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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, conveyed in writing no worse than most sci-fi
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...
Published on Oct. 13 1997

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Killer of Reader�s Imagination
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,...
Published on May 6 2004 by WFK


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More myster/thriller, less sci-fi, April 16 2010
This review is from: The Terminal Experiment (Mass Market Paperback)
It is difficult to find good Canadian science fiction. I would consider Robert Sawyer one of the best of the bunch. Even in saying this, I do sometimes put his books down with that feeling of something missing. It's almost perfect but...

The Terminal Experiment is a story about Peter Hobson and his incredible discovery that changes the way the world thinks of immortality and life after death. Furthering his research he creates three computer simulations of himself, two with tweaking and the third a control. Gaining access to the WWW, they free themselves and at least one of them is committing horrible crimes.

In reading this book I felt the same way as I did reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; entertained enough, but left wanting. It wasn't until I tried to think of it more like a mystery/thriller and less like sci-fi that I started to enjoy it a lot more. The main weakness was the lack of character development that prevented me from really connecting with most of the characters.

The Terminal Experiment was a fast and easy read and I enjoyed the ethical, moral and philosophical discussions when they occurred. If you are looking for a page turner and a good summer read, you will love this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, conveyed in writing no worse than most sci-fi, Oct. 13 1997
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
By 
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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4.0 out of 5 stars It's all in the brain..., Jan. 18 2008
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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 his "Calculating God" (2000) in sequence. The subject matter, how technological advances can extend life beyond the usual lifespan has been a major topic in his most recent books, "Mindscan" and "Rollback". Terminal Experiment, Sawyer stated at the time, was "an exercise in determining what a human mind might be like if it were aware either that it would live forever or that it was already dead."

"Hobson's Choice", named with a touch of irony after the primary protagonist, Dr. Peter Hobson, and the title of the novel's serialization in Analog magazine, "is the choice between immortality or a scientifically verified life after death." Hobson's fascination with AI reaches new levels when he discovers an electromagnetic pulse that can be monitored as it escapes from the brain at time of death. He calls it a "soul-wave". Does that mean that a "soul" can be scientifically identified? Where does it lead and how long does it survive outside the body? Does it apply to everybody or was it a fluke? What about animals? Sawyer explores these topics with his usual sharp, investigative mind both from the technological angle as well as the spiritual.

Hobson's friend and partner in AI experiments is Sakar Muhammed. Together, they dream up a scheme that should provide new insights into brain functions after death. They do this by developing sophisticated computer models of Peter's complete brain map. The three models are not identical so that they can monitor the different behaviour patterns in the virtual environment. But then the virtual and the actual realities collide with consequences the two scientists have not foreseen... Are they in the end faced with a real "Hobson's Choice"?

As in the recent novels, brilliant to my mind, this novel combines the human aspects of what artificial intelligence (AI) can provide through advanced technology. He embeds pertinent questions of life after death and the morality resulting from the application of the technological advances into a full-fledged detective and mystery story. At times the story moves a bit slowly and there are unnecessary repetitions. His protagonists' characters are well drawn, their personal lives complicated by events and strong emotions. Other players, in particular, Sandra, Peter's wife are less convincing and rather shallow despite her role in the personal drama. While the reader may have more insights in what is going on than the protagonists, the unraveling of events is as creative as it is unique. Sawyer's knowledge of the latest science is, as usual, spot on and the realization of some of his fictional developments are within reach just a few years later. It makes the reading or rereading of Terminal Experiment years after publication particularly interesting and stimulating. [Friederike Knabe]
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and enjoyable; maybe too crowded, though, July 5 2004
By 
Craig MACKINNON (Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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? Sawyer never seems to sort out what the important storyline is, and the reader is left feeling that he had two good ideas for short stories, then combined them to make a novel. But it's great fun and a good read, so I can forgive such issues.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Artificial Intelligence--Good or Bad?, Dec 29 2001
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 end, and is there life after death? Both questions are both pragmatic and theological and can be viewed from more than one perspective. Dr. Peter Hobson, scientist and dabbler in life energies, discovers that there is a current in the brain that escapes at the moment of death; as he chooses to interpret it, the soul. Of course, this discovery opens all kinds of discussion from the most scientific to the most extreme religious fundamentalists.
When he and an old Muslim schoolmate and friend decide to create simulations of his brain to test their theories on the soul, they open a can of worms that cannot be eliminated despite all their high tech prowess. With three simulations loose on the Internet implementing what they conceive of as Peter's desires, things become frightening and desperate.
Add to all this Peter's dilemma over his wife's infidelity and you have a futuristic mystery with morals and ethics problems thrown in. This is a thoroughly entertaining book with lots of future scientific advances mentioned as well as the very real question of what reliable scientists should do with artificial intelligence. A fast page turner, it is also thought-provoking and intelligent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most thought-inspiring books I've read, Sept. 20 2001
By A Customer
This book, with its thrilling opener and modern-day look on the philosophy of the near future, caught my attention by the third page. It was, as the cliche says, a page turner that kept me up hours past my bedtime. I finished the book within a day of picking it up. The Terminal Experiment got my heart racing, made me look twice over my shoulder, and questioned my beliefs about the now and the ever after. This is SUCH a good read. Sawyer pulls the plot, hough it seems like an awkward premise, to a story that fits well within our world of existance. Though I am not usually a fan of medical mystery, the terminal experiment brought so many issues forward that I couldn't help but be interested. I reccommend this book to anyone in search of a good read. Even if you know only the slightest about medicine or technology, this book will engage your interest immediately. One warning, though, set aside a good block of time to read this book. Once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down for long.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as tightly woven as usual..., July 16 2001
By 
Jonathan Burgoine "bookseller" (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I'll admit my bias up front: I'm a solid Robert J. Sawyer fan. I got hooked with "Factoring Humanity," sailed right through "Flashforward," "Starplex," and "Calculating God," then stumbled a bit with "Illegal Alien." Then I read "The Terminal Experiment."
I do like this book. It had some good strong characters, and had the usual Sawyer multiplot setup. When a man develops a machine capable of viewing the soul's release after death, the world changes overnight. The philosophical ramifications of this device have its creator wondering about what happens to the soul once it has left the body, and he produces an AI experiment: he creates three copies of his own mind to exist in cyberspace: one with no memory of physical existance (to simulate life after death), one with no knowledge of aging or mortality (to simulate immortality), and one unmodified, as a sort of scientific "control."
Then, people with whom Hobson has 'personality conflicts' start showing up dead, and it seems that all three Hobson-AIs have escaped their cybernetic boxes. One of them is a killer.
Weaving multiple plots together is usually a forte of Sawyer, but in "The Terminal Experiment," it's not so tightly woven. The plots of the family troubles of Hobson, against the "soul-wave" device, and the murder mystery, don't always link together as tightly as they could. Still, I quite enjoyed his book, as always, and if nothing else, the philosophical debates of the three AIs, and what they represent, was a real thought-provoker.
If you're new to Sawyer, start with something else, such as "Flashforward" or "Factoring Humanity" or "Calculating God." If you've read him before, be prepared for a stylistically weaker plot, but a good read nonetheless.
'Nathan
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but falls short, June 27 2001
This novel is almost two stories in one. A scientist invents a "Super-EEG" scanning device that clearly shows an electrical field leaving a human body after death. This is quickly dubbed "the soulwave" and is widely accepted as proof of the existence of a soul and life after death. Robert Sawyer delves into meaty philosophical questions... and then veers off into a tepid murder-thriller.
Rather than explore the dramatic impact on society that we could expect from the discovery of the "soulwave", the scientist hero, Peter Hobson, decides to explore life after death by setting up a computer simulation of himself, with the biological sensations edited out. He also creates a simulation of immortality (knowledge of death is edited out) and a control. One of them becomes a killer, and Hobson ultimately has to race to the rescue to solve the mystery.
It's all very briskly told and enjoyable, but I can't help wondering what a writer like Robert Silverberg would have done with the "soulwave" issue. Sawyer raises the questions and then drops them in favor of the much less interesting artificial intelligence mystery.
Some of the characterizations are believable, if not complex; the central character remains somewhat wooden. On the plus side, Sawyer's fast-paced narrative and his willingness to raise hot-button moral issues make this a worthwhile read. I'd recommend this, but I can't help wishing it had taken the initial premise further.
The original title "Hobson's Choice" was better; but the publishers, rather than the author, are likely responsible for the change.
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The Terminal Experiment
The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1 2009)
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