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The Terminal Experiment Paperback – April 12, 1995

89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Terminal Experiment has propelled Robert J. Sawyer into the limelight as one of science fiction's hot new writers, earning him the prestigious Nebula Award in the process. In this fast-paced thriller, Dr. Peter Hobson's investigations into death and afterlife lead him to create three separate electronic versions of himself: one has no memory of physical existence and represents life after death; one has no knowledge of death or aging and represents immortality; and the third is left unaltered as a control. But all three have escaped into the worldwide matrix...and one of them is a killer.

About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer was born in Ottawa and lives in  Mississauga with his wife, poet Carolyn Clink. He has won  both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The ABC TV  series FlashForward was based on his novel of the same name. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (April 12, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061053104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061053108
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer -- called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by the OTTAWA CITIZEN and "just about the best science-fiction writer out there" by the Denver ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS -- is one of eight authors in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's highest honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award (which he won for HOMINIDS), the Nebula Award (which he won for THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT); and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for MINDSCAN).

Rob has won Japan's Seiun Award for best foreign novel three times (for END OF AN ERA, FRAMESHIFT, and ILLEGAL ALIEN), and he's also won the world's largest cash-prize for SF writing -- the Polytechnic University of Catalonia's 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficcion -- an unprecedented three times.

In 2007, he received China's Galaxy Award for most favorite foreign author. He's also won fourteen Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("Auroras"), an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, ANALOG magazine's Analytical Laboratory Award for Best Short Story of the Year, and the SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE Reader Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Rob's novels have been top-ten national mainstream bestsellers in Canada, appearing on the GLOBE AND MAIL and MACLEAN'S bestsellers' lists, and they've hit number one on the bestsellers' list published by LOCUS, the U.S. trade journal of the SF field.

Rob is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences, teaches SF writing occasionally, and edited his own line of Canadian science-fiction novels for Red Deer Press.

His novel FLASHFORWARD (Tor Books) was the basis for the ABC TV series of the same name. He enjoyed spending time on the set and wrote the script for episode 19 "Course Correction."

His WWW trilogy, WAKE, WATCH, and WONDER (Ace Books), is all about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness.

RED PLANET BLUES is Rob's noir detective novel about the only private detective working the mean streets of Mars. It's his most-recent novel in paperback.

Next up is Quantum Night (Ace Books), March 2016. Set in the present day, QUANTUM NIGHT is an exploration of the concept of the Philosophical Zombie: someone whose lights are on but no one is home. Sawyer posits that our population is dominated by these easily led, emotionally vacant followers. And who leads this vast mob? Psychopaths.

For more information about Rob and his award-winning books, check out his web page:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Burgoine on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
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.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Robert James on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've spent most of my life reading science fiction; I've read almost everything written before 1980, and a huge chunk of what's come since then. What I've loved most about the genre -- after the guilty pleasures of space opera -- is its capacity to take the unanswerable questions and try to answer them. Too often, the questions we want to know the answers to -- what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die? -- are either unanswerable or fully realized in religion. So, for a science fiction writer to contemplate the nature of the soul and the afterlife, he runs two risks: one, that he will come up with ridiculous, unproveable answers, or two, that he will utterly infuriate one or more of the established religions. To Robert Sawyer's immense credit, he does neither. He constructs a fascinating premise: what if the soul could be proved to exist, and be proved to be heading somewhere after death? He then constructs another premise: he takes the protagonist's personality, and he makes three AI copies: one with no modifications, one that has all the bodily references deleted, and one with all the knowledge of aging and death deleted. That is his main story. The murder mystery that runs along side this plot is interesting, but it isn't the main point. Sawyer is asking the most important questions a human being can ask, and he's coming up with plausible answers. One of the paradoxes of science fiction is that its greatest books are religious in nature: "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Dune" are two excellent examples. And while "The Terminal Experiment" isn't quite up to that level (what is?), it is a worthy younger brother to those older giants.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
Robert Sawyer has moved to the forefront of Canadian SF writers, largely on the basis of this book and StarPlex, both multi-nominated tales. Neither is up to the quality of the outstanding Far Seer trilogy, but that's hardly damning. What Terminal Experiment offers is a series of ideas wrapped up in Sawyer's second attempt at the SF mystery. The first was Golden Fleece and the 'mystery' quality of this book doesn't quite live up to that early effort, in a discipline that Isaac Asimov called the most difficult in the field. But all that's back story to this book.

Terminal Experiment features Peter Hobson, a scientist with a creationist bent, who invents a measuring device for souls. This puts him at the fork of a series of Hobson's choices that eventually lead to an AI-induced nightmare. His solution is pedestrian. The joy of the book is in the conundrums of existence that are raised. Describe your last meal at a restaurant with a friend or loved one. Did you describe the scene from the vantage point of your seat or did you assume the role of a third-party on-looker? It's a little tidbit, but the kind of item that prompts discussion after the fact. And what better legacy can a book have?

Read Terminal Experiment not for the mystery or even the near-future SF. Read it for the chance to talk about things you never imagined could be part of your life.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on November 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Robert J Sawyer has never been an author to think small and he certainly didn't start in "The Terminal Experiment"! Soul-searching (literally) provocative discussions on the nature and the very definition of death, immortality, spirituality, morality, love, compassion, hatred, infidelity and more are what elevates Sawyer's novel from the realm of a mere hard sci-fi murder mystery into the class of a Nebula Award winner! He even goes so far as to touch upon the existence of a soul and its effect upon religious beliefs and global events.

Dr Peter Hobson, a successful businessman and bio-technology engineer, has created an EEG orders of magnitude more sensitive than all of the machines currently available. When he uses his scanner to detect an electrical field leaving the body after death, which he calls the "soul wave", he then collaborates with his best friend, an AI specialist, to create three computer simulations of his own brain - one modified to represent the spirit, or life after death; a second, modified to have no concept of death or aging, representing immortality; and the third left untouched as a scientific control. The self-determining simulations escape from the confines of the AI lab's computers into the world wide net and the murders begin. One of them is a murderer but the question, of course, is which one, why and how to stop it?

Sawyer's clever literary device of using snippets from newscasts and magazine or newspaper articles is not only entertaining but it places the issues he has chosen to address in his novel into a global context and hypothesizes on the effects that these types of discoveries would have on a worldwide scale ... at once thought provoking, amusing, sobering and educational!
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