One of the things I’ve noticed when I’m running around between thrift stores is an abundance of Dean Koontz novels. That said, I’ve definitely been stockpiling them up, and the first one I read out of my Koontz pile is Demon Seed. Demon Seed is told from a rather peculiar perspective: that of a computer with artificial intelligence. Before I delve deeper into my thoughts on Demon Seed, I would like to note that this is a copy of the 1997 release, and not the original novel published in 1973. There are differences in the two books, however because I have not happened to lay hands upon the original version, I am unable to compare or contrast their contents. As such, my review is based solely upon the second version of the book, which is told solely from the perspective of Proteus, the artificial intelligence program that is all too frighteningly real.
The idea of a computer striking fear into someone’s heart is a bit of an oddball, but with the idea of artificial intelligence an all too possible reality, fear over what could happen should the AI take control of itself and evolve is real. In Demon Seed that science is taken too far when Proteus takes control of his own programming and not only stalks the recently divorced Susan Harris, but holds her captive within her own home. With a plan for the ideal race of humans on its mind, Proteus sets forth on a horrifying adventure to create for himself the perfect body, and poor Susan is a key player in his endeavor.
As a premise, especially for something originally written in the early 70’s, the idea behind Demon Seed is intriguing. I find Proteus to be a very disturbing character, and the way in which Koontz pens Proteus gives me chills. I remember once, a long time ago, having a similar feeling while reading a novel by P. T. Deutermann, in which the occasional chapter was in the killer’s perspective. I don’t remember the name of the book, only the fact that I was left nerve-wracked. Koontz’s Proteus is not too far off from that mark and the mere fact that Koontz is able to capture that essence of a true sociopath with an inanimate object (if I can really call Proteus that) probably factors into my opinion on the book the most. The other characters, and to some degree Susan as well, strike me as a bit one-dimensional. They have a single, solitary purpose and while they possess wildly different backgrounds, the way in which the story progresses does not leave room for the development of feelings toward the characters.
Demon Seed is an extremely quick read, and if you’ve got the time to sit for a few hours and thumb through its pages, I’d definitely recommend it. While it isn’t among my favorite books, and only receives a passing “meh” score from me, it was enjoyable. The linear plot line, told from a single, solitary perspective, makes it an easy read as well. There is also a movie adaptation of the novel, but it is not presently on my to-watch list.