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The Terminal Experiment

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,992 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews

Dr. Peter Hobson has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. But they all have escaped from Hobson's computer into the web-and one of them is a killer.

ebook, 352 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Ace Books (first published May 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 09, 2016 Stuart rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-sf, near-future
The Terminal Experiment: A Substandard Crichton-style thriller
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Robert J. Sawyer is a very popular Canadian SF author, with many novels under his belt and several major awards, including the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Mindscan. I hadn’t read anything of his so I decided to give The Terminal Experiment a try. It’s about an engineer who creates three artificial copies of his c
Always with that contrived ripped-from-the-headlines-plugged-into-a-thriller feel and the distracting sense that Sawyer's characters are just cameos of folks he met while researching his book, but you would think that after 50+ years of SF exploring the ramifications of AI and afterlife, Sawyer would come up with something more perceptive than just murderous AIs and a completely imaginary proof of soul-life. Another example of hailed Hard sci-fi that relies on arbitrary fantasy tools and measure ...more
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Excellent read. Well thought out premise that was very well executed. Highly engaging, original story. Recommended

Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1996)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1996)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1996)
Jun 13, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I loved Flashforward by Sawyer. This book was good, but not quite up to the same quality as that one. Still I enjoyed it a lot.

The Terminal Experiment took a little while to set up the story. The beginning wasn't uninteresting, just not specifically about what it proposed to be about. It did weed its way into that about halfway through and I ended up being satisfied.

This book begins with a scientist in Canada who develops technology to assess when a person actually dies (not just when the doctor
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This is not quite as bad a book as I had been led to believe. The prose is often leaden - in particular, the cringe-worthy opening passage which I think should be used as a model of how not to write in classes for impressionable young writers, and the numerous info-dumps idicating that the characters have read all the available scientific literature up to 1994 (which is a shame as most of the book is set in 2011). What appears to be the kille ...more
Mar 17, 2015 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Peter Hobson creates a scanner that can map the neural nets of the brain, and in the process discovers the soulwave. His wife reveals an affair she had. Hobson and his best friend Sarkar scan Peter's brain and develop three AIs to study immortality and life after death. Now, one of the AIs is behaving very badly. How can it be stopped?

Sawyer makes me think of John Scalzi. His writing isn't too good, but the story is entertaining.
Sep 30, 2011 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading Robert J. Sawyer's other work helped convince me of problems with the Hugo process. Since I was happier with the Nebulas I was surprised to see one of his novels on that list.

I will give the Nebulas this -- they gave the award to a 2-star book rather than a 1-star one. But, man, this guy can't write as well as he thinks he can.

"Pseudo was about fifty, and as slim as the Leafs' chances in the Stanley Cup."

Not so good stuff.
I rarely read science fiction but I really enjoyed this book. Setting the plot aside for a moment, I must admit I've entertained myself trying to match the futurist technology Mr Sawyer had created for 2012 with what we have really achieved. The dissonance permeates the whole book but it isn't unpleasant at all.
Back to the story: it's a "what if" scenario. What if I can communicate with a soul after death? What if I become immortal? What if I stay simply human, without skipping what evolution ha
Jun 27, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Terminal Experiment

I have yet to read a bad Robert J. Sawyer tale! True, I have not read a lot of them – the WWW trilogy, Flashforward, Mindscan – yet the flavor of these later stories pretty much began with his first Nebula award-winning novel, The Terminal Experiment.

As the author explained in his preface, he wrote this in the 1990s during the infancy of the Internet and the World Wide Web and did not want to update the story, yet this does not majorly affect the relevancy of the story nor
Sean Randall
Nobody does courtroom drama like Sawyer. Although there's a fair bit of technological misfiring (wasn't this 1995?) It's surprisingly cogent and enjoyable. Ending is very typical, though.
Mar 09, 2015 Allie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Terminal Experiment is a mind-uploading murder mystery that revolves around the drama of scientist Peter Hobson’s personal life. Though the science is dated, I thought the central speculative ideas of the story—the proof of existence of a soul and the ability to electronically copy human minds—were really fun. I would have liked for the story to involve more of how these discoveries could affect society, rather than moving into a predictable mystery plot. All the same, Peter Hobson, and his ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Nicatel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Letto in italiano, col titolo "Killer on-line".
Uno dei primi romanzi di Sawyer, e probabilmente il primo ad essere stato tradotto in italiano. La vicenda contiene molti elementi che saranno comuni nei suoi romanzi: l'ambientazione canadese, il protagonista scienziato, i problemi in famiglia, l'intelligenza artificiale, la riflessione tra scienza e fede.
Il romanzo è piacevole da leggere, anche se è un po' discontinuo nel tema: parte con una vicenda (che non è quella presentata nell'imprecisa qua
Oct 30, 2014 Winnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hubby reads a lot of science fiction and occasionally he reads one he considers so outstanding he just wants to share with me. He read this book recently for the second time (yes, he keeps his book and re-reads them....his science fiction "library" would rival a book store!). I'm not wild about the whole science fiction genre but I must admit that book had an interesting premise. It was written in 1995 and most of the book takes place in 2011. So to read a book in 2014 written in 1995 that takes ...more
Benjamin Atkinson
What a terrible novel for a Nebula Winner. Robert Sawyer is one of these authors who uses his books to spit political vitriol at all things American. He lives in Canada, and brother you will NEVER FORGET IT. His constant feminist, uber-liberal, ecological, anti-suburbia, anti-middle class; the guy's character makes a big point of walking everywhere. I guess to be green, but he also talks about his Mercedes. Yes, his character is a pulpit in this pathetic novel. I gave it two stars because, I fel ...more
Gian Luigi
Sep 04, 2015 Gian Luigi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matteo Pellegrini
Jan 22, 2014 Matteo Pellegrini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza
Peter Hobson è un esperto in ingegneria biomedica, quarantenne, affascinato dai problemi della vita dopo la morte e dalle possibilità di sopravvivenza che la tecnologia offre alla personalità umana. E infatti tutto comincia quando Hobson realizza un coraggioso esperimento per verificare le sue teorie sull'immortalità, creando tre simulazioni elettroniche di se stesso. Al primo alter ego di Hobson è stata cancellata la memoria della sua esistenza fisica: è una simulazione dell'anima. Al secondo ...more
Einar Nielsen
This is the second novel a read that is by Sawyer and he seems pretty preoccupied with God and the afterlife. Don't worry he isn't a Bible thumping extremist (at least that's not my interpretation), but this books has some problems. Biggest is that there are interesting ideas that aren't really explored. Though I understood their purpose I found them to be wasted. On the other hand there are some interesting point in the book. But I have to say that the whole afterlife thing put me a little bit ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Dr. Peter Hobson copies his mind into three computer AI systems and alters two of them to investigate theories of consciousness. Then one of the AIs starts murdering people, because, y'know, how else could a writer show an AI interacting with the world in an interesting way.

This isn't a bad book but I am shocked that it got so many reward nominations. The SF elements are moderately interesting. The character development is limited, and in particular Hobson's wife comes across as only a puppet ma
Jun 04, 2014 Matthew rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

The book reads like a second rate Robin Cook thriller. (And I've only read one Robin Cook novel, and that was enough)
It's not science fiction. Any speculative imagining is way out of date, and really doesn't go far enough. Hell, the idea of a killer AI was probably cliche and passe 5 minutes after it was created.
It's really hard to believe this book won the Nebula, must have been a off year.

I skipped through large sections of the book and wasn't lost in the slightest. It takes a good 1/3rd of th
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 3/5
Resonance: 2/5

I have mixed feelings about this one. To its credit, it takes on some deep questions - questions about the soul, for instance, - through the medium of science fiction. That's just the sort of thing I want my science fiction to undertake. To its demerit, it was also a mystery novel. I hate murder mysteries. I'm prejudiced, I acknowledge it, and I've probably limited myself in some way and put up a barrier to enjoying some good tales out
Yet again, another thought provoking book by Robert J Sawyer… but I expected no less!

The book was written in 1995 and was set about 20 years in the future - which means right about now. This was comical to read because we now know if his future predictions about our culture have come to pass.

He missed the mark on a few things like: Curbside Newspaper Printers, we don’t have VCRs anymore (although his VCR had all the same capabilities and programming parameters that our PVRs have), Donahue and L
Steve Walker
Overall this is a quick fun read. Published in 1995 the book was set in 2011 and flashes back occasionally to circa 1995 which would be considered "today's world" at the time it was written.

Sawyer correctly predicted how the internet would explode and be incorporated into our PCs, phones, appliances, and our home. He foresaw the mobile smart phone and tablet computing. There are some other things he gets wrong, but that is always the fun of reading older science fiction predictions.

On the scien
The thing I like about Robert J Sawyer books, at least the two that I've read, is that he follows his premise through unflinchingly and to the end. I may not agree with all of the ramifications of the premise, but at least he doesn't look back. He writes this story that is possible from this premise.

The premise, in this case, is "what if there was proof of a soul?" The book can't be completely boiled down to that, there are other big questions explored, such as the afterlife, the nature of moral
Linda  Branham Greenwell
Dr. Peter Hobson, a scientist, discovers that there is a violet electrical "something" in the brain that escapes at the moment of death - he interpret this electrical something to be the soul. Of course, this discovery opens all kinds of discussion from the most scientific to the most extreme religious groups.

Then Dr. Hobson wonders what it is like to "be" a soul - a soul minus a body. So, Peter and Dr. Sarkar, a Muslim schoolmate and friend, decide to create simulations of Peter's brain to test
R. Michael Litchfield
So I am on a bit of a Robert Sawyer kick. He's won a potluck of awards (Hugo, Nebula, canadian prick, etc) and NBC made a series from from one of his books (Flashforward). I read Golden Fleece (his first) a couple days ago and was ok but not great, 3-4 interesting ideas glued to an acceptable narrative structure but they didn't really seem completely mesh. He returns to several of those ideas and instead of hanging them on a journey scaffold he uses a murder mystery one here.

Essentially a story
Nicholas Barone
Nov 27, 2011 Nicholas Barone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Terminal Experiment won Robert Sawyer the Nebula Award in 1995 (it also won the Prix Aurora award). The book tells the story of Dr Peter Hobson - a successful Canadian biomedical engineer. Peter comes into the public eye when an improved EEG of his invention is able to detect what many people believe is a person's soul leaving the body at death. The ramifications of this discovery and its effects on society provide for some interesting speculation, but they only serve as the background for t ...more
Rob Bradford
I must be missing the reason that this book, as opposed to other books by Sawyer, won a Nebula.

Characterization isn't really what Sawyer does. I can overlook that fault in science fiction if the story and 'what-if' premises are interesting enough.

Positing the existence of a demonstrable soul, well, all right, that's interesting enough, and the beginning fairly flew along. The story, after that, turns into a murder mystery. I liked Illegal Alien, also by Sawyer, and also a murder mystery, very
Patricia Rockwell
Jul 09, 2010 Patricia Rockwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another wonderful Sawyer thriller that makes you think. There's a killer on the loose, but unfortunately, it's not a real person. It's one of three computer-simulated persons. Which one is it and will our hero Peter Hobson figure it out before the computer version of himself kills again?

Along with this engrossing murder mystery, lies a host of attendant intriguing social, political, religious, and philosophical questions. They stem from the main character's creation of a monitoring device that p
Feb 12, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of what I expected to come from Sawyer; a novel about science with hints of an afterlife. What I like best about his novels is that they extrapolate on what is current in technology in a logical way and explores the consequences.
Life extension seems to be one of the recurring themes in his works and, it played a minor role here too. A lot of the debate around the Soulwave centered around the fact that immortality would prevent the soul from leaving the body.
Also at the heart of this is a sp
Aug 27, 2011 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second Robert J. Sawyer book and I have to say he's going to be one of my favorite science fiction writers if all his books are this good. Scientific theories are thrown all around this story and it still has such a human element to the story which makes it a treat. Sawyer really knows how to develop characters so you know them in-and-out and you feel for them.

The story is about two extremely smart people, who are friends, and who each develop an amazing technology that are somehow ge
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Adult near future sci-fi with existence of soul proven scientifically [s] 6 34 Sep 07, 2015 11:29AM  
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The Challenge Boo...: * Book Facts 1 1 Mar 06, 2015 12:48PM  
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in
More about Robert J. Sawyer...

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