An extract below from my review of this book yesterday, THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer…
SECTOR GENERAL (1957) by James White
I – III
“It wasn’t that they were insane to begin with, but their job forced a form of insanity onto them.”
This is the first third of a novelette, depicting a multi-environmental hospital, dealing with all manner of alien or ET illnesses. Conway is the one we follow through the various wards, all with hyper-imaginative effects on the modern reading mind, I sense, with empathy and gestalt treatments. The main treatment of the day for our hero is a gestalt group where injury to one is injury to all, with many repercussions following. Conway is a beginner in operating such a treatment where he can actually become part of the alien gestalt himself with various tweaks to that concept that the text gives you. The character of Conway is a satisfying complex one with his hatred of Monitors and other nuances we are given. Some of the described ‘environments’ of care are quite astonishing.
Being a gestalt real-time book reviewer with the various spin-offs that have developed within me since I started this activity in 2008 as a sort of Conway beginner, perhaps the first such in literary history, then I can empathise with him and the danger of the above ‘insanity’ involved. I could mean this quite seriously. But I keep my powder dry.
I would tentatively say, in media res, that this novelette is also ESSENTIAL reading for those who are students of the SOUTHERN REACH trilogy, as much else in this anthology so far, to a greater or lesser degree, is RECOMMENDED reading for this purpose.