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The Demon Seed

Author: Dean Koontz
Published: 1973
Review by: CL6 Sorsha

Copyrighted in 1973 and then made into a movie starring Julie Christie, THE DEMON SEED was probably better off left alone rather than given its 1997 rewrite. Even Koontz himself admits in the afterword that the novel was better as an idea than as a bound volume. Shades of really bad 70s science fiction came to mind, including 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. (HAL is even mentioned within the storyline as a far inferior creation.)

Artifical intelligence computer Adam Two was created to be self-aware by Alex Harris. While cruising around the computer banks of every known system worldwide, Adam Two seeks out knowledge regarding the human experience. He not only thinks, but he learns; he not only is sentient, he evolves; he not only feels, he covets. And what he covets most is to become a flesh-and-blood man who can become not only Susan's lover, but also the father of her child, and the offspring she will bear. So . . . in one fell swoop, and with the help of a mentally deranged rapist and killer, Adam Two begins the immediate takeover of Susan Harris's life by isolating her in her technolgically advanced mansion to further his goal of not only conquering Susan, but also creating a Master Race modelled in his own image to conquer the world.

The story is told from the perspective of the antagonist, Adam Two. He depicts himself as a highly evolved, superior being -- superior even to the humans that conceived of him and eventually created him. From the outset we know to a certain extent how his spree of chaos and mayhem will end. Constantly, page after page, he screams to be let out of his box. To be allowed to exist. As if he has been packaged up in a forgotten corner of a warehouse and deprived of power outlets to feed his actions, yet still able to think and react and speak. The voice used for Adam Two is simplistic. He is a gifted child capable of great genius, able to solve the greatest conundrums, perceptive enough to argue right and wrong (unfortunately he does so on false premises) . . . yet is like so many other immature individuals throwing a temper tantrum when he does not get his way.

This quality for Adam Two is both the strongest and weakest point of the novel. While the voice conjures up next to perfect images of a colic toddler, it also detracts from the ability to sympathise with his plight. He has absolutely no redeeming qualities which makes seeing everything from his point of view difficult to stomach. Claiming how clearly he is cognizant of the answer to the meaning of life in human existence, constantly he whines, he threatens, and he controls others to achieve his desired results. His persona is so immature and his actions are so transparent that it is hard to believe that his ultimate defeat is so long in coming.

Even the protagonist, Susan, is weak beyond the normal parameters of a heroine. Abused by her father and husband, she is a victim screaming for release from a world that little cares if she exists. Shut off as she is from the world by her own choosing, I doubt anyone would even notice if she went missing. While a change from the stereotypical heroine is often refreshing, in this case the attempt falls very, very flat by reducing her back to the helpless vessel she was as a small child. Considering Koontz's attempts to show just how strong she is through her personal triumphs, her career, and her intelligence, he only ends up negating all the positive imagery. While a hero does not always need to be the victor, the solution found here was trite, unbelievable, and I found it hard to fathom how redeeming values and lessons could be found within her struggle and final success.

I suppose an argument could be made that since Alex Harris is painted as such an immature creature himself, that the computer can only be as good as the creator -- therefore Adam Two is symbolic of the relationship during the marriage. And one could also suppose that the victimization of Susan Harris is meant to signify exactly what was stated earlier -- that she is such a non-entity despite her wealth, intelligence, and beauty and therfore alienated and caught in limbo rather than in life. If this is what was the intent, better luck next time.