MedStar: Battle Surgeons

July 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

battleMedStar: Battle Surgeons by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry

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If you’re like me, then when you think of new stories set in the Star Wars universe, your first thought probably isn’t, “Man, I’d love to hear more about the medical teams!” But then again, I suppose the pitch meeting for M*A*S*H was more than just “It’s about a bunch of doctors in the Korean War”, so I suppose I shouldn’t have a bias there (though I should note that I was never a big M*A*S*H fan).

True enough, Battle Surgeons isn’t just about a bunch of doctors, though they make up our primary cast of characters. The story here involves the surgeons, supporting the clone troopers who are fighting on a jungle-like planet with life forms that are constantly trying to kill them, forever adapting to whatever means they develop to fight back. The odd thing is that’s not the focus of the war; in fact, the reason for the war on Drongar isn’t made clear. Sure, it involves the Republic fighting the separatists, but that’s just a gloss on the story to keep the plot moving along. There’s nothing specific about this fight, other than to give the surgeons something to do. Barriss Offee, who first appeared in The Approaching Storm, is our resident Jedi for the story, but she doesn’t do much except watch the surgeons work. She gets involved with patients who don’t respond to surgery, using the Force to heal deeper, inoperable injuries, but for the most part she’s there to fill the Jedi requirement.

The story is about humanity, and what defines it. The main doctor, Jos, believes that the clone troopers have no fear of death, and are wired so that they don’t feel emotion, but the more he works on the clones, the more he realizes he’s wrong. I-5YQ, the sentient droid who appeared in Reaves’ Shadow Hunter, also makes an appearance, and forces Jos to question what he’s thought about droids, as well. It’s a much lighter take on the theme than what Karen Traviss brings to light with her Republic Commando novels, but I’ll give the authors points for addressing it.

The plot is somewhat convoluted, with the surgeons working while the bota, a plant native to Drongar, and is valued for its miraculous healing abilities, is harvested and shipped off world to be used by the Republic. Of course, none of that makes its way into the hands of the surgeons (much is made of them not having enough supplies, despite multiple requests put in months ago), and of course, there’s a Hutt on Drongar who is running his own black market endeavor involving the bota. Then there’s Phow Ji, a mercenary working for the Republic to kill separatists, a job that he enjoys a bit too much. The only thing that seems to bring these plots together is that they’re all on the same planet; otherwise these are just different encounters involving people who know each other to some extent.

One of the last things I expect to find in a Star Wars novel is sexytimes, but Battle Surgeons has it. Just a little. One of the main characters keeps fantasizing about one of his coworkers, imagining what she looks like with her hair spread out on a pillow, and later she manages to trick him into walking in on her when she’s half-undressed. I’m no prude, and it’s mild stuff, regardless, but the worst I’ve seen in the universe is a romantic kiss between a brother and sister. Star Wars has always been pretty chaste, and Reaves and Perry going this route surprised me a little.

The story is fast-paced and easily read, but it’s not all that interesting. The characters are flat (even Jos, who’s supposed to have a revelation about the clones, and struggles with relationships), and there’s no real progression of character in any of them, save for the reporter who has a moment where he breaks through his cynicism to do something nice for someone else. Even then, though, it winds up being a self-serving deed, so maybe that doesn’t count. There’s a second book in this series, so maybe that progression is in the next one.

 

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