Adventures in American Literature #12: Demon Seed

Dean Koontz (b. 1945) – Demon Seed (1997 edition)

I wish I had known that I was buying the 1997 version of Demon Seed rather than the original 1973 novel when I found the book for only $1 at a book sale. (I had no idea that there were different versions of the story since I know close to nothing about Dean Koontz and his literary output.) Koontz drastically changed the story, making the narrative voice told only from the point of view of Proteus, the creepily intelligent computer obsessed with Dr. Susan Harris (the original novel was alternately told from Proteus’ and Susan’s POVs). The difference between the 70s and the 90s also means that all the information about Proteus and what he does, as well as any computer/electronics use in general, is made way more complicated than whatever is seen and done in the 1977 film adaptation starring Julie Christie. I also don’t know if Proteus’s obsession with 90s actresses (Winona Ryder, Mira Sorvino, Drew Barrymore) is comparable to the 1973 edition; was he obsessed with 70s actresses then or is the 90s obsession possible only because of the internet forums that Proteus loves to peruse? (Was Julie Christie cast in the film because she was mentioned in the novel? I wonder…)

That being said, it’s a good book that you can fly through in a couple of hours. I’d like to see the movie, but I’ll probably be a little annoyed upon viewing it because I don’t exactly know the original story. Should authors have the ability to totally update and manipulate their earlier published writings? Sure, I guess so, but can you imagine if more people did that? Would, for example, The Picture of Dorian Gray work if it was changed to be set in a later decade or century? Food for thought.

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