The STARDOC Novels by S. L. Viehl

S.L. Viehl renewed my love for solid sci-fi and fantasy novels when I’d nearly lost hope.  After rereading old favourites while watching for the next installment by C.J. Cherryh or George R.R. Martin, I stumbled across this series in an used book shop, and since they had the original set, I bought them all.

Although I continue to find the series interesting for it’s range of situations, alien characters and worlds, it’s not often I actually dislike the central character the way I do, Cherijo Torin (neé Grey Veil). Although I can appreciate and admire spirited characters, this amplified Terran female surgeon of Native American ancestry is the epitomé of what I find annoying in anyone: never knowing when to shut up or apologize plus an arrogant know-it-all attitude with a complete lack of respect for others cultures and beliefs. Ego and ethnocentrism has never been things I liked, though some people call it patriotism or “helping others out”.

I realize it’s fiction but when I read or continue to read, I have to find something I actually like in the main character. I have to empathize with them or something. A character with few redeeming qualities or mitigating circumstances and (thus far) no indications of evolving common sense has wearied the enthusiasm I felt when reading the first two novels, Stardoc and Beyond Varallian, both of which I greatly enjoyed. By Endurance, that’s exactly what I was trying to display.

Take Michael Moorcock’s Elric character for example. He committed heinous acts, destroyed whole societies with no mercy as it occurred, yet there was something written into his actions and his later remorse which clearly drew a sad empathy for his tortured existence. I don’t know, but an eternally wisecracking, smartass of a doctor is not my idea of page after page fun though I realize some people may find it “spunky” or what they consider normal or a show of confidence.

With Eternity Row, Rebel Ice and Plague of Memory still on my shelves,
I am now labouring towards the end of Shockball where the caricatures of a future Native American “tribe” based on present and latter day research of ceremonial practices, life, etc. of the Navajo and others has filled me with a mix of desire to finish the book just so I can see what happens, or simply skipping it and possibly going on to the next. As a fellow author said when speaking about covering a topic or subject they are not explicitly familiar with, it should at least be done with respect. I didn’t feel this was the case though accepting the fact I am Native American naturally coloured my feelings when the character called a certain special ceremony “stinky and dumb” and every single male was enigmatic, close-mouthed or impossibly vicious.

I am keeping my hope alive that Dr. Cherijo Torin will evolve as a character into someone more likeable and less like snappish women I avoid like the plague no matter how pretty they might be, and maybe that’s what Viehl is working towards.  The author does a marvelous job at pacing and plot, and has an outstanding capacity to create vivid worlds and aliens that rival any of the old masters of sci-fi and fantasy…I will continue reading and enjoying the framework of supporting characters build around Cherijo even if I cannot enjoy her myself.

If you like back-talking, razor edge bitches who stimulate the wildest of dreams among certain ladies and gents all on an universal backdrop full of medical and galatic emergencies, definitely give this series a try.

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4 thoughts on “The STARDOC Novels by S. L. Viehl

  1. Cherijo’s character is becoming very typical in the genre of female superheros which is starting to drive me nuts. It was entertaining in the first few dozen books, now it’s irritating. It’s also particularly irritating if the character doesn’t change. When there’s a multiseries book format, I think the pressure becomes not to change the character since ultimately so much of the plot or dialog becomes driven by the character. Kim Harrison’s series has reached the point where I don’t know that I want to keep reading because I’m so disgusted with the uncompromising and arrogant nature of its protagonist…gah…

    • I agree in both ways, but I think the evolution of a character into a smarter more empathetic one would have created a stronger bond for readers and what is generally believed best in really good fiction: the character has to grow.

      It’s been many, many years since I read anything by Kim Harrison. I generally stay away from heavily hero or heroine centred stories because I really don’t care for the “super-mouths” which to some authors seems to equate to strength or cleverness.

      Just the same to do believe it’s an accomplishment when anyone finishes a book let alone several so Viehl can certainly be proud of that, if though from the many reviews I’ve read on this series, the latter ones had become annoying to roughly half the fans.

      • Oh, I agree. I think what happens is that some/many authors think that the mouthy character creates better conflict and hence stories… hence the retention of these qualities in the main character…

        I liked the Viehl stories exactly as you did & also hope that she changes a bit more. I think she did in a couple of the books, but then in the next book you don’t see it retained.

        I particularly like how her husband is handled… not an easy thing to characterize a human who grew up in a non human environment in a believable way and those type of stories always intrigue me (other examples: Mary Gentle’s Golden Witchbreed, Ursula K. Le Guin’s world in Left Hand of Darkness and associate short stories).

      • I do quite like a lot of LeGuin’s work. I have some of Mary Gentle though I’ve not read them (I collect books by the hundreds so it takes a while to work through them) yet tend towards C.J. Cherryh’s approach. Her books I do have every one and would never part with any.

        But it is curious the changes which can take place in a character. For example I really loved the heroine Jame Torrison in P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series which began with God Stalker, but by book 3-5, Jame had somehow lost the unique sparkle she had before.

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