To give perspective, the author gives a timeline of developments in behavior modification.
He attempts to tell the reader that such active research in behavior
modification isn't something that could be a threat in the future; he
cites examples of how it is occurring now, specifically in regard to
trying to curtail psychomotor epilepsy.
This is where his novel, and main character, really begins. Harry
Benson, an unimpressively characterized man in his 30s, is a sufferer
of psychomotor epilepsy and the character around which the novel
centers and derives its name. He often has seizures, periods of
blackout, and he then wakes up hours later to unfamiliar surroundings
with no knowledge of what he's done. The book begins with Benson in the
third stage of the disorder, and he is a prime candidate for an
operation to implant electrodes and minicomputer in his brain to
control the seizures. Surgeons Ellis and Morris are to perform the
surgery, which is unprecedented for the time.
The ramifications of the procedure are questioned from the
beginning, naturally, by psychiatrist Janet Ross, and they are
ominously echoed by an emeritus professor named Manon at the lecture
about the surgery. Manon raises concerns that Benson is psychotic
(pointing to Benson's adamant belief that there is no difference
between man and machine) and the crimes he commits during the blackouts
won't be curtailed because the operation is anything but a cure for
psychomotor epilepsy. Ellis admits that what they are doing isn't a
cure but just a way to stimulate the brain when the computer senses a
seizure coming on.
Once the operation is complete, it takes only two days for Benson to
break out of the hospital (and there are suggestions that the breakout
was premeditated before his admission for surgery). After the breakout,
there is a race to find Benson before he commits any heinous crimes.
Manon seems to be right about certain things and the tale turns into a
cautionary one of mixing a psychotic man capable of violence with
computers and producing an efficient, computer-directed psychotic man
with violent strains.