The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Charles Forbin, a scientist about fifty years old, is the mastermind behind Colossus, a computer built to react automatically to nuclear aggression against the United States of North America. The country’s president is eager for the computer’s activation despite Forbin’s own misgivings of its potential. A similarly concerned colleague suggests that Frankenstein (1818) should be banned reading for scientists. Forbin replies that it should be required reading for nonscientists.

The president’s announcement that the nation’s nuclear defense is now in the computer’s hands is topped by a Soviet announcement of plans for a similar computer, Guardian, which then is also activated. Despite efforts by Forbin and his team to stop or slow the process, the computers link themselves into a supermachine. Its control of the world’s nuclear arsenal puts it in charge of world policy.

Colossus keeps Forbin under virtual house arrest and uses him as its spokesman. Claiming that humans require periodic sexual activity, something beyond the understanding of Colossus, Forbin secures regular visits from fellow scientist Cleo Markham, who loves him and acts as his liaison with outsiders trying to sabotage Colossus. All attempts at sabotage fail, the individuals who are caught are ruthlessly executed, the city of Los Angeles is vaporized, and Colossus predicts that eventually Forbin will come “to respect and love me” as other humans will. “Never!,” Forbin insists.

Five years later, as the second book opens, the predictions of Colossus seem to have come true regarding human reactions to its rule. The machine literally is worshiped by members of The Sect, despite its ruthless experiments intended to provide information about human...

(The entire section is 724 words.)