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Thorns, by Robert Silverberg

Second paragraph of third chapter:
"Nix." Nikolaides drew the final consonant out luxuriously. "Chalk gave her to me, him to you. She's a bore, anyway. Why switch?"
Classic sf which was beaten by Lord of Light and The Einstein Intersection for the Hugo and Nebula respectively; I thought I had read it before but in fact it seems I hadn't.

It's a short but pretty powerful book. The central characters are a media mogul who is also a psychic vampire who draws sustenance from other people's pain, and the two people who he brings together purely for entertainment, an astronaut who has been horribly mutilated by aliens and a young woman who has been at the centre of a media storm after allowing a hundred of her eggs to be fertilised for donor pregnancies. The notion that a senior media figure is obscenely benefiting from causing people pain remains horribly valid today; now that it's possible, egg donation seems much less scandalous than Silverberg anticipated, as far as I can tell. (And while we don't yet have aliens mutilating astronoauts, we have plenty of unwilling celebrities who have been horribly injured in public.)

I've seen this described as Silverberg's first good novel, and while I'm not familiar enough with his early work to pass judgement, it is pretty good (even if deservingly beaten by Lord of Light for the Hugo). The set-up is all too plausibly done in the context of the story's future technology, and the payoff delivered in due course after some grim sidetracks. Well worth getting hold of.

This was my top book acquired in 2010. Next in that pile is Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin.

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