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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
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 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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2.0 out of 5 stars Not so Cutting Edge, Jan. 5 2001
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Peter please stand up?, Oct. 16 2000
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Sawyer has made a bold, and generally successful, attempt to raise the genre of speculative fiction above the 'space opera' level. Merging a wealth of science and technical publications with a philosophical drama, he's launched a fresh approach to sf prose. The story relates the life of Peter Hobson, who becomes a specialist in brain signal detection after witnessing a corpse reacting to an organ transplant operation. His research discloses that the brain indeed possesses something that seems to transcend death. Pursuing that issue, he records his own brain signals, creating three identities. Meanwhile, Hobson's a lovely, devoted, wife betrays him with a creep, devastating him. The result is mysterious deaths, a world reaction to his discovery and some heavy discussion on human values.
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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