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Thorns by Robert Silverberg
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Thorns (1967)

by Robert Silverberg

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English (6)  French (1)  All languages (7)
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https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2912770.html

It's a short but pretty powerful book. The central characters are a media mogul who is also a psychic vampire who draws sustenance from other people's pain, and the two people who he brings together purely for entertainment, an astronaut who has been horribly mutilated by aliens and a young woman who has been at the centre of a media storm after allowing a hundred of her eggs to be fertilised for donor pregnancies. The notion that a senior media figure is obscenely benefiting from causing people pain remains horribly valid today; now that it's possible, egg donation seems much less scandalous than Silverberg anticipated, as far as I can tell. (And while we don't yet have aliens mutilating astronoauts, we have plenty of unwilling celebrities who have been horribly injured in public.)

I've seen this described as Silverberg's first good novel, and while I'm not familiar enough with his early work to pass judgement, it is pretty good (even if deservingly beaten by Lord of Light for the Hugo). The set-up is all too plausibly done in the context of the story's future technology, and the payoff delivered in due course after some grim sidetracks. Well worth getting hold of. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Dec 11, 2017 |
This odd little 1960s SF novel has three main characters: Burris, a space traveler who was kidnapped and experimented on by aliens who made surgical "improvements" to his body that have left him grotesque-looking and frequently in pain. Lona, a seventeen-year-old girl who was the subject of a medical experiment in which a hundred egg cells were taken from her and used to create a hundred babies she's never seen. And Chalk, an obscenely wealthy man who psychically feeds off the physical and emotional pain of others, and who hatches a plan to get Burris and Lona together and then watch their relationship self-destruct, for the entertainment of the masses and his own personal gratification.

My feelings about this one are extremely mixed. To begin with Silverberg is much more of a stylist than most SF authors, and in general I like his writing, but this one feels as if it's balancing precariously between "well written" and "pretentiously written." For me, it mostly comes down on the right side, but some of the euphemisms he uses in the sex scenes are pretty laughable.

As for characterization... Burris is a well-drawn, complex character, and his relationship with Lona at times feels almost painfully realistic as it deteriorates. But Lona herself feels less like a real, human woman and more like a man's idea of a certain type of woman viewed from the outside, even thought parts of the story are told from her point of view. And while Burris' relationship to his new body and his personal pain are decently explored, Lona's reactions what was done to her are rather shallowly rendered and never examined too closely. It's like it's just sort of naturally taken for granted that, well, she's a woman and of course she's emotionally devastated by the thought that she can't nurture her own babies, and how much examination does that idea really need? Which thought makes me roll my eyes. A lot.

Then there's the ending, which is thematically satisfying, I suppose, but feels implausible and tacked-on, in terms of plot logic.

All of which sounds really, really negative, but the truth is, it was at least an interesting read, and it did hold my attention. It's also true, though, that this is definitely not the first Silverberg novel I would recommend. ( )
  bragan | Oct 7, 2013 |
NIL
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
This book was well written and quite interesting with a good, solid premise and believable, dynamic characters. So, why didn't I like it? First of all, I didn't really like any of those characters, no matter how well-developed and genuine they were. The premise, which is that an unbelievably fat, disgustingly rich emotional vampire pairs up two very damaged people so that he can get a thrill off it when their relationship implodes, made me mildly queasy. The world-building was excellent, probably the best part of the book, but each of the disparate scenes (a low-rent tenement, a high-class restaurant built on the outside of a dome, the South Pole resort, the Moon Carnival, the high-class hotel on Titan) seemed cold and sterile, despite being imaginatively described. All in all, not Silverberg's best. ( )
  EmScape | Sep 27, 2009 |
Excellent beginning, up there with the poetry of the novella that makes up the first section of Nightwings, that falters when the two main characters actually meet. It's hard to care much about their relationship, but the concept of the novel -- bringing two damaged people together in order to enjoy their pain as they develop mutual hatred, is an excellent one and this is a must-read for Silverberg fans. ( )
  Deadron | Jul 6, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Silverbergprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adams, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda) No mask? No mask?
The King in Yellow: Act 1 - Scene 2
Dedication
For Jim and Judy Blish
First words
'Pain is instructive,' Duncan Chalk wheezed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553235737, Paperback)

Duncan Chalk's six-hundred-pound frame is nearly as large as his media empire. Beneath the depths of his immense rolls of flab, the fabulously wealthy mogul wields the editorial power to deliver his programming across the solar system to billions of viewers. His newest real-life romance drama is between a starman who survived painful surgical experimentation while in alien captivity, and an emotionally scarred 17-year-old virgin. When the arranged relationship takes off on a whirlwind tour of the antarctic and out to the moons of Saturn, the viewers are swept up in the romance, but Chalk's true motives are revealed when the doomed relationship begins to unravel ... and Chalk can feed on the emotional anguish of the two lost souls. Nebula Award- Nominee, Hugo Award Nominee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:58 -0400)

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Superman III reveals the answer and adds a third all-star chapter to the amazing adventures of Superman. Gus Gorman is a genial half-wit who just happens to be a natural-born genius at computer programming. In his hands, a computer keyboard turns into a deadly weapon and soon, Superman faces the microelectronic menace of his career.… (more)

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