Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Doctor to the Stars

Murray Leinster Doctor to the Stars (1964)
Here's another three tales of Calhoun of the Interstellar Medical Service as he travels from planet to planet with just his wits and the companionship of Murgatroyd - an extraterrestrial critter resembling a lemur - to guide him. You would think that a few of those human colonies might have thought to include a couple of medical types on the passenger list before striking out, although of course had they done so, Leinster wouldn't have had so much fun transposing frontier medicine of the old west to outer space; that said, the settlers of Tallien Three actually do have a medical man of their own, but he's a bad 'un so he probably doesn't count.

If Leinster wasn't actually pitching something which might end up serialised on the telly, then he at least had one eye on inspiring brand loyalty through one of those recurring characters which soulless fan wankers tend to refer to as a franchise. Calhoun is probably a relative of one of those Asimov characters who figures out the puzzles, mostly Aesculapian in this case, and it's so rigourously formulaic as to end each tale with a Scooby Doo style zinger. As a collection, it falls short of Murray Leinster's best, but is nevertheless enjoyable for being blessed with his usual smattering of big, wacky ideas and observations; foreshadowing more recent concerns about game addiction, for one example:

But the children so kept happy would not be kept exercised, nor stimulated to act, or think, or react for themselves. The effect of psych-circuit child-care would be that of drugs for keeping children from needing attention. The merely receiving children would lose all initiative, all purpose, all energy.

Sadly, it's not difficult to see why his name has slipped into obscurity; and it's sad because even though I doubt anyone's life was ever changed by reading a Murray Leinster, his writing is difficult to dislike, and always seems savoured with a little more than you might expect.

No comments:

Post a Comment