I don't know the length of this; it's probably more than a short story, but it may only be a novelette. I read this more than 20 years ago, but based on the feel it was probably a much older story. Might have been in an anthology, but I can't recall which.

The protagonist is a noble of some sort (not a prince, I don't think, but his father was planetary leader) in a galactic space-traveling milieu. I think at one point he travels off-planet to find his brother. They have to be very careful, and they can't trust anyone, because the alien has taken over so quickly and successfully by telepathically detecting people who would resist it, and I think by inducing a kind of loyalty.

What I most clearly recall are the human puppets of the alien; when the alien is finally defeated it is discovered that the guy had appeared hunchbacked because of a giant alien growth on his back that was how he was being controlled. The female consort, who was the attractive face of the junta, had the alien growth on her front (replacing her breasts and abdomen). They both die when the alien is killed; the alien tissue in/on their bodies dies with it and that kills them.

The story feels old because of the idea of a planet being governed by a hereditary ruler and the fact that the hero is the heir seems very "Golden Age" to me.

  • It's not The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, but that book does have a similar idea... Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


The Altar on Asconel by John Brunner. I read it in the collection Interstellar Empire.

The protagonist is Spartak. Spartak is a scholar and somewhat divorced from the worlds his father Hodat rules, but he and his brothers Vix and Tiorin are forced to fight when the usurper Bucyon kills his father and seizes the throne. It's Bucyon who has the growth on his back:

“Bucyon—he’s a big man, with swarthy skin and a bright brown beard. They say he’s a strong personality, dazzling to those who come in contact with him. But he keeps aloof.” He gestured to an aide standing by. “We have pictures of him and Lydis. Bring them.”

“And Shry,” Spartak said. “In what way is he a cripple?”

“Hunchbacked. As though some monstrous growth covered him from neck to waist, bulging out obscenely. Ah, here are the pictures. You’ll find them everywhere on Asconel now, venerated like idols by the stupid citizens!”

The alien mastermind behind it is Belizuek:

“What is Belizuek?”

“He is all-seeing and all-powerful. He reads the inmost thoughts of men and no one can stand against him. He’s a superior being and men ought to recognize that and serve him-”

The scene you remember with the consort is:

“And here’s the last of those who led you by the nose!” Vix bellowed. “The woman Lydis who betrayed my brother!”

He whirled, and was quick enough to grasp her by the robe as she made to flee. The robe tore, fell away, exposed her maggot-pale body to the pitiless glare of the noontide sun. There was utter silence. During it, Spartak felt nausea rise to choke his throat. Lydis was not a human mutant, accidentally gifted with the power to read minds. She was a tool of Belizuek. And instead of breasts on the front of her torso, she had a black pulsating growth that squirmed and leaked a stinking ichor as it followed its alien parent into the doorway of death

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.