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The Terminal Experiment Paperback – April 12, 1995

3.5 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: #1,249,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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