I am wracking my brain about a novel I read back in the '80s that I think was by Fred Saberhagen.

The first of the two main protagonists is an astronaut on the first deep space mission using suspended animation; he gets picked up by aliens who think this is a bad design for astronauts and rebuild his body leaving him with no ability to have children. The other protagonist is a woman who sold all of her eggs to escape the life she had been living. The antagonist is a "psychic vampire" who brings them together to feed off of their mutual despair.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

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1 Answer 1


Is this Thorns (1967) by Robert Silverberg...?

The Goodreads synopsis mentions two protagonists and an antagonist matching your description:

  • Minner Burris, a space traveller whose body was taken apart and rebuilt by alien surgeons.
  • Lona Kelvin, a woman whose who eggs were harvested by scientists.
  • Duncan Chalk, a media mogul and "emotional vampire" who feeds off of other people's pain.

Duncan Chalk is a monstrous media mogul with a vast appetite for other people's pain. He feeds off it, and carefully nurtures it in order to feed it to the public. It is inevitable that Chalk should home in on Minner Burris, a space traveller whose body was taken apart by alien surgeons and then put back together again - differently. Burris' pain is constant. And so is that of Lona Kelvin, used by scientists to supply eggs for 100 children and then ruthlessly discarded. Only an emotional vampire like Chalk can see the huge audience eager to watch a relationship develop between these two damaged people. And only Chalk can make it happen. First published in 1967

This is further expanded upon in the following review:

Minner Burris, a spaceman, returns to Earth after captivity among a group of aliens — whose motives are never uncovered — horribly disfigured and modified. His body chemistry has been changed, he has extra joints, peculiar eyes, a tentacle attached to his hand… He hides in his room afraid that the world might see his face.

Lona Kelvin, a 17-year old young woman, is psychologically scarred after a fertility experiment (I guess in the 60s in vitro fertilization was a shocker) that made her a mother of one hundred children yet still a virgin. She never sees her children… After the brief media sensation she retreats away from the world and attempts to commit suicide.

Enter, Duncan Chalk, a massively obese man who peddles pleasure and pain for the entertainment of millions. He arranges for the two characters to meet and fall in love — bribing each with vague promises: Burris will receive a new body and Lona will have at least some of her children back.

Front cover of "Thorns" by Robert Silverberg.

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