Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 1, 2000

Stardoc by S. L. Viehl

Nine people showed up at to discuss Stardoc, a book about “doctors in space”. The novel follows the adventures of brilliant young Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil, who leaves the safe confines of Earth to work in a clinic on a frontier planet where she must treat hundreds of different alien species.

Our meeting started a little differently, with the distribution of handouts sent by the author to our group. Ms. Viehl had noticed several weeks earlier on the Internet that we would be discussing her book, so she mailed some giveaways to us at Adventures in Crime & Space. The packets contained autographed bookmarks, Ms. Viehl’s personal newsletter, and sample chapters from Stardoc‘s just-released sequel, Beyond Varallan. It was a generous touch by the author.

Once we started the discussion, it was obvious that everyone found Viehl’s writing style accessible and the story engaging. All had finished the book, and two had even bought and read the sequel. We enjoyed reading about the intrepid doctor and her endless variety of patients with strange illnesses. The medical details and jargon seemed believable, and the atmosphere of the clinic seemed like a real workplace. Dr. Grey Veil was an interesting protagonist, and we enjoyed watching her develop friendships and romances with humans and non-humans from cultures much different from her own.

We did find some problems. A few of our group were disappointed that this book was not a “hard SF” novel with much scientific detail. One person felt that there were so many problems in the story’s science that this book offered “boneless SF”. A couple of folks also had an aversion to romance plots, and were disappointed that so much of Stardoc was devoted to Dr. Grey Veil’s love life.

Despite our reservations, we found Stardoc to be a successful first novel. It was a fun, quick reading experience. We had such a good time reading and discussing it that several of us bought the sequel.

–A. T. Campbell, III