by Robert Silverberg


Publication history


(From Ballantine 1967)

Lona Kelvin – naive orphan. And at seventeen, mother of one hundred children.

Minner Burris – starman. Whose butchered body had been put together by aliens, with artificial alien replacements.
Horror stalked just beneath the surface of these two lonely creatures.

Duncan Chalk – a vulture, carrion eater of other people's emotions, feeding on pain, fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, terror; typifying in the appetites of his vast body the sick delight millions took in the tragedies he skillfully arranged.

Lona Kelvin – Minner Burris – Duncan Chalk

Surely the strangest triangle the worlds had ever seen.


Nominated for Nebula for best novel, 1967.

Triangle is not exactly the right word, as Chalk does not participate directly in the affair he arranges for Lona and Minner, only leech off the inevitable pain when they don't get along. The picture of human relationships given is a bit grim, though there is a kind of hope offered. That function of the media which feeds off people's pain is quite prevalent in the story, as it is in The Pain Peddlers.

A very good book, and not as depressing as it may sound. And note that the cover art on the 1967 Ballantine edition (while pretty) has nothing whatever to do with the story. The Jim Burns painting on the 1983 edition is the most accurate of the cover illustrations for Minner's deformity. And try to remember that egg donors and reality shows were the stuff of science fiction when this book was written.

Sci-Fi reviewed Thorns in their Classics column.

Other resources

(None on file)