I read a short story when I was a boy about some alien computer/robot that set questions that visiting people/aliens would try and answer, and possibly a terrible consequence if they answered incorrectly.

Sorry I can't be more precise, it was over 40 years ago!

  • do you recall if you read it in a compilation book, or a magazine, or something else?
    – phantom42
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 21:16
  • Possible duplicate of SF story where man must answer questions to get to untold treasure Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 21:18
  • i honestly cant remember, but i will check the answers given thanks all.
    – james riel
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 21:56
  • I was going to answer that this sounds like Philip K. Dick's The Great C, but it seems you are already sure that it is The Sixth Palace?
    – Ubik
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 22:18
  • yes, it is the sixth palace thanks
    – james riel
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


There may be one than one story with this theme, but The Sixth Palace (1965) by Robert Silverberg fits the description.

There was the treasure and there was the guardian of the treasure. And there were the whitening bones of those who had tried in vain to make the treasure their own.

The guardian asks challengers questions...

It might demand the proofs of mathematical theorems. It might ask the translations of strange words. So they gathered, from their knowledge of what had befallen other men here. And, so it seemed, to give a wrong answer was to earn instant death.

  • And, if I recall correctly, answering correctly was equally fatal. The only way to appease the guardian was by responding with nonsense, which the protagonist did - right up until, having gained access to the treasure, he was asked why he was trying to do it, and carelessly replied with the truth. Oops. Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:00

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