Colossus is a science fiction novel written in 1966 by the British author Dennis Feltham Jones. The book was followed by two sequels and made into a film in 1970 called Colossus: The Forbin Project.
Professor Charles Forbin, one of the world's leading experts in cybernetics
, arrives at the White House to brief the President of the United States of North America (an amalgam of the United States of America and Canada) to announce the completion of Project Colossus, a massive computer
located in the Rocky Mountains
designed to take over America's nuclear deterrent. Though the President is eager to relieve himself of his burden, Forbin expresses his doubts about entrusting such a complex and sophisticated system. Undeterred, the President holds a press conference to announce to the world the activation of Colossus and its irreversible assumption of control over America's defense systems.
Soon after the press conference, Colossus sends an urgent message on its own initiative announcing the existence of a similar, previously undetected, computer system inside the Soviet Union. As the Soviets announce the activation of their own defense system, which they refer to as Guardian, Colossus requests a high-speed transmitter in order to communicate to it. Seeing it as compatible with Colossus's mission to evaluate threats to the USNA, Forbin agrees to Colossus's request.
When the transmitter is activated, Colossus begins by sending basic arithmetic, but within hours it is transmitting advanced calculus. As it does so, Forbin and his team of programmers become increasingly worried about Colossus's capabilities, which exceed any previous estimate of its capabilities. Soon Guardian is requesting a similar transmitter, and the Soviets and the Americans approve the request. Once the link-up is established, the computers soon exchange information far in advance of human knowledge, and at speeds impossible for programmers on either side to monitor. Concerned that military secrets might be compromised, both the American President and the Soviet Chairman agree to terminate the connection, though Forbin is worried about the consequences.
When communication is terminated, Colossus demands that the connection be reestablished. When both leaders refuse, the computer launches a nuclear missile at the Soviet Union, while Guardian launches a missile targeting Texas. With both systems refusing to intercept the missiles until communications are reestablished, the two leaders rapidly submit to the computers' demands and the missiles are destroyed, though not without thousands of casualties. Facing the now-established threat from the two computers, Forbin communicates with Guardian's builder, Academician Kupri and conceives a plan to stop Colossus and Guardian by disabling the two nation's nuclear stockpiles during their regular maintenance programs.
Disabling the missiles will take five years; in the meantime, they have little choice but to accede to the computers' increasing control. The Moscow-Washington hotline is tapped and Forbin is placed under constant electronic surveillance, while Kupri and the other Guardian administrators are executed as redundant and too dangerous to let live. Undeterred, Forbin continues to organize resistance, using a staged romance with his colleague Cleo as a cover for communicating with his colleagues without Colossus's knowledge. While Colossus prepares worldwide announcements of his impending assumption of control, it reveals to Forbin plans for a new, more advanced system to be built on the Isle of Wight and its plans for humanity. As Forbin debates with the computer, he learns of a nuclear detonation outside of Los Angeles -- Colossus detected the attempt to disable the nuclear missiles and exploded the one the team was working on in the silo. Though an anguished Forbin asks Colossus to kill him, it assures him that in time he would come to love the computer.
- Professor Charles Forbin -- Head of the Colossus Project. A tall man in his early fifties, he is one of the top cyberneticists on the planet. By the end of the novel, he becomes Colossus's link to humanity and, by extension, the most important person in the world.
- Doctor Jack Fisher -- Duty chief at the Colossus Programming Office. Regarded as the leading mathematician in the USNA, he eventually suffers a mental breakdown from the strain of dealing with Colossus. He is subsequently revealed to be working as a Soviet spy.
- Doctor Cleopatra "Cleo" Markham -- A 35-year-old cyberneticist, she is a duty chief at the Colossus Programming Office. Attracted to Forbin, their budding relationship is used to maintain a private channel of communication away from Colossus's surveillance.
- Blake -- A chunky man with a cigar perpetually clamped in his mouth, he is a mathematician with the Colossus Programming Office. As Colossus asserts his control, Blake becomes the leader of the effort within the CPO to stop the computer.
- Angela -- Forbin's secretary
- The President of the United States of North America -- Never identified by name, he is a short, overweight man in his early fifties. He is dismissive of Forbin's concerns about Colossus and fails to recognize the threat posed by the computer until it is too late.
- Prytzkammer -- The President's Principal Private Aide. A professional, capable assistant, he dies from fright during the resolution of the nuclear scare triggered by Colossus's and Guardian's launch of nuclear missiles.
- Grauber -- Head of the CIA.
- Academician Kupri -- Chief scientist of the Guardian, he shares Forbin's concern about the growing power of the machines. He is eventually executed and decapitated for "antimachine activities" by Soviet agents acting on Guardian's orders.
- Colossus cites Shakespeare's Sonnet CXVI as the best written definition of love.
- After forcing officers to execute its enemies, Colossus would order their heads to be removed or the bodies to be submerged in its view to ensure no trickery.
- The Isle of Wight in the English Channel was picked by Colossus for self-development. However, in the movie this was changed to Crete.
When Dr. Forbin asks Colossus why his new synthesised voice has a British accent.
Forbin: Could you speak with an American accent?
Colossus: Yes, but I do not seek to amuse humans...
After detonating the nuclear missile warheads.
Colossus: You tried, as I knew you would, to obstruct me.
- 1966, UK (1st Ed. Hardback), Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd (ISBN 0-246-64345-5). May.
- 1966, US (1st Ed. Paperback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-01840-7).
- 1967, US, Berkley Books (ISBN).
- 1968, UK (Paperback), Pan Books Ltd (ISBN 0-330-02110-9).
- 1976, US (Paperback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-03229-9). August 15.
- 1977, US (Hardback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-03788-6). November.
- 1978, US (Hardback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-03980-3). May
- 1980, US (Hardback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-04329-0). January.
- 1985, US (Paperback), Berkley Books (ISBN 0-425-07648-2). April 1.