Stardoc by S.L. Viehl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stardoc(Stardoc#1) by S.L.Viehl
This is one of those books I so wanted to love. It has a lot going for it. As some have mentioned it has that certain something that came of the Star Trek era. It has a plethora of alien life forms; many are similar to humans and others are more like spiders and bugs. It has this political atmosphere where the Earth shuns the aliens though star travel is an every day thing. There is a slight air of superiority in this exclusion and that is a bit off putting while definitely not quite the same flavor as a Star Trek. But overall for this novel it works.
What this novel also has is a bit of romance and some mystery and these could be a great addition if there were not some elements about them that seemed to get in the way. I should qualify that I'm not averse to romance and more so in my science fiction. What I have a problem with is the manner in which it's presented and how that portrays the character.
The mystery is another thing that is one of those things that might be compared to humor. When done well it comes across quite successfully; but when mismanaged it can get in the way.
I have only four of the novels in this series; one thing they have in common is they start with a bit taken from Hippocrates. This is about a Star Doc so it makes sense and there seems to always follow a snide response from Cherijo, the main character, about the value of such advice. I suppose in a small way this prepares us for the sassy character behind these stories. Just a tiny bit of a spoiler here; I've read three of the novels so far and one thing that is clear is that Cherijo doesn't change much throughout. Oddly her character is like one part Bones from Star Trek and one part Bones from the TV series and one part Candid. I say Candid because sometimes her focus on healing makes her oblivious to everything else to the point that she often seems quite naive about life and the consequences of her actions and just like Candid she always manages to come out smelling like a rose even though she often has to roll in dung-heap a bit before hand.
The mystery starts right from the beginning when Cherijo is trying to get off Earth and away from her father. Of course this is a common trope in fiction so no surprise that the young woman wants to put as much distance between her and her parent. The first wrinkle is that her father is one of those who are bigoted against aliens; but we are soon to find that in some other beliefs he is quite hypocritical and one of those belongs to the list off reasons Cherijo is leaving Earth. Her destination is a Free Clinic on Kevarzangia Two where she will get experience in perfuming surgery on aliens. Her secret and her fathers secret and some few other revelations involving Maggie, someone she calls her maternal influence since she never knew her mother, are all stretched throughout. It would be a spoiler to state any of the secrets because so far they span across the three books I have read. This book reveals some, but not all. This I could live with but it was just one annoying thing that hung in there for me with a bad taste.
The best I can do in describing the romance in this book, well this one is the exception, for the most part Cherijo's romance is rather schizoid. Now on the surface one might argue that that word can't describe romance and I'm certain you are right; but read this novel and the next two and then tell me that that doesn't describe the romance category for Cherijo.
Regardless; Cherijo goes to the seedy part of town and hires Dhreen, captain of Bestshot, who decides he likes her after circumstances in the bar require Cherijo to display both her assertiveness and her dedication to healing. Dhreen agrees to take her to Kevarzangia and all that's left for Cherijo is for her to get off planet before her father finds out.
Cherijo makes it eventless to her destination where she takes up residency and meets a lot of strange species while not making many friends. She honestly has the bedside manner of Temperance Brennen sometimes. But she's so dedicated to her work of healing that she really steps into it when she heals a Hsktskt, one of the most feared and hated species. This gets mixed reactions from everyone and is soon forgotten when a plague threatens to overtake the planet; but not before Cherijo starts an inter-species romance with a Jorenian, Kao Torin. I've no objection to interspecies romance and Cherijo honestly seems to love him though she falls quickly into love. But alas I think that the author is using Kao. Enough of that though because it ventures into spoiler territory.
Overall I enjoyed this novel and read it in one night. My one qualm is that Cherijo doesn't seem changeable and at the same time because of some circumstances she seems to often be hard to pin down. I think that it’s the oath and her healing that tend to hold back the growth and often lead to confusing territory with the character actions. But more so, and this is a spoiler, it's the whole basis of the mystery and Cherijo herself being so perfect at some things that causes her to stay static throughout.
I recommend this to anyone who loves science fiction; especially the bug eyed monster kind and in a small way watching how a writer can take Star Trek and push it into a fifty-ish novel with a female lead that could only be conceived in the future.
I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the novel despite some of the drawbacks I've mentioned.
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