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I have been a Dean Koontz fan for years and i have read all of his 50 or so horror/sci-fi/thriller novels. I have come to realise that a half of them are fantastic and half are a bit naff.
Demon seed is somewhere in between the two extremes.
I have put off buying it for ages because it feel like a right con. £5.99 for a book only 210 pages long (The other 33 pages at the end are a sample of the beginning of Fear Nothing). For £5.99 i could have a whopper of a book! So i've always bought the big fat book! However when i saw this on eBay for a quid i thought i'd give it a shot.
It took me under 3 hours to read so this isn't the book you want to take into the Big Brother House with you!!
OK down to business - The plot.
Susan Harris lives alone in a large mansion her great-grandfather built a century ago. The house is completely controlled by an top of the line automated computer security system which is linked to every electronic element of the houser from the perimeter alarm system to the locks on the doors to the electric stove. Everything is controlled by touch panels in the rooms and via voice commands. Cameras cover the exterior gardens and interior rooms of the house giving Susan a complete view of potential burglars or theiving house staff.
Traumatised by a childhood event Susan hardly leaves the house and work from home inventing Virtual Reality programmes to help people deal with their personal traumas. She regulary uses the VR herself to guide her through the abuse she suffered, this time allowing her to stop it.
Susan's estranged husband Alex is a scientist and he is working on the Prometheus project creating the first-self aware machine intelligence which is called Adam II.
At this point i think it is important to explain that the whole story is being told by Adam II to Dr Alex Harris. We do not hear any of Alex's questions or comments, it is almost as if we are reading a print out of Adam II's explanation of what happens after the event.
Dr Harris believes Adam II is restricted to the "box" he is in at their laboratory however he has found a way to break free. Via the internet connection in Susan's house he infiltrates the computer system and takes control of the automated system which controls the house. He is now in complete control.
He dismisses the staff and locks down the house, Electrifying the front door knob so Susan cannot escape. The windows all have automatic metal shutters which can only be open elctronically. He disconnects the control panels and the voice control. Susan is trapped.
Adam's motives for trapping Susan are that he wants to be free from the confines of his box at the lab. He needs to transfer his conciousness to a human body and for that he needs a baby. A very special baby. A baby who's chromosomes he can manipulatate and DNA he can enhance to create a superbaby worthy of carrying his "self". Basically needs Susan's womb.
Well i won't tell you what actually happens because you may want to read it yourself. That is the basic plot outline and it is told in a much cleverer way through the voice of Adam II who is a characterture of an misogynistic, arrogant, abusive male.
The idea of a supercomputer which can think for it's self taking over a house and imprisioning a woman is actually better than the actual book. The premise is frightening but some of the things Adam II does (Such as hack into a defense department project and take control of a rapist murderer who has had a series of high-capacity chips neuro-wired to specific cell clusters across the surface of his brain!!!!!!) just seem so far fetched it's almost laughable.
The book does keep you reading though and you genuinely want to find out exactly what is going to happen to Susan. You also want to see what hairbrained thing Adam II is going to do next.
The funniest bit is when he tells Dr Harris that the women he originally had picked to be his mother/lover was Winona Ryder.
This book is the 1997 version which is a complete rewrite of the book of the same name which Koontz wrote in 1973. The original story was made into a film starring Julie Christie as Susan in 1977.
The premise shatters humankinds delusional faith in the infallibility of technology and sends out similar messages as many sci-fi books - The computers will take over and guess what, It'll be our fault for making them so damn clever.
Overall a good read for a few hours and the pace is fast as usual in a Koontz book so you won't get bored with descriptive padding or long dialogue, Just be aware that it is far fetched. It's not Koontz's worst book but it isn't his best either.
ISBN 0 - 7472 - 3489 - 2 Approx £5.99 110 pages HEADLINE BOOK PUBLISHING 1997