Strange Horizons, November 16, 2015
Reviewed by Christos Antonaros
The quote “Learning needs a foundation … But trying and failing is the only way to build one …” perfectly describes the main idea of the science fiction story “First Do No Harm” by Jonathan Edelstein.
In an alternative universe where people are traveling between worlds, Ichiyawafu Fever, a terrifying disease that carries the same name with death in the local dialect, is killing people day by day. Mutende, the protagonist, is a second-year student at the local Medical School which extends throughout the city. Even though Mutende is a qualified mechanic, he has an immense passion for finding a cure for the deadly Ichiyawafu Fever, so he can help his landlady from dying. He doubts the beliefs of his professors, by claiming that scientists must not rely only on the studies of the past. Mutende believes that to progress, scientists must set up new foundations by research. As a result, new methods of treatment will be discovered. At some point he meets Letato, a street doctor who claims that she has a better way to treat the Ichiyawafu Fever, but she will need Mutende’s skills as a mechanic. Mutende will face the dilemma of whether to follow his professor’s advice and stay on the recorded cases of the past or follow the path of research and experimental treatment.
What I enjoyed the most about “First Do No Harm” was the hints of a solid background story, supported by a local dialect. Also, the author didn’t stop displaying the architecture in different parts of the city, while he was pointing to the differences between the rich and the poor. Finally, the use of medical terminology was placed ideally, preventing me from being bored or confused. Like most of the science fiction stories leave me with many questions to process, so did “First Do No Harm.” I recommend it to everyone.
Christos Antonaros is a dark fiction author with a love for European mythology.