When I was very young, I think about seven or eight, back in the seventies, we had a little book shop at school. It was set-up temporarily on one of the stair landings each lunch hour. Just a couple of sets of book shelves and you could buy books there. There was one book that fascinated me and I kept looking at it over and over again. It had an astronaut on the front cover floating in zero-gravity. He was hanging in front of an irregular hole that had been punched in the side of something and it looked out into space. The astronaut wasn’t one of those silly SF figures with a tin foil suit and a gold fish bowl helmet. He was dressed like the astronauts I’d seen on tv. Bulky suit, dark, mirror-like visor, heavy pack on his chest. And on the chest was clearly marked a red cross. The book was called ‘Spaceship Medic’ by Harry Harrison.
Eventually I saved my pocket money or convinced my parents to give my the forty pence – I honestly can’t remember which - and bought it. Then I was introduced to another world. The story was about an accident in space. A passenger ship was struck by a meteor and only two of the officers survived – the chief engineer and the ships doctor. The engineer was stuck with nursing the engines, so the doctor had to deal with all of the other problems.
The book used real science. I learned about conservation of momentum, how water can block radiation, how to extract oxygen from water and tt was all tied up in a tense, exciting drama.
I’ve loved science fiction ever since and every now and then, just once in a while, I’ll go back and read Spaceship Medic again. After 36 years, its still great.
Thank you Harry Harrison, you gave me a universe to dream in.