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The Terminal Experiment [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert J. Sawyer
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 2009

Dr. Peter Hobson has created a monster. Three of them, in fact. In order to test his theories of immortality and life after death, he has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. The first Hobson has all memory of physical existence edited out. It will simulate life after death. The second Hobson is without knowledge of aging or death. It will simulate immortality. The third Hobson is unmodified. A control. But now all three of them have escaped from Hobson's computer into the web.

And one of them is a killer...

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The Terminal Experiment has propelled Robert J. Sawyer into the limelight as one of science fiction's hot new writers, earning him the prestigious Nebula Award in the process. In this fast-paced thriller, Dr. Peter Hobson's investigations into death and afterlife lead him to create three separate electronic versions of himself: one has no memory of physical existence and represents life after death; one has no knowledge of death or aging and represents immortality; and the third is left unaltered as a control. But all three have escaped into the worldwide matrix...and one of them is a killer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer was born in Ottawa and lives in Mississauga with his wife, poet Carolyn Clink. He has won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The ABC TV series FlashForward was based on his novel of the same name.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The vitriol displayed in some of the reviews of this book amazes me. While the writing style may not give Updike or Bellow anything to worry about, when compared to some of the so-called giants in this genre, like Asimov, Clarke, and Niven, it holds up quite well.
Yes, there are some lapses such as: about 5 too many Star Trek references; a tendency to take today's media figures and just age them, instead of creating new people; and a lead character that seems a little too much like someone you'd bump into at a sci-fi convention. But some of the criticisms on this page are pretty unfounded. Someone criticised the lack of differences in technology between today and 2011 Just how much do you expect life to change in 14 years? Is your life today hugely different than it was in 1983? I think its great that in this version of the future people aren't riding anti-grav cars on the way to the space elevator. And perhaps the most insulting critique of all is that the book doesn't pay enough attention to the U.S., Europe, Japan. Why, this book even has the audacity to present the idea that a major discovery could be made in Canada! Amazing! How insultingly U.S.-centric is it to demand that Canadian writers set their stories in the U.S.?
This book isn't great literature, but it is very good sci-fi. It is full of fascinating ideas, a propulsive narrative with its share of surprises, and an interesting focus on morality. Don't miss this book because of the cranky comments listed on this page. This one deserved the Nebula it won.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Killer of Reader�s Imagination May 6 2004
It is easy to understand why this book won the Nebula award: there are many thought-provoking ideas woven into a story that grips the reader up to almost the last page.
The almost is due to what IMHO is this authors cardinal sin: he wants to explain it all and gives his stories more than one ending. So the mystery gets solved, the hero - who BTW is a self-centered, unbearable self-righteous ass - goes on to we now know where.
In the end all of this leaves a stale taste. Could he not have stopped 15 pages earlier? The story-ark was finished and speaking for myself I like to fill a few blank spots from my own imagination. The best sequels are the ones the author never writes but the reader imagines himself. So thank you very much Mr. Sawyer for killing that of.
Since the same already happened in "Calculating God" and "Frameshift" I doubt that I will buy another of his novels soon.
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Robert Sawyer is nothing if not an "intellectual" - his stories, novels, and even his interviews on the talk-show circuit are not standard and run-of-the-mill. He likes to explore the Big Questions of the universe and in The Terminal Experiment, he tackles one of his favourites - exploration of the devine by supplying evidence of a creator. In addition, he throws in a healthy dose of artificial intellegence, a murder mystery, and some neat medical equipment.
The main character, Peter Hobson, has family problems at home - he's going through a rocky point in his marriage. At the same time, he discovers evidence (using a super-sensitive EEG) of a "coherent electromagnetic pulse" leaving the brain at the time of death. Naturally, theologians call this evidence for a human soul, which gets Hobson thinking: what is the afterlife like? With the help of a friend (and researcher into A.I.), he generates 3 virtual copies of himself. These copies live in cyberspace, two of which are modified to simulate immortal life and life after death.
When two men turn up dead, both of whom Hobson had something against, Hobson quickly determines that one of his computerised simulacra must have done the killing. But which one? And can it be stopped?
This book won a Nebula award, and it's easy to see why. It's an exciting adventure, and there are some neat ideas in it. It's also charmingly dated in places - for example, in the year 2011, Sawyer has the Commenwealth of Independent States still existing, and Carl Sagan shows up on a talk show. Unfortunately, as other reviewers have mentioned, there is the problem of too many things happening at once. Is this a story about the existence of the soul? Is it a story about computer-generated personalities committing murder?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Virtual immortality and virtual revenge Oct. 3 2002
4.5 out of 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed The Terminal Experiment. Having won the Nebula award I was wary of it since most award winners never live up to the hype that is piled on to them. But this book is one of those that wears the award in quiet satisfaction...never getting all the attention that others get (ie. the overly hyped Neuromancer that is far inferior to the much better, non-award winning, Snow Crash). This is my first foray into Sawyer's works, and The Terminal Experiment comes across as an early techno-thriller penned by Michael Crichton when he still wrote interesting works. It also reminds me of the movie Brainstorm in which thoughts can be recorded and they accidentally capture the image (thoughts) of someone entering the afterlife. Sawyer presents some interesting arguments about immortality, life after death, and the human soul...all in relation to artificial life (intelligence). The book moves along at a great pace, and the stuggles (professional and personal) of the main character are believable. One thing I learned from the book is to never make a copy of your brain pattern when you're [upset]. ;-)
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why science fiction is one of Canada's greatest exports.
Robert J. Sawyer is one of the reasons why I believe that science fiction is one of Canada's greatest exports. This is a pretty standard Robert J Sawyer book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Scott Reine
5.0 out of 5 stars an absolute page turner
What a great book!! Fans of RJS will be satisfied by yet another exemplary work. Those who do not know him will discover an excellent author... Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2011 by darcmarc
4.0 out of 5 stars More myster/thriller, less sci-fi
It is difficult to find good Canadian science fiction. I would consider Robert Sawyer one of the best of the bunch. Read more
Published on April 16 2010 by Princess Lucy
4.0 out of 5 stars It's all in the brain...
Going back through time, I just finished Terminal Experiment, winner of the prestigious science fiction Nebula Award in 1995, after having read all of Robert Sawyer's book since... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2008 by Friederike Knabe
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent story from one of the best SF writers
Robert J. Sawyer is a great science fiction writer, having won every major award in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, and would have won one in Antartica if they had a contest. Read more
Published on May 7 2007 by Larry Ketchersid
5.0 out of 5 stars Nebula Award winner
This book won the Science Fiction Writers Association's Nebula Award, and it's easy to see why. It deftly balances believable characterization with brilliant scientific... Read more
Published on Dec 29 2003 by Donal T. Tighe
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
After reading a few reviews I expected more from this book. Embrionary plot and superficial contents make it only an average SF book. Entertaining, but nothing more.
Published on Oct. 8 2002 by jordi trullols
2.0 out of 5 stars nothing special
I got bored with this book to the point that I
started skimming through it. However, Robert Sawyer's
book 'The End Of An Era' was great and I couldnt put
it... Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Artificial Intelligence--Good or Bad?
The Terminal Experiment proposes some interesting scenarios using artificial intelligence as it seeks to discover two of life's most intriguing questions--when does life actually... Read more
Published on Dec 29 2001 by Kay Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most thought-inspiring books I've read
This book, with its thrilling opener and modern-day look on the philosophy of the near future, caught my attention by the third page. Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2001
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