In a world where humanity has colonized the solar system and begun to explore more of the local galaxy, a vast audience follows real-life stories presented by wealthy media mogul, Duncan Chalk. Chalk feeds on the pained emotions of others. He plays cruelly with his staff, but gorges on the mass emotions generated from the dramas he orchestrates.
Chalk pairs Minner Burris, an emotionally-withdrawn space explorer who was captured and freakishly surgically altered by aliens and Lona Kelvin, a suicidal 17-year-old girl who donated eggs for a fertility experiment that produced a hundred babies none of whom she has been allowed to adopt or even see. Chalk promises to solve their personal problems in return for a joint performance tour.
As Burris and Kelvin grow close, they find that their mutual weaknesses somehow strengthen them. But, will that connection be enough to overcome the tricky machinations of Duncan Chalk? And will the mystery behind Minner's transformation take them beyond their weakened humanity?
An early exploration of media exploitation and a deep look at freakshow entertainment on a mass cale, THORNS shines as one of the earliest of Silverberg's mature masterworks. Now with a new introduction by the author.