and geriatric Hudlars.

Also at this time, there is a catastrophic collision of two spaceships in the Menelden system: many injured Hudlars are brought into the hospital, and Conway has to supervise the surgery on some of them.

Code Blue – Emergency (1987)
Cha Thrat, from the planet Sommaradva, comes to Sector General as a medical trainee – but finds it very confusing compared to her own highly stratified society. She makes a number of mistakes: talking to an unbalanced patient, who proceeds to wreck the ward; and when asked to amputate another patient’s limb, follows it by cutting off one of her own – which would be required by the medical ethics of her own society. (Luckily there are surgeons on hand to sew it back on.) As a result she is transferred to Maintenance. However a trip on the ambulance ship soon results in more strife. What is the hospital to do with her?

(In this story, Khone, the Gogleskan from “Star Healer”, gives birth, and is brought in to Sector General.)

The Genocidal Healer (1992)
Surgeon-Captain Lioren (a being originally from the planet Tarla) is stricken with guilt when his attempts to treat the inhabitants of the planet Cromsag wipe out nearly all the population, and he asks to receive the death-penalty. Instead he is transferred to O’Mara’s Psychology Department as a trainee psychologist.

In this role he interviews several patients: Mannen, the former Earth-human doctor, now terminally ill; Hellishomar, the massively huge Groalterri; and Khone the Gogleskan, discussing their various problems.

When Hellishomar confesses it has committed a sin, Lioren, who has had no religion of his own, investigates the various religions of the Galaxy, and eventually takes on the role of Padre.

By meeting with these various patients, and facing the surviving members of the Cromsaggar species, he eventually comes to terms with his past.

The Galactic Gourmet (1996)
Gurronsevas (a member of the Tralthan species) is a galaxy-famous chef, but when he hears of the blandness of the food at Sector General, he takes this a challenge, and joins the hospital to help improve the meals. He seems to be making good progress, until a series of accidents puts him out of favour with the hospital management. To avoid being expelled outright, he joins the crew of the ambulance ship. Their mission takes them to the planet Wemar, whose population are starving. Gurronsevas will turn out to play a more important role than expected.

Final Diagnosis (1997)
Earth-human Hewlitt has had a history of weird allergies at various odd times, with perfect health the rest. His doctors finally send him as a patient to Sector General, to see if they can work out his problem. The secret seems to relate to a childhood incident on the planet Etla the Sick. This former plague planet was part of the Etlan empire, at one time at war with the Federation, as described in the book “Star Surgeon”.

Mind Changer (1998)

[In addition to events in the present point in the timeline, this novel provides O’Mara’s backstory, following on from “Medic” in “Hospital Station”, when he becomes a psychologist in the newly-built Sector General.]

O’Mara is promoted to hospital administrator, as well as retaining his duties as chief psychologist. However, this is only a temporary arrangement, as O’Mara must recruit a replacement for the combined position before he retires. As he considers candidates, he thinks back to his early days in the hospital. On his first leave from the hospital he played an important part in a crisis on a spaceship cruise. Also an Educator tape from a Kelgian doctor, which he loaded into his mind, was to have a significant effect on the rest of his life.

Double Contact (1999)
Sector General receives a distress signal, and the ambulance ship is dispatched with Prilicla head of the medical team, which also includes Murchison. They find a damaged alien spacecraft in orbit around a planet, and the Federation rescue ship, which reached the scene first, disabled from contact with it. Their attempt to help the Federation ship results in its crashlanding on the planet. While the medical team are helping the Federation crew, Prilicla and the ambulance ship’s crew investigate the alien craft. But the planet, which seems so idyllic, has hostile inhabitants, and Murchison finds herself captured.

Omnibus editions

Beginning Operations (2001) contains “Hospital Station”, “Star Surgeon” and “Major Operation”.

Alien Emergencies (2002) contains “Ambulance Ship”, “Sector General” and “Star Healer”.

General Practice (2003) contains “Code Blue – Emergency” and “The Genocidal Healer”.

Tales of Sector General (1999) contains “The Galactic Gourmet”, “Final Diagnosis”, and “Mind Changer”.

 

Links to Sector General-related pages:
Susan Stepney’s Book Reviews: James White

Sector General – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The James White Information Site

Sector General Timeline (up to “Final Diagnosis”)

The Classification system (up to “Final Diagnosis”)

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