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3.4 out of 5 stars63
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(2 star).Show all reviews
on January 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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on June 21, 2000
An excellent premise. A man discovers hard scientific evidence that some part of the human mind continues to exist after death and then sets up an experiment creatinge three computer simulations of himself: one has all remembrance of physical existance edit out--simulating life after death, another has all knowledge of death removed--simulating imortality, and the third is unaltered--a control. Then all escape and one commits a murder--but which one!
But don't get excited; it's all a bore. The murder is committed in the absurb method of having a man's low-fat gravy replaced with the real thing. He's on medication that requires a very strict diet so he dies. But the reader doesn't have a chance to ponder how ridiculous this is because he or she is still trying to figure out how the author failed to realize how stupid the experiment is: the one with the three copies of our hero. All three know that they are simulations so the control is hardly a real simulation of the main charcter, Hobson. The one with no knowledge of death, knows what death is and doesn't want to be deleted. These inconsistancies are lost on Sawyer who plows ahead with his ridiculous murder plot.
Perhaps and even bigger problem is Sawyer's failure to create realistic people. All the minor characters--especially the ones that are refered to in the "news briefs" scattered throughout the book behave in unbelievable manners. Like the Republican Senator who becomes a supporter of Euthanasia becuase the existance of a human soul has supposedly been proved!
The Major character don't fair much better. Each seems to be a mouthpiece for Sawyer to express his own philosphical views. Certainly the main two character's frequent asides on subjects like abortion, child development, and evolution are interchangable. Simply reading them by themselves would give you know hint of wether they are being uttered by Hobson or his friend. The characters are that one-dimensional.
All things considered it is an easy read and had a lot of potential. But don't bother reading it. And what in the world is Phil Donahue doing in this book!
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on July 6, 2001
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.
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on May 15, 1997
The only thing impressive about this book are the awards it has somehow accumulated. The writing style was OK, but the science and psychology was definately lacking - overly simplistic and convenient. But what bothered me the most was the thinly veiled and clumsy anti-humanism allegory. I like stories that explore and question various moral and ethical situations and dilemmas - I don't like being hit over the head with them. For interesting allegories, read Nancy Kress or Valerie Freireich. This book felt to me like one of the more saccherine "Outer Limits" episodes, where a questionable but nevertheless interesting premise is shallowly explored and sweetly resolved
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on April 20, 1999
I still don't understand why nearly half the book is dedicated to a completely different premise (that one can definitively detect the soul)? A hundred pages of setup for the "Gee, this makes me want to simulate myself" plot? I would have been much happier if the soul-thing had been the entire story.
And does there HAVE to be a killer on the loose in every sci-fi book I read these days? Oh, for the days of Asimov and Heinlein.
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on August 13, 1997
I have a habit of purchasing SF books that won the Nebula or Hugo award, and so far I have been pretty pleased with the selection except when it came to this one. It must be a slow year for awards. This book is poorly written, no characterizations, no plots, no reasons for being. If I had bought the book from a local store that accepts return, it would have been back on their shelf after a couple of chapters
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on July 29, 1999
If you believe in god, transcendence or merely that something happens after you pop out of existence... still won't find in this book much enlightment. Furthermore, if you are one of the non-believers, or even just an agnostic, then this electric souls thing will definitely not be a WOW! type of an idea.
Still, the book entertains. Too bad I didn't like the concept.
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on August 29, 1997
Boringly mundane, with completely bland uninspiring characters, an unexciting plot, and feeble attempts at provoking discussion on Big Themes.

How did it EVER win an award? The shameless plug by Sawyer himself in this review page merely adds insult to injury for all SF fans.

Flush this book down the toilet. Now
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on August 18, 2002
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 down.
Avid Science Fiction Reader
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