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January Books 5) The Secret Visitors

5) The Secret Visitors, by James White (.co.uk, .com)

This was James White's first novel, published in 1961, and like many of his others the central character is a human doctor confronted with peculiar health problems, a precursor to his best-known works, the Sector General galactic hospital series. However, it's definitely a novel of its time; the galactic federation is interested in Earth, apparently, because our planet is unique in having a) an axial tilt and b) decent scenery. Added to this, our Earthmen heroes discover that the ultra-civilised galactics have lost all knowledge of a) surgery and b) battle tactics, and are able to help them out of a tricky spot or two. But it's fun; and it's particularly fun for me because of the use of Northern Ireland (in particular Portballintrae) as a setting for much of the first half of the book - this being a reason for me to read it, as it's part of my list.


Jan. 9th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
Nicholas ... I read The Secret Visitors a couple of years ago, and I reviewed it at my Ace Double page. (<url:http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton/aced21.htm>).

I thought to mention a couple of nitpicky but interesting points ... it actually dates to 1957, at least the Ace Double edition, first under the title The Secret Visitors. And it is based on a 1956 New Worlds serial, "Tourist Planet". But the serial and the novel are quite strikingly different. I wonder if your 1961 edition is different again, or if it more resembles the serial or the novel? (To a crude approximation, I would say that the serial is more "British", with a less confrontational ending, while the novel is more "American", or perhaps more "Don Wollheimish", with a space battle ending.)
Jan. 9th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
Oops -- forgot to sign that post.

This is Rich Horton.
Jan. 9th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)
Rich, thanks. It's pretty clear that my 1963 printing of the 1961 edition is substantially the same as the 1957 Ace version, from what you say. The earlier date of writing does make sense - the fact that the central character is a WW2 veteran but still clearly of marriageable age seemed to me a bit of a stretch for 16 years after the war ended, but is less so for 12 years on (possibly even fewer depending when it was actually written).

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