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Beginning Operations

(Sector General #1-3)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  704 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Hospital Station / Star Surgeon / Major Operation
"Sector General: A massive deep-space hospital station on the Galactic Rim, where human and alien medicine meet. Its 384 levels and thousands of staff members are supposedly able to meet the needs of the any conceivable alien patient - though that capacity is always being strained as more (and stranger) alien races turn up t
Paperback, 511 pages
Published June 2nd 2001 by Tor Books
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sector General completionists
Recommended to carol. by: me
Shelves: sci-fi
I found a small, unassuming mass market member of this series at the library, probably because "White" is awfully close to "Zelazny." That was back in the old days when inter-library loan was a serious pain in the butt, so I discovered new reads by eyeballing Every Single Book in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. Because how else would I know it was there? The only way was to use these paper cards and that's how you found out if the library had that book (the cards were typewritten, no less, and somet ...more
Debbie Zapata
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: saturdaymx
Years ago when I was a member of the SFBC, I ordered three omnibus editions of the Sector General stories. I read them one right after another, and then they held down my bookcase until last year when I decided to bring them down to where I live now. They've been holding down the bookcase here ever since, but the way 2016 ended, I thought it would be appropriate to begin 2017 in deep space. So I have begun my second journey on my James White omnibuses. (Sounds weird, but that is the plural form; ...more
Michael Battaglia
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are plenty of locales in fiction that seem like fun places to at least visit, if not live. There's everyone's favorite Middle-Earth, Jack Vance's Dying Earth, David Zindell's Neverness or even M John Harrison's Viriconium, places that are so well-realized that it seems a shame we can't pop over and hang out there for a bit.

Hospitals are probably the last places that ANYONE wants to visit just for kicks, so I have to give James White credit for making this one enticing at least. Sector Gene
Simcha Lazarus
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reading Beginning Operations is the most fun I have had with a scifi book in a long time. It was like M.A.S.H in space, though with a furry, teddy bear-like creature instead of Radar. The General Sector hospital is definitely a place I would love to visit, with its fascinating setup, interesting characters and exciting adventures. The aliens are creative and well-drawn and the whole concept of the hospital and its working really intrigued me. There is translation equipment for all patients and s ...more
May 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sffantasy
You know, I was really enjoying this - pacifist SF is unusual, and it has some great aliens - and then, halfway through the second book of the omnibus, he drops a misogyny bomb. I'm sorry, but if you can imagine spider-like chlorine-breathing aliens being people but not human women, you fail not only at SF but also at realism. And (some) male writers were noticing that women were people in every period from classical history onwards, so 1963 is not an excuse. ...more
Pamela Su
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend these books as they are wonderfully original in the world of sci-fi as they delve into a complex, alien medical universe. Not many interesting, medical sci-fi books out there. Think of it as a hybrid CSI/ER/Star Trek: DS9 set in space. Just an absolutely fantastic series to read.

The series, as a whole, is not without its flaws. There is a great deal of repetition. At times, whole paragraphs are regurgitated in most, if not all, the books with only minor adjustments when descri
Medical mysteries in spaaaaace. Think the TV show House, if all the patients were aliens and the main character was even more sexist. It's all quite a bit silly, and I'm not sure if I was meant to be taking it more seriously than I was. Come on, levitating dinosaurs?

This is tough book to rate, because some of the biological ideas are fantastic, but everything else is so dated; moreover, the whole thing is marred by bad, repetitive prose. The worst is the sexism, and the other little 1960s "it's
Teresa Carrigan
Rereading a classic for the dozenth time. It is a bit dated in handling of female characters, which bothers me more now than it used to. Specifically, all the nurses that were mentioned as having gender were female, and all doctors male. Earth human females were supposedly not capable of sharing their minds with alien memories the way the doctors had to do regularly, because they were too fastidious or something. Other than that, it was quite enjoyable and I will likely reread the rest of the se ...more
Mitch Rozen
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a great set of stories.

It's very much the TV show ER meets Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, meets the Asimov robot series (where two guys solve a whole bunch of robot problems that nobody else can figure out).

It's obviously dated - especially with its treatment of human women. However, some of the technology, the humanism, and themes are very relevant in 2017.

The 4-letter system they use to classify sentient beings (who, by the way, all refer to themselves as "human" in their own language) is
Jim Higgins
A re-read. 3.5 stars
Alexandru Lapusan
I simply love James White's novels. First of all, the fundaments of his universe are based on peace, collaboration, passion and a deep sense of mission. Second, it's an easy read. Even the repetitions (fully justified by the timestamp of each novel) are helping out, I ended up knowing by heart what a DBDG or a SRJS is. I hope one day I'll be able to see these stories on a screen as well. ...more
Rob Hopwood
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it

Beginning Operations (A Sector General Omnibus) by James White

I was looking forward to reading this book because I had very much enjoyed a couple of the later works of this author. However, Beginning Operations (which is an omnibus of the first three Sector General novels) did not quite live up to my expectations.
This is classic science fiction from the 1960s, but with a rare pacifist message.
The book is really a series of short stories or vignettes which unfold in the setting of the same massi
Lisa Feld
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: boston
This is basically House meets Star Trek: bizarre medical mysteries faced by a crack team of human and alien doctors in a staggeringly huge intergalactic hospital, a joyful sense of wonder, a delight in problem solving, and a belief that we have the capacity to get through the Cold War, get our act together as a species, and get into space without obliterating ourselves.

This is clearly the start of White's writing career: in the beginning, he has a nasty habit of having his protagonists shout "Eu
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fun and fast, this collection of the first three Sector General books is at once progressive and regressive. Progressive as it envisions an egalitarian future where wildly different species and races work together for the betterment of all, and regressive in it's attitudes towards women. The author seems determined to make us aware that his protagonists are real men who are rather distracted by the attractive nurses (no female doctors - at least not human doctors that is) and a healthy desire to ...more
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it
I had vague memories of liking the Sector General books as a kid and wanted to revisit them. I still think the entire concept of stories where the conflict is figuring out how to heal strange alien life forms instead of fighting them is great, and he did come up with a lot of very weird and interesting aliens. But looking at the books now, they're also terribly dated and awful about women and Conway is kind of an asshole, and the formula of him pulling the answers out of nowhere at the last minu ...more
Thomas Arvanitis
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good, old-fashioned science fiction, focusing more on ideas and ingenious ways to solve problems than character development. Imagine a medical show (House MD/ER style without the soap opera, just with the diagnosis problems) set in space, with patients of alien origin of all shapes and sizes.
Joanna Chaplin
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little old fashioned (turns out that the first stories were published in the mid fifties or thereabouts). But otherwise right up my alley. A little like the show House MD in space. Medical and xenobiological mystery of the day.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
Book #: 8
Title: Beginning Operations
Author: James White
Category: Popsugar Basic: A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

James White wrote a series called Sector General, about a multi-species interstellar hospital dealing with the problems of treating patients from a wide variety of environments suffering from a wide variety of ailments. The stories are clever and well-written and I intend to track down the rest of the series.

The novel is actually an omnibus ed
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Throwback SF at its best

I first read a few Sector General stories back in the seventies. They were very enjoyable back then. In the ensuing 40+ years, our technology has advanced measurably. And that’s where this author misses.

Their communication devices are akin to rotary telephones. No imagination. Tablets? Not one in sight. Computers? All hard wired and taking up large rooms. Yes, back in the sixties.

Fortunately the tech isn’t the star, it’s the characters that bring Sector General to life.
Good setting, okay writing

Contains the first three Sector General books. I like it for the setting and alien concepts rather than the writing or the characters who can feel rather annoying or cliche in their repetitive roles. Conway, the ever deductive protagonist, must keep his plan a secret until the big reveal test result thwarting incredulous onlookers' voiced skepticism. I would have liked to have seen the competencies of other earth-human staff presented more than just being vehicles for C
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This first 2 books of this omnibus were pretty much exactly I expected. While novels, they were more like collections of short stories about living and working on a space-based hospital. Kind of like a medical Babylon-5. The final third was difficult to follow and did not feel complete by the ending. However, I will probably see abut acquiring the other remaining omnibuses as time permits. If you like old-style pulp sci-fi, this one should be right down your alley.
Sean Randall
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have read all these individually, many years ago. I remember very much enjoying the opening set of stories. I found it harder to picture the aliens in the latter set of works, which detracted some. But I enjoy the style of writing a great deal. I don’t quite remember it being so sexist, either – all the high-ups are male and females are just good for nursing or horseplay. But I suppose that’s a more of the time.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the hospital in space setting of these novels. Doctors from all known planets and species work together to solve mystery diseases and conditions. Most times it is figuring out the ailment of a race they have never encountered before. Had I enjoyed the writing style more, this would have been a 5- star book.

I highly recommend this omnibus for those who like mysteries. Can you solve the case before the physician?
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Sector General is a large multi-species hospital floating in space where humans and extraterrestrials work together and learn about each other. James White's bright and (mostly) pacifist vision of the future seems a bit quaint nowadays and his treatment of women reflects the time when these stories and books were written, although that part gets better in the later books. ...more
Michael Hill
Apr 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Sector General is the main hospital for our galaxy, dealing with seemingly endless different life forms. Conway is the chief problem solver when it comes to dealing with strange and unknown aliens and the weird health problems they have, helped by non-human doctors and egged on by the tyrannical O'Mara. James White let his imagination run riot when he wrote the Sector General books (12). ...more
Kristin Schmidt
May 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
Absolutely cool idea--a galactic hospital treating all manner of alien creatures. A concept that would make a fun tv show. Unfortunately, it was horribly hamstrung by the style of writing and the mores of the time. A lot of it felt like a bad Harlequin romance from the '70s or the stuffier dated early Star Trek. ...more
Jennifer Hill
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
I've always loved the Sector General stories. It's nice to have them collected in one place. It's not a deep read, but they're fun, and the concept of all-lifeform medical drama space is interesting. ...more
John Adams
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it
The concept (House with aliens, along with a genial take on human nature) is pretty neat, though the short mysteries (of the first book) are more engaging than the longer interlocking ones in the latter two books (where the dated misogyny is also more apparent).
Joe Martin
Good, classic, golden age science fiction. Well imagined medical fiction, focusing on the doctors of Sector General Hospital, as they treat very strange aliens.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
My favorite story of this omnibus was the first, Hospital Station.
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Play Book Tag: Beginning Operations by James White - 4 stars 6 14 Oct 30, 2018 07:35AM  

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Other books in the series

Sector General (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Hospital Station (Sector General, #1)
  • Star Surgeon (Sector General, #2)
  • Major Operation (Sector General, #3)
  • Ambulance Ship  (Sector General, #4)
  • Sector General (Sector General, #5)
  • Star Healer (Sector General, #6)
  • Code Blue -  Emergency (Sector General, #7)
  • The Genocidal Healer (Sector General, #8)
  • The Galactic Gourmet (Sector General, #9)
  • Final Diagnosis (Sector General, #10)

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