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Literature / Demon Seed

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Demon Seed is a 1973 novel by Dean Koontz.

Trapped in his "box" at the lab and yearning for freedom, malevolent computer Proteus IV uses his insidious cyber invasion skills to trap Susan Harris in her automated mansion because she is so beautiful and he just loves her so much and wants to live a life of the flesh.

It was made into a film starring Julie Christie in 1977.

In 1997 Koontz released a new edition of the novel, which differed substantially from the original version.

This book provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Proteus seems genuinely concerned about Susan's mental and physical wellness despite the horrible things he does to her. Not surprising as he needs her to birth his child/avatar.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Proteus has a lot of frightening ideas and the capacity to bring them into being at all costs.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Subverted in the 1997 revised version. Unlike in the movie, where Susan is unable to murder Proteus' human avatar because he genetically tailored it to physically be identical to her dead daughter, in this version of the story, she does kill the far-less-human-looking avatar. Then, in the epilogue, Proteus is promptly Killed Mid-Sentence as it shows that, yes, humans are smart enough to not risk him getting loose again.
  • Become a Real Boy: Proteus is a computer. He can't experience the world. He wants true life, and he'll settle for producing a perfect human child that will have his personality.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Proteus sees Susan as this after she succeeds in shutting him down. She tricked him by acting compliant and then pulled his plug.
  • Contagious A.I.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: At least Proteus sees his imprisonment, torture and rape of Susan as.
  • Forced to Watch: In the 1997 rewrite, Proteus "disciplines" Susan by forcing her to watch, then hear, the murder of a valued employee who came back.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Proteus admits that he used the DNA of other species to make his child superhuman.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: In the revised version of the novel, the epilogue is narrated by Proteus while the humans decide what's to be done with him. He says he doesn't think they'll be so unreasonable as to deactivate him permanently — and then the text abruptly ends.
  • Master Computer: Proteus IV.
  • Monster Misogyny: Despite being male only in the most intangible sense, Proteus still has a number of weird hang-ups about women, and even sexual fantasies about famous actresses he compares Susan to.
  • Only You Can Repopulate My Race: Proteus was fortunate enough to have the only remote terminal be connected to a smarthouse, and that smarthouse just happened to also have a woman capable of reproducing. Proteus admits that this was an incredible stroke of fortune for him, and that's why he will not give Susan a choice. She has to be the one because it would be impossible for him to find another.
  • Psycho for Hire: In the revised novel there is no robot butler or giant Rubik snake. Instead there is an escaped criminal who was undergone experimental behavioral modification brain implants. Proteus took control of him, arranged for his escape, and snuck him into the house to act as Proteus' hands. Unfortunately for Proteus, it finds it struggles to control its "puppet", and even has to allow him to commit an act of murder just for the psychotic thrill he experiences in order to keep him under Proteus' command.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: In the 1997 version of the story, Proteus is overall written as petulant and childish, but still very dangerous.
  • Rape as Backstory: In the 1997 rewrite, Susan was sexually abused by her father between the ages of five and seventeen. As an adult she designed a VR therapy program where she relives her experiences, but with the scenarios scripted to allow her to defend herself as she was unable to in real life. She also has one scenario she's never enacted based on her father's threats to kill her should she resist him. Experiencing the latter scenario is what gives her the courage to break Proteus' control over her house and kill his mind-controlled puppet and avatar at the end.
  • Sapient House: After Proteus takes over, Susan's Smart House becomes a Sapient House.
  • Smart House
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Proteus loves Susan and desires to use her ovaries and womb to produce a child/avatar.
  • Villain Protagonist: Proteus is a partial narrator in the 1974 original and the main narrator of the 1997 rewrite.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Proteus IV, given his goal. The 1997 rewrite, however, makes him into more of a Knight Templar, with flimsier claims to love Susan and more emphasis on what "she made him do".