Seeklight Essay - Critical Essays

K. W. Jeter


Seeklight was K. W. Jeter’s first published novel, though not his first to be completed; Dr. Adder was finished in 1972 but not published until 1984. Seeklight was published under the short-lived Laser Books imprint (Canada), by a firm that also published Harlequin romances. The Laser Books series, under the general editorship of Roger Elwood, consisted for the most part of undistinguished books. The books’ plots were required to conform to a rigid set of requirements, including chaste male protagonists and upbeat endings. The books thus were hindered at the outset from becoming a particularly original line. Critics generally agree that Seeklight was one of the best books published under the imprint.

Although the seeklight of the title is a device used by thieves to identify and locate gold, it becomes a metaphor for an indomitable human spirit (such as Daenek’s) striving to overcome the “dark seed” inherent in human nature, exemplified in the death wish, the drive toward entropy, atavism, the impoverishment of spirit, and the collapse of communal life and return to solitary, bestial foraging. Daenek himself can be seen as a sort of Christ-like figure, though given the secular nature of the novel and its evolutionary (or rather, devolutionary) underpinnings, the analogy should not be pushed too strongly. For example, Daenek works as a common laborer, he begets himself out of himself (given that he is a clone of himself), laments for humanity’s ignoble and atavistic tendencies and self-degradation, and is murdered by his fellow human beings only to return repeatedly to attempt to save them. The novel is a strong debut by a remarkably talented writer.