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. It follows an intellectual, science minded character exploring a quite interesting new idea. If you like Sawyer's other works, you really ought to read this.
If you're not familiar with Robert J. Sawyer...
Published 10 months ago by Scott Reine
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Virtual immortality and virtual revenge,
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]. ;-)
2.0 out of 5 stars nothing special,
By A Customer
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
Avid Science Fiction Reader
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 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.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most thought-inspiring books I've read,
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as tightly woven as usual...,
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.
2.0 out of 5 stars Random Walk,
By A Customer
What a let-down. After reading Flashforward (also by Sawyer) and enjoying it sufficiently to look for more by the author, I happened upon Terminal Experiment. I have now had my fill of Sawyer for the forseeable future. Sawyer can't seem to decide what this book is about: mushy theistic philosopy, an affair between the protagonist's wife and her co-worker, a murder mystery, or an AI experiment (of the possibilities, the last at least had potential for an interesting plot). Unfortunately, Sawyer meanders aimlessly through all of the above story lines without addressing any one of them in an interesting way. Combine this with stilted plot, a whiny protagonist, and an uninteresting supporting cast, and you don't have much. Hard to believe this won a Nebula. It might be worth reading if you find it in the pocket of the seat in front of you on the airplane, but this book is certainly not worth buying.
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but falls short,
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Too Bad,
I like the idea of this book a lot: not only copying your brain into a computer, but editing it in various ways just to see what happens. But there are moral issues here which don't get explored. Is it cruel to do this? Is it moral to erase the copies when you're done?
Instead, the book goes off on a tangent about the human soul as a separate thing from the body. Pseudo-religion, yum. And then there's this murder mystery nailed on, to no good end, while the more interesting possibilities are left hanging. It also wasn't clear to me whether the copies had souls or not, which seems like a crucial point given all that happens with them. Still, I read the book straight through, and found it reasonably enjoyable.
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so Cutting Edge,
As seems to quite often be the case these days, I am having trouble understanding why 'The Terminal Experiment' is a novel that has had so much praise lavished upon it. It has been described as 'cutting-edge' - an assertion I doubt was true even when it was first published in the mid-90s. Still, it won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, so what do I know?
I don't want to imply that this is a bad book - it isn't. The story, of a scientist who makes three electronic clones of himself only to have one of them go on a murdering spree, is fast paced and well plotted. The characters are believable if a tad stereotypical. The science in the novel isn't complicated or overwhelming (which makes me wonder what is so cutting edge about it) and Sawyer does manage to convey scientific detail in an unobtrusive way.
What was disappointing was the lack of in depth consideration of the morality of electronically cloning your own brain and whether said clones are entitled to human rights. What are the moral limits when it comes to punishing clones? Sawyer approaches these topics, brushes by them lightly and quickly moves on in favor of maintaining pace and getting to the less than satisfactory end.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great SF - and a possible SF intro for non-fans,
Other reviews have discussed the plot points of this book (which I enjoyed immensely, by the way) so I'll point out some different things.
One of the things I found interesting about it is that although it won the 1995 Nebula Award, it's by no means hard-core science fiction, e.g. of the space-opera variety that your friends and relatives don't like. Instead it takes place in a very near, very plausible future, and concerns advances in medical and computer science, rather than space- or time-travel, etc. Furthermore, much of the plot is more that of a mystery or action novel than a typical SF story. I think this would be an excellent entry into SF for someone who is not yet a fan, or who is skeptical of the genre.
Of course, SF fans will enjoy it, too!
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The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1 2009)
CDN$ 13.50 CDN$ 12.15