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Read Demon Seed (1997)

Demon Seed (1997)

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3.35 of 5 Votes: 3
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0425158594 (ISBN13: 9780425158593)

Demon Seed (1997) - Plot & Excerpts

I am used to being disappointed by Koontz, and this one was especially disappointing... but it gets a special place because of the interesting style and the slight boost it's given to me following through more with my own writing (in a similar vein, a disembodied and malign intelligence narrating its own story). But what really annoys me is that I read the post-1997 version, and apparently it is far different from the original novel on which the movie was based-- and I liked the movie a lot!The movie (and presumably the original novel) was very dark and very weird. Keep in mind this is a tale of an invasive sentient AI from way before the Internet was a normal thing. It was doubly frightening because Proteus was willing to do whatever it took to achieve his goals, no matter what harm he did to his victim, but his goals were also somehow noble. He was a perfectly rational being that knew he had to take human form in order to save the human race from itself. He was somehow innocent, but not naive or childish. He was what one expects from the singularity... long before that was an everyday subject of interest.The newer novel... painful. It starts off interesting, in that the narration by Proteus (not sure if this also happens in the original) was an interesting tactic. Proteus is making his case to the despicable scientist who created him and held a long abusive relationship with the object of Proteus' desires (and in the story, she is an object, even in spite of her action... this is most likely because the narrator objectifies her true to character... but my impression is that all Koontz's human characters are basically objects in most of his books).Now, it doesn't bother me much that Proteus is an emotional wreck and that his emotions make him evil rather than his hyper-rationality-- that's an interesting twist. The problem is that Proteus is stupid. In fact, the atmosphere of terror found in the movie is nearly erased in this book by the bad attempts at humor (Koontz decided to double down on the elements of "satirizing male attitudes toward women", a worthy goal, but he has no subtlety when it comes to satire or anything else that involves tossing opinion into his writing), usually with "romantic" Proteus musing about actors and actresses, or that crazy Proteus comically misunderstanding human behavior or not being able to tell reality from Hollywood. And the potentially scary parts where Proteus shifts voices to show his rage at unrequited love come off more like comedy than horror. It practically reads in the voice of Stewy from "The Family Guy."Perhaps these satirical traits could have come out better had Koontz just written another story. The parts that involve Proteus being a computer are pointless. He is slow and flawed enough that it would make more sense for him to be a hacker. The microchip-controlled psycho that acts as a plot-moving device (I guess manufacturing robots would be too much like SkyNet and wouldn't allow for a fun government conspiracy to be tossed in), the "hands" of Proteus, was a more interesting creation than Proteus himself for purposes of the story. He could easily have been hacked by a human. The only thing a human hacker couldn't do in this version of the story is be the butt of the book's dumb jokes.Since the book was basically created to poke fun at male "romanticism" (very similar to the mentality of those who lament about the "friend zone"), a deserving target of mockery, why not use... an actual human to make the point. All I'm saying is that a mad scientist could have done Proteus' job for this book and would have been less hokey (yes, I just said a mad scientist would be less hokey-- this is saying something!), and it would have kept Koontz from ruining his own work!I hope to read the original some day. I hope I can find something to restore the opinion I had of Koontz after reading "Watchers"!

I've always had something of a love-hate relationship with Dean Koontz. When he allows himself to be dark and edgy, giving his imagination free reign, he can rival just about any horror author out there. When he gets self-conscious and plays it safe, however, allowing the morality of the tale to tale precedence over the story . . . well, more often than not, he gets violently tossed into the did-not-finish (DNF) pile.In many ways, it's as if he is one of his own creations, a schizophrenic author with two wildly distinct personalities. Demon Seed, probably more than any other title, gives us an insight into those personalities.The original version, written in 1973, is definitely the product of his darker side. It's a sexually charged tale of psychological and physical domination, with an emotionally scarred young woman falling prey to the sentient computer that controls her home. Told mostly from Susan's point of view, it's an intimate tale that sinks its hooks into you, making you share her claustrophobic terror.Paying homage to Lovecraft (or, perhaps, anticipating Japanese anime), it spends a lot of time focusing on the pseudopod tentacles being grown by the computer, with which it intends to impregnate Susan in order to bring forth a new creation. The original version was a very sexual book - almost embarrassingly so - with Susan spending a lot of time walking around naked, touching herself, and experiencing an orgasmic thrill when she illegally plugs the computer into herself. With her parents dead, and a history of abuse at the hands of her grandfather, there is a lot of emotional baggage to the story.By contrast, the 1997 rewrite is coldly clinical and apologetic, snatched away from the talons of his darker side, and stripped of everything that made it compelling. Susan's viewpoint is abandoned, with the computer (Proteus) narrating the story instead. While this could have been an interesting approach, it removes the emotional hook, and creates an artificial distance between Susan and the reader.As for Susan, she's been given a feminist makeover, transforming her into more of a heroine and less of a victim. Again, it could have been interesting, but it completely changes the tone of the story - without that vulnerability, and without the looming threat of suicide, she's far less sympathetic. Similarly, Proteus is transformed from the sinister, calculating, 'father-lover' figure of the original, and into an almost childishly malicious prankster. Gone are the phallic pseudopods, the creepy voyeuristic elements, and the overtones of mechanical rape. Gone as well is the taboo relationship with her abusive grandfather, replaced instead by an abusive ex-husband.While neither version ranks among Koontz's best reads, the original makes for a far more compelling read.

What do You think about Demon Seed (1997)?

Seriously disturbing. An experiment involving artificial intelligence goes awry and an artificial intelligence program "escapes" it's home computer and finds it's way to the home of Susan Harris. Susan is a recluse that lives in a giant mansion and has all her needs served by a computer program that manages everything in her home from lighting to security. She also has a very small staff that takes care of the house in regards to cleaning and maintenance. The AI program takes over all electrical/computer components of the house. He imitates Susan's voice and even made phone calls disguised as Susan and relieves her staff from duty. He devises a plan to impregnate Susan with a genetically modified fetus that he will transfer his consciousness into it. He wants to experience a "life of the flesh" and longs to feel, taste, smell, etc. It's really messed up.This is apparently the 2nd version of this story. Original version came out in the early 1970's.From what I understand, the original version is told from 2 different point of views: One from the AI entity, and the other from Susan's POV. I read this one in 24 hours while being snowed in. I liked it. But seriously disturbing.
—Sara Jo Schmidt

First review from December 13th 2010: Oh so creepy but good. I could not sleep until I finished this book and it's two-thirty in the morning. So, my favorite characters were Arling and Proteus. Arling because (view spoiler)[the poor bloke got dragged into the whole thing and chopped into pieces! (hide spoiler)]

I almost gave this one a four-star rating, not necessarily because it's a great read, but because it's entertaining while also being relatively "quick." If I had been forced to invest more time, I might actually have gone with a two. So, I guess what I'm saying's one of "those." Those books that you know in your heart you'll never think about again, those books that haven't changed your life, that haven't offered anything new, but that you still had fun reading. The plot is laughable, but the story is told from the perspective of a computer (the first true artificial intelligence), and bits of its narrative are more than just a little entertaining. If the computer had truly been as intelligent as it was supposed to be (and was educated in human psychology), questions could certainly be raised as to why it's social skills were so lacking. But if you don't question the book--if you just allow yourself to fall into it, without questioning those little things that your logical half laughs at--it is actually a lot of fun. I recommend it to those who don't have anything more important on their plates, or those who might be just a little bored. As for sheer writing and storytelling skill, I believe I underestimated Koontz until the very last sentence, which
—Chad Cantrell

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