Stardoc by S.L. Viehl is a galactic medical, science-fiction novel that is also the first book in a series of the same name. It follows a Terran doctor named Cherijo Grey Veil who flees her home planet with her cat, Jenners, after she learns a terrible secret about her father, a galactically renown physician known for his brilliance and harsh anti-alien propaganda. Escaping to a world fifteen lightyears away called K-2, Dr Veil begins to hone her medical repertoire by working on all walks and beings of alien lifeforms, while keeping her fingers crossed that her father never realises what she’s learned or where she’s fled to.
I loved most of Stardoc. It satisfied practically everything that I was craving when I picked it up. It’s an adult hard sci-fi book that is filled with biology-based scientific and medical jargon, involves an amazing diversity of alien lifeforms, particularly with regard to physiology while the doctors work on them, unexpected sentient life forms, an interracial couple, and a fascinating cat-and-mouse chase of sorts. I was able to take my time reading this comfortably, which actually allowed me to read anywhere from forty to eighty pages per session, a feat that’s been unheard of lately due to my ADHD’s rambunctiousness. There’s only one scene that I had issues with and feel that readers of the modern age shall find to be extremely problematic and this is the only reason I didn’t give this book five stars.
The beauty of adult science-fiction is also the same reason that lots of people tend to avoid it. It can be overwhelming with technical vocabulary and language. I love it to bits because this kind of complex, almost mechanical aspect of sci-fi storytelling always teaches me something new or introduces me to a subject I didn’t think I’d enjoy. Plus, reading super convoluted things and actually being able to understand them easily makes me feel really good inside. I’m an aficionado of acquiring knowledge, yet due to my neuroatypical traits, acquiring said knowledge can be a super challenging task for me. When I can comprehend tough topics, like the physiological differences between a reptilian race and an aquatic one, or the differences in atmosphere and the gaseous components of planets that influence how a sun will look or how the environment of a planet is impacted, it makes me feel smart, like all that time wasted learning irrelevant subjects for fun wasn’t a waste of time after all.
With Stardoc, the more that I read about the medical practises that Cherijo participated in along with the myriad of ways she honed her understanding of diverse physiological functions, the more excited I became. It was such an enthralling aspect of my reading experience and kept driving me onwards. It was also a lot of fun to stop and look up words I didn’t recognise at all. Combining this with the rather compelling story of the doc being on the run from her rather ice cold father added more intrigue to go along with the stresses of being a physician in a short-staffed free clinic of sorts. To say that the relationship between her and her dad is difficult would be the biggest understatement. His secrets, how they relate to her, and the consequences of these revelations end up pushing the story forward in quite an entertaining way. The tension between them as the chase is set creates a compelling air of suspense that I feel can help substantiate a lengthy galactic series if it’s written well and continues to add depth with each new interaction and experience that Cherijo has, particularly the daunting ones.
The book also feels cheesy with its dialogue and descriptions of the environments. I devoured it like a piping hot cup o’ hot cardamon cocoa (my own special brew). It gave me a humongous sense of nostalgia with relation to sci-fi adventures. I began to think of Stargate SG-1 or Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s cheesy and a bit corny, but also works very well for Viehl’s writing style and the overall essence of the narrative.
There is a romance in the novel, a strange sort of love triangle shindig. I’m not a fan of love triangles and I feel the addition of this triangle took away from the chemistry and sincerity of Cherijo’s relationship with a man who will eventually play a gigantic part in the end of the novel. Personally, I feel this trio thingy was done to help add plot-related backbone for the one portion of the book I had issues with, and even though I understand it, I still felt there were other ways it could’ve been handled that wouldn’t have had such a negative impact in the bigger picture, which brings me to the worst part of Stardoc.
—This next paragraph shall contain major story spoilers! Please feel free to skip it!—
Within the last one-third to one-fourth of the book, Cherijo is raped by her colleague. He gets possessed by a sentient lifeform and the rape is done by the lifeform on both Cherijo and the man they’ve possessed as they force him to participate in the act against his will. It’s revealed later that this was done as a way for the lifeform to communicate with Cherijo because she was hurting them due to some plot-specific elements. The whole scene is superbly uncomfortable and awkward, and occurs so fast that it’s difficult to ascertain what was going on until things reached a point of no return, as it were. I feel the need to include this graphically described rape scene to fulfil the overall plot purpose it had was wholly unnecessary. Not only did it feel out-of-place, but there’s also a point where Cherijo ends up enjoying the fact that she’s being raped and orgasms. Considering that this occurs smack dab in the midst of a medical crisis of sorts, it felt terribly unrealistic and grotesquely exploitive. I hated it so much. It’s the only part in the whole damn book that felt utterly erroneous and capricious.
—End of spoilers—
All in all, Stardoc was a good medical science-fiction novel and I do plan on continuing with the series. I’m going to take it one book at a time so that way I won’t feel compelled to keep going if somewhere along the way I stop enjoying it. Aside from that one horrendous scene that I discussed above, everything else about this was relatively interesting. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that strange happenings like the above mentioned don’t occur again as it would catastrophically weaken an otherwise phenomenal sci-fi akin to nineties sci-fi adventures.
Publication Date: January 2000
Publisher: Roc(ISBN: 0-451-45773-0)
Genre: Science-Fiction, Galactic Adventure
Page Count: 394
Content Warnings: Pandemic. Mass death. Graphic rape scene (on page). Sexual intercourse (on page). Gaslighting. Xenophobia. Racism. Sexism. Bullying. Mild cursing. Violence.
GoodReads: Stardoc by S.L. Viehl