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
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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2.0 out of 5 stars nothing special,
By A Customer
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?,
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as tightly woven as usual...,
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but falls short,
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,
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,
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,
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!
4.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Peter please stand up?,
The debate over human consciousness, whether it exists, whether it's unique in the animal kingdom and whether it has a long term essence, remains ongoing and intense. Works on evolution and sociobiology are permeated with the question of whether our ability to communicate ideas reflects the existence of a spiritual element in humanity. Ever since early humans could perceive the idea of death the question of 'what happens after' has dominated our thinking. Sawyer makes a good effort to deal with the first part of the question: yes, there's something there, and it's not limited to humans. As to the afterlife, Sawyer raises the question, then leaves it for a later book or someone else to decide.
The many comments below about Sawyer's characters reflect the maturity of his prose style. Readers looking for simplistic people and predictable action are not pandered to in this book. He introduces a devout Muslim AI engineer, surely a novel idea in speculative fiction, and a graduate chemist unable to shed her childhood disappointments. Current concepts of family stress, with separations, sex, and parental tensions all become major features in this story. While the characters here are mildly wooden [especially in comparison with Sawyer's later books], their models are real enough. Sawyer simply had too much philosophy and technology to present in too few pages. The lady copper, in particular, is a pretty fast thinker, given the novelty of the circumstances.
The philosophy redeems any faults in this book. We need to recognize where evolution has brought us. Sawyer touches that issue lightly, bringing the story to a level rarely encountered. We are left uncertain as to whether the concept of the soul is meaningful. That will leave some readers unsatisfied, but that's a major part of Sawyer's appeal. He will raise the questions, you must come up with some of the answer.
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The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Dec 1 2009)
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