I am trying to remember what novel something I remember came from. All that I remember is that it takes place in a dystopian future, where criminals are sent to the "body bank." I think this is alluded to several times before the protagonist actually ends up there.

The people in the body bank supply replacement body parts to people on the outside who need them. If somebody needs a new arm, one is amputated from somebody in the bank and sent as a replacement. The inmate gets a cheap prosthetic replacement.

I can't recall what the protagonist does to get sent to the body bank, although it seems like it was a possibility hanging over him for most of the book. When he gets there, I think he meets an enemy agent that he had known. She had gone undercover inside the body bank for some reason, and she had lost several body parts while she was there.

  • 1
    This sounds like something from Larry Niven's Known Space universe. As it is, this seems pretty vague, though.
    – Politank-Z
    Oct 14, 2017 at 3:54
  • @Politank-Z The only Known Space novels I've read were three Ringworld novels, and I'm pretty sure this wasn't any of these.
    – Buzz
    Oct 14, 2017 at 3:55
  • 3
    Niven does deal with compulsory-organ-donations for criminals a fair bit (most notably in his story "The Jigsaw Man") so it's possible it's one of his, but I believe he usually goes with 'just kill the guy and take the organs right away' rather than piecemeal. Oct 14, 2017 at 4:10
  • Correct -- though the only actual novel in the "Organ Banks* story set is The Patchwork Girl in which Luna keeps donors intact (legally dead, but biologically retrievable) to keep the organs fresh. The title character did receive mismatched temporary transplants (an eye and an arm) after being reprieved while still retrievable.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 26 at 19:23

4 Answers 4


This could possibly be "The Reefs of Space" by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson.

It has a "body bank" where people (called Risks) who are useless to "The Plan" are kept as organ donators, as described by this review:

Accused of treason and sabotage, Ryeland is shipped off to Cuba, one location of the Machine's Body Banks. The Risks residing in the Body Banks are fed sedatives as they are gradually taken apart, piece by piece, for transplantation to an unknown recipient.

This other review suggests that after arriving at the body bank he meets up with a female agent that he knew from before:

While trying to find a doctor for a friend he inadvertently meets Donna Creery, the Planner's daughter.


Through some string pulling by Donna. Steve is soon head of the research looking into inertialess flight. And then also summarily disgraced and put out to farm in Heaven. Just as things get darkest, he is rescued by Donna and they both are on the run

  • That must be it. I know I read The Reefs of Space and the other Starchild novels, but I don't really remember much about them.
    – Buzz
    Oct 14, 2017 at 4:16

While I know you've accepted an answer, John Boyd's The Organ Bank Farm is also a pretty decent match, and an accepted answer to Short story about a psychologist with a punishment/reward machine learning you need punishment to reform malcontents.

Front cover of The Organ Bank Farm

The setting of the book involves a plague which killed a large segment of humanity, with a weird pattern that people with higher IQs, and people with mental problems, were more likely to survive. Dr. James Galway, the protagonist, is a psychologist and brain surgeon who is invited to the eponymous farm, which is nominally an institution for the mentally ill, but is actually being used to source limbs and organs for the rich and the politically connected. As you note, the people who have their limbs harvested do receive crude prostheses. I forget exactly how he got suckered into the Farm, but I think it had to do with a chance to pursue his research in behavioral conditioning, with the later stick being that if he doesn't cooperate, the children he's treating are likely to be harvested. While there is not an agent on-site, he does share a conspiracy, and sex, with another female on-staff with part of the climax involving her being sacrificed.

Ultimately, it turns out that he was invited for his ability in brain surgery, specifically to enable rich people to transplant their brains into healthy bodies of the mentally ill, and he himself seemingly undergoes this fate. The other plot twist, which is more implied than stated, is that most of the people in power are survivors with some degree of sociopathy or psychopathy and sharply reduced human empathy, including the protagonist.


While there are clearly more direct answers about the novel that contained the reference, my personal earliest recollection of a “Body Banks” being mentioned was in the Marvel comic book The Micronauts. Here Baron Karza states:

“Conquest, Shaitan, is not alwats achieved by slaughter! Take him to the Body Banks!“

enter image description here

And here is a scene with Huntarr in the Body Banks themselves.

enter image description here

  • 1
    I probably read this issue, which may have been why the name "body bank" from The Reefs of Space stuck in my memory.
    – Buzz
    Mar 27 at 15:33

I think this would be a partial match to A Planet Named Shayol by Cordwainer Smith.

In this story, the narrator (Mercer) is sentenced to life on the planet Shayol for crimes against the Emperor. Shayol is a prison planet where the prisoners are subjected to repeated growth and harvesting of body parts (even things like whole torsos or heads) that are grown on their bodies. These aren't their body parts, but rather parts that are seeded on their bodies by symbiotic "Dromozoans", which implant the seed for the body part to be grown. The body parts are harvested for use in surgical replacements throughout the galaxy. The dromozoans also control the mood and form of the convicts, turning them into mutants that suit the growth of the body parts in question.

Before Mercer is sent to the surface of the planet he is prepared for life there in a transitional station on a moon of Shayol, where it is explained to him that the punishment on the surface of Shayol will be painful, and a doctor (illegally) offers to remove his brain.

Mercer is unaware of the purpose of this planet, but is convinced of the Imperium's cruelty, with them having convicted the Emperor's stepmother to a terrible fate. Once landed, Mercer meets Lady Da who, it turns out, is the Emperor's stepmother, so he is on the planet she was sent to, and they are both to suffer the terrible fate. I thought that Lady Da was undercover, but it turns out she isn't - the Doctors on the Moon are aware of her.

Eventually after a long time, Lady Da and another character, the prison guard B'dikkat, show Mercer the living bodies of children, who have had their brains removed. It turns out that these bodies are the bodies of heirs to the throne, who have been condemned to prevent them committing treason when they grow up. B'dikkat rebels at handling the children and puts in a system-wide invasion alert, which brings in inspectors. Through the inspectors, Lady Da and Mercer contact the controlling "Lords of the Instrumentality" and make them aware of the situation on Shayol, which results in the the use of the planet as punishment being banned and the freedom of the prisoners.

Bits that match: Dystopia, fate mentioned several times before arrival, body parts being harvested as replacements on demand, female insider losing body parts.

Bits that don't: No undercover, no prosthetics

  • This is my father's all-time favorite short story, actually.
    – Buzz
    Mar 27 at 15:34
  • @Buzz It's a hell of a read. Cordwainer Smith wrote some very interesting stories.
    – bob1
    Mar 27 at 19:07

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