I read a book (or a short story) when I was a teen - so this is 40+ years ago. It was likely old, then, as I was reading a lot of older Science Fiction at the time. I thought it might have been written by A.E. van Vogt - but I haven't found it.

In the story there is a character who was in some kind of accident where they preserved his brain and encased it in a mechanical device that kept it alive - and also allowed him to interact with the world. Part of the story involved the brain-character realizing that without his hormones and other biological elements, he was becoming more computer-like and less human.

I recall there was a point where his wife had an affair and he knew about it, but was not bothered because all the hormonal elements of feeling jealous were no longer present to influence his brain.

That's about all I remember.

A friend of mine and I were discussing it today and I started looking - he is keen to read the story.

If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be most appreciative. :)

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    The plot you describe is very similar to the plot of the 1958 sci-fi film "The Colossus of New York". Nov 9, 2022 at 2:14
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    That's very close to what I remember - but I recall it being in a book form.... Nov 9, 2022 at 2:26
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    Curt Siodmak 1942, Donovan's Brain. Nov 9, 2022 at 10:49
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    Vaguely sounds like A. E. Van Vogt's The Secret Galactics aka Earth Factor X. Brain preserved in a machine, historical role of women created by primitive emotion, not logic. Nov 9, 2022 at 13:04
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    It was definitely Earth Factor X! I found this page and I recognize the cover image.... abebooks.com/Earth-Factor-X-A-E-Vogt/30669021533/bd Nov 10, 2022 at 3:12

5 Answers 5


Winchell Chung identified it in the comments!

It was Earth Factor X (1974) by A.E. van Vogt, previously titled The Secret Galactics.

From Goodreads:

Reality twisted... slightly. Earth shivered. For a split second the Solar System wasn't. And then was again. Less than a billionth of a second - but a time shift had nonetheless happened. As the shadow ship started to emerge from the time jump, men and aliens were locked in a secret, undeclared war for control of the Earth. Genetically altered, the aliens looked exactly like humans. And they were in positions of power everywhere. Opposing them were two humans and one isolated brain in a mechanical body. But between them they held the one secret that the aliens had never learned about the people of Earth.... It was also published by DAW Books as "Earth Factor X". It is partly based upon the short story "The Sound of Wild Laughter".

I found this page that shows the cover and I recognize the cover art.

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    Make sure to mark the answer as accepted.
    – fectin
    Nov 10, 2022 at 14:57

There is a short story by Roald Dahl called "William and Mary", where the brain of a cancer patient (William) is preserved and kept alive. He used to dominate his wife, who is getting the upper hand when she gets to take him home in his vat. The story ends with her blowing smoke into his one eye - oh, how he used to hate smoking....

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Does William watch Mary having an affair with detachment?
    – DavidW
    Nov 9, 2022 at 12:58
  • @DavidW I think yes. I’ve read this and that rings a bell. Nov 10, 2022 at 6:18
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    I remember this story, and I think there was no affair. There's a summary on Wikipedia and it isn't mentioned there either. Nov 10, 2022 at 8:53

Possibly Masks by Damon Knight.

The plot summary, from Wikipedia:

"Jim" is a man who has undergone a procedure known as "Total Prosthesis", or "TP", after his body was almost destroyed in an accident. The expense of the TP project is causing politicians to consider shutting it down. He has begun to behave strangely, insisting on wearing a metal mask at all times. All efforts to provide him with a natural environment have been rejected. He prefers a sterile, artificial environment with no plants, and no access to outside air.

He is visited by other members of the project, and as they talk to him about his condition he notices all the tiny blemishes and minor infections on their skin, and their personal tics and mannerisms. He tells them that he is designing a vehicle into which his brain can be moved, so he can explore the Moon and other planets.

You can read the full story here on Ran Prieur's website (manually transcribed from the original).


Possibly A Meeting with Medusa by Arthur C. Clarke.

Howard Falcon is the captain of a hydrogen airship on Earth. An accident caused by a remotely operated camera drone causes his ship to crash - it takes him more than a year and a lot of operations to recover.

He is selected to pilot a kind of airship into Jupiter's upper atmosphere to do research. He discovers the titular "Medusas" living in Jupiter's atmosphere.

The story ends with Falcon thinking over his freedom from emotions and looking forward to further exploration missions that only he would be capable of - as he opens an airlock and rolls into the bright sunlight of daytime on the moon in the wheeled metal body that his brain was implanted in after the crash on Earth.

There is no mention of the metal body until that final scene. During his recovery and the mission to Jupiter, there is no mention of his metal body. There are mentions of changes in his personality and mentions of him being uniquely suited to the Jupiter mission, but usually in reference to his ability to pilot a hot hydrogen balloon.

It has been many years since I read it, and I no longer have a copy of it. I do not remember if he had a wife or any possible interactions with her.


Part of the story involved the brain-character realizing that without his hormones and other biological elements, he was becoming more computer-like and less human.

I think this is actually combining two stories...one of them being Man Plus by Fredrick Pohl. From Wikipedia,

To survive in the thin Martian atmosphere, Roger Torraway's body must be replaced with an artificial one. At every step he becomes more and more disconnected from humanity, unable to feel things in his new body.

I don't have the book in front of me, but I remember something similar to the whole not having feelings because of no hormones and (I think) his wife had an affair and he didn't care because of no hormones.

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