ROBERT SILVERBERG – Thorns. Ballantine U669, paperback original, 1st printing, August 1967; cover by Robert Foster. Walker, hardcover, 1969. Bantam, paperback, 1983. Nominated in 1968 for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel of 1967.

   A manipulated love affair, between Minner Burris, starman disfigured by aliens, and Lona Kelvin, virgin but mother of one hundred children, Mutual sympathy was the original reason for their attraction. But their obvious differences were bound to lead to the emotional conflict that Duncan Chalk, dealer in public entertainment, could feed on.

   Tries a bit too hard to be literary, and what story there is suffers. Message abounds. People with power tend to make themselves into gods; aliens remake a human body without explanation, doctors take the product of a young girl’s ovaries without regard to her feelings, and of course Chalk, who lives on stolen emotions.

   And thorns? “They stick you.” (page 83). “To be alive … to feel pain – how important that is.” (page 222).

Rating: ****

— July 1968.