The Bush Clinic

Book I of the Tribal Wars

Fiction - Fantasy - Epic
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 10/02/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

The Bush Clinic by Stella Atrium is a speculative fiction novel and the first book in Atrium's new Tribal Wars series. The Bush Clinic is unique in that it harnesses the powerful evocation of futuristic human off-planet space colonization against a social structure that has gone backward to resemble a time before man had ever even landed on the moon in our real-life timeline. Women are relevant only in so far as they are useful and necessary, but not for more, in a rural tundra valued outside the bush for one reason: they are ripe for exploitation. This is science fiction in the context of space, time, the introduction of hybrids and interesting new 'animals', and the human post-pioneering of the planet Dolvia. Really, this is literary fiction that follows two women in the age-old battle of fighting gendered violence and subjugation in a world made hostile against them by men, corporations, and choice.

The Bush Clinic is a difficult read, particularly as a man of color raising daughters of color, having spent my own entire childhood in a third-world country. The parallels Stella Atrium draws between the commodification of tribal people and ethnographic feudalism for and against human/human-hybrid/alien-hybrid is a stomach-churning piece of 21st-century realism. I know what living under martial law looks like. I know what the refugee experience feels like. I know what it means to be viewed in a foreign land as 'other' and 'less than'...and Stella Atrium nails it. The pacing of the novel proceeds as a slow and steady burn. We meet a female physician named Dr. Greensboro who has more agency than the youthful Dolviet protagonist Brianna Miller, but Greensboro is still ruled under the warring clouds of greed and patriarchy. As readers are given time to witness the horrors of all manner of violence, we are also provided a near photographic depiction of the planet it occurs on. The Tribal Wars series is an ambitious undertaking but, based on its introductory novel, it's likely to be a brilliant one.

Lexie Fox

An exciting and dramatic adventure amongst the stars awaits readers in Stella Atrium’s fantasy epic The Bush Clinic, which is the series opener for the Tribal Wars series. In this book, we follow two women each with a unique perspective on a conflict that profoundly affects a group of tribal women. Dr. Greensboro is forced into serving as a medic during the conflict. She witnesses the harsh treatment of the women and their powerful resilience, which inspires her to support their cause. Dr. Greensboro was a wonderful character to lend their perspective on the issues being discussed in the book, with an outside view similar to that of many westerners who look at conflicts around the world with horror.

The other key protagonist is Brianna Miller, a young woman living amongst the tribes who sees their troubles from the inside being directly affected by them. Brianna is an extremely well-considered character who adds a powerful depth and voice to the story as it explores issues such as the treatment of civilians in conflicts and of women in particular. Stella Atrium has created a powerful narrative that explores the worst aspects of modern society through the lens of excellently realized science fiction. The Bush Clinic is a rallying call for the plight of women forced to live in war zones and a scathing statement about the corporate aspects of armed conflicts. A heartrending tale of survival in a world made needlessly harsh by greed and indifference to human suffering, this is a powerful book and one that I highly recommend.

Jamie Michele

The future is more of the past in The Bush Clinic, Stella Atrium's introduction, and the first novel in her science fiction Tribal Wars series. The book is broken down into parts with three characters narrating each part in full, in the first person. Dr. Greensboro, Dr. Beecham, and a teenage girl named Brianna Miller traverse the social, economical, and political aspects of colonized planets. Brianna Miller is mixed blood, the only character with an organic connection to the soil, and works as a medical apprentice alongside Dr. Greensboro. While the perspective of colonizers and a view of oppression comes from the two doctors, it is Brianna's part that offers the most authentic narration on what it means to be among the marginalized, and what it means to be a victim of exploitation under colonial rule.

“It’s all right,” Mrs. Shaw said to one. “It’s over now.”
“Their ordeal is just beginning,” I corrected her.

The Bush Clinic took time to get into, but as Stella Atrium developed the savannah, those who lived in and on the fringes of it, and the different types of inhabitants, the story unfolded comfortably. One of the incentives to continue reading is knowing that we will eventually get to Brianna's point of view, and however interesting it is to see this new world through Greensboro and Beecher, it's Brianna who drives the story home. I enjoyed the smaller details Atrium incorporates, like hyacinths that grow in a few hours, the importing of Virginia tobacco, and even a flyover by the Blue Angels. These provide levity to the darker themes, like refugees not provided safe passage home dying in camps, contagion, sweatshops, trafficking of women and young girls, and the cruel greed of “the Company.” Sometimes the places can get confusing and I even had a, “Wait, what planet is this?” moment or two, but a reference is provided that answers these questions. For those who love the novel as I did, there is no waiting to continue in the series as book two, The Body Politic, is already out.

Pikasho Deka

The Bush Clinic is the first book of The Tribal Wars Series by Stella Atrium. The story is set on the planet of Dolvia, where Dr. Edna Edwina Greensboro is a researcher on vaccines that can stop the spread of pandemics amongst the colonists and the warring tribes. While she has her own bush clinic, Lieutenant Mike Shaw prefers her to work in the hospital, tending to injured soldiers. Dr. Greensboro is appalled by the treatment of indigenous women and, in a misguided attempt to modernize Dolvia, takes a young mixed-blood teenager named Brianna Miller under her wing. Brianna has lived her whole life being a pariah and being mentored by Dr. Greensboro somehow only worsens her situation. After experiencing a traumatic event in a sweatshop, Brianna gets the opportunity to travel off-world where she must make a life-changing decision.

What happens when capitalistic greed falls upon a resource-laden land mired in poverty, disease, and chronic warfare? Do the lives of indigenous people of the land get better after being exposed to the modern contemporary ideals of the colonists? These are the kinds of questions that Stella Atrium poses with her epic sci-fi novel. The Bush Clinic is thematically rich and emotionally poignant. The narrative is primarily character-driven, through which Atrium touches upon topics such as the role of women in a war-rooted society, exploitation of a land and its people for its resources, and the impact it has on its culture and heritage. I found myself invested from start to finish and highly recommend it to readers who enjoy thematically rich stories.

K.C. Finn

The Bush Clinic is a work of fiction in the epic fantasy subgenre and serves as the opening installment of the Tribal Wars series. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Stella Atrium. The book follows Dr. Greensboro as she is forced to leave her clinic for a distant war zone where she witnesses the severe mistreatment of tribal women caught in the middle of the conflict. After meeting the orphaned Brianna Miller, she tries to teach her to give her the tools she needs to fight for a safe future.

This is a powerful modern parable about the treatment of women in war zones, from Dr. Greensboro herself having her life controlled by the military machine to Brianna and the other tribal women being subjected to awful conditions by the conflict. Author Stella Atrium pulls no punches in her depiction of the harsh reality of war, and her gorgeous descriptive writing serves her well in bringing the unforgiving nature of the conflict to life. In particular, the characters are well realized with each feeling like a fleshed-out and well-rounded real person. The science fiction trappings of the book are utilized effectively to distance the events of the narrative from any one specific conflict. In doing so, The Bush Clinic weaves a modern fable about trafficking, forced migration of civilians, and the realities of healthcare facilities in war zones. Overall, it is a compelling tale with wonderfully realized characters and an important message for the real world and I'd highly recommend this book to all readers.