cover image Final Diagnosis

Final Diagnosis

James White. Tor Books, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86148-3

The genre's longest-lived space operetta celebrates its 35th anniversary with this 10th and typically easygoing entry (after last year's The Galactic Gourmet). White's new protagonist is the diffident and xenophobic Patient Hewlitt, a well-to-do Earth merchant who's at the Sector General medical complex because he's been mysteriously afflicted with a virus capable of interspecies infection. Via a convenient universal translator gadget, all of White's humans and nonhumans present amusingly familiar stereotypes. The most effective sendups are the dictatorial, chlorine-breathing Illensan Charge Nurse Leethveeschi and the officious crustacean Senior Physician Medalont. Less convincing are White's sympathetically drawn aliens, such as the giant butterfly-like empath Senior Physician Prilicla and the mammoth eight-armed hospital chaplain Padre Lioren, who probe Hewlitt's quivering psyche for clues to his ailment. Hewlitt's illness and his distaste for his weird fellow sufferers are eventually simultaneously cured in spite of the pompous medical establishment. Hippocrates might have smiled at this harmless if old-fashioned spoof of an honored profession. (May)