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The Terminal Experiment | [Robert J. Sawyer]

The Terminal Experiment

An experiment has gone terribly wrong. Dr. Peter Hobson has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. One will test life after death; another, immortality. The third one is the control unit. But now all three have escaped from Hobson's computer into the worldwide electronic matrix. And one of them is a killer.
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Publisher's Summary

An experiment has gone terribly wrong. Dr. Peter Hobson has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. One will test life after death; another, immortality. The third one is the control unit. But now all three have escaped from Hobson's computer into the worldwide electronic matrix. And one of them is a killer.

Robert Sawyer has won many awards for his science fiction, which is praised for its blend of high-tech mystery and suspenseful pacing.

©1995 Robert J. Sawyer; (P)2003 Recorded Books

What the Critics Say

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1995

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (259 )
5 star
 (83)
4 star
 (99)
3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.0 (99 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.0 (96 )
5 star
 (30)
4 star
 (42)
3 star
 (18)
2 star
 (4)
1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    David Glenview, IL, USA 05-19-08
    David Glenview, IL, USA 05-19-08 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Incredible"

    Absolutely perfect. This was quite simply one of the best books -- sci-fi or otherwise -- I've read in a long time. Yes, there's a fascinating sci-fi plot involving the creation of digital simulations of the protagonist's brain, and they stir up a fascinating mess that will delight any lover of intelligent science fiction. But it's the complex, fully fleshed-out characters, lightning fast pacing and genuinely compelling writing that got to me the most, which is why I strongly recommend this book to lovers of great novels as well as to lovers of great sci-fi. While not a deeply devoted sci-fi fan myself, I do enjoy science fiction novels, and I think the few dozen best books in the genre are as good as the best books of ANY genre. But sci-fi gets a bit of a bad rap among mainstream readers, because it does seem like far too often the "sci" gets in the way of the "fi," particularly in the hands of less skilled practitioners, making some of them feel more like interesting textbooks than thrilling novels. But The Terminal Experiment manages to do both, and I find that to be very rare. When it all DOES come together in one book, like it does here, it more than repays your time spent reading it, re-reading it, and writing long recommendations to fellow readers in hopes that they, too have been looking for just such an ideal book. Very highly recommended.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    phelixdakat London, United Kingdom 04-07-08
    phelixdakat London, United Kingdom 04-07-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Are your moral choices bound?"

    Part (not inconceivably far in the future) sci-fi, part murder mystery.. with a sprinkling of morality (and what ifs...)

    Most summaries you will come across talk about the character's striving to "capture/reproduce" a soul - and the choices (or rather inevitable paths) that distinguishes life and the afterlife.

    I see this as a study of morals... what would you do if you were "you" but immortal or incorporeal. How would this change your relationship with others.. the world.. your morals and self beliefs?

    Peter Hobson (main character) wants to study life after death so creates copies of his own personality (captured with advanced sensor and stored on a computer):
    - one is a control,
    - one simulates immortality and
    - one simulates incorporeality

    Unfortunately, they "escape" and one of these "souls" starts to murder people in Peter's life. All clues start to point to Peter..

    We follow Peter's quest to track down the killer and are introduced to what we may wish to do, but are bound by our imposed morals, ties to our corporeal self and fear of mortality .

    Would you actually kill someone if you could not be caught.. if you were immortal.. had no physical body..

    I have to recommend this - it was one the books that brought me back to sci-fi and I originally bought to read. I could not put it down and finished it in a weekend - am excited that it is back as an audible book.

    It is one of the few books I am happy to come back to again and again - and the other is Ends Game (by Orson Scott Card)

    NOTE: this was originally a serial in ANALOG magazine under the title "Hobson's Choice".


    14 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Livermore, CA, USA 05-21-08
    Amazon Customer Livermore, CA, USA 05-21-08 Member Since 2003

    who am I?

    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
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    "fa"

    Please see review from David, from Glenview, IL; he's said it very well. Only thing to add: I hesitated about this listen because, judging from some of the publisher's comments, etc, I feared the religious overtones might be strong, obnoxious, and pro "intelligent design." I was very wrong! This book is full of ideas, debates about ideas, and great fun. If you like great sci-fi (as opposed to fantasy -- when will they stop being lumped together on the shelves!) I believe you'll enjoy this read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 05-13-08
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 05-13-08 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "Really not worth it..."

    Although this book had a couple of interesting ideas, it was really not worth it. The characterization was weak, the story predictable, the philosophy sophomoric, the situations contrived, and the clich?s countless. This was a murder mystery without any mystery (and without a compelling sleuth). The pre-telling of later events give the whole plot away early in the book (for the clever reader), making plodding on to the predictable conclusion quite tedious.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda B Northeast USA 11-21-08
    Linda B Northeast USA 11-21-08 Member Since 2008
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    "preoccupied with his religious ponderings"

    Like much of what this author does, it is well written and thoughtful, original and often very interesting. That said, if you aren't a religious person, particularly those who are atheist, will find the endless examination of religion, God, the after life, etc to be a bit dull - like examining the scientific roots of a fairy tale. This really isn't meant as a criticism, but much of his work seems increasingly preoccupied with religion, and tries to put a scientific spin on it. I found it distracting in the last of the neanderthal series, and it is the whole basis of this one.

    However, if you are the religious sort, and interested in that, and you like sci-fi and a well written story with lots of thoughtful, unique concepts to ponder, this is a great book.

    16 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Pang Earth 10-01-14
    J. Pang Earth 10-01-14 Member Since 2010

    Computational cognition, ethics, transhumanism, etc.

    ratings
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    Performance
    Story
    "Mind hormones & senses role explored in good story"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Terminal Experiment to be better than the print version?

    No. The narrator would drink water without unkeying the microphone. Minimally acceptable. Good story carried me through.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Exploration of technical angles of the components of the mind.


    What didn’t you like about Paul Hecht’s performance?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    More. Please.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 04-11-14
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 04-11-14 Member Since 2011

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

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    "SF Murder Mystery dealing with Moral Questions"

    In the style of Isaac Asimov this novel is about “the idea.” The characters are just necessary elements of the plot to advance the idea. Sawyer does well in giving the characters logical motivation but they behave in a fashion that is so clearly useful to the story that they never seem real. But, after all, this is an idea story and not literary fiction. This book sometimes feels like a noir mystery. The writing style is very stark and spares few words that don’t advance the plot. There are several ideas here; the key ones both related to a quantum leap in the resolution of brain scan technology.
    The first “idea” is the scientific discovery of the human soul. This allows Sawyer to explore several moral questions: We are challenged to explore the consequences of the effect such a scientific announcement would have on society. Sure, many people are religious and such a discovery would only confirm their beliefs, but many materialists would be forced to reevaluate their concept of reality. Sawyer also interjects the morality of abortion, given the fact that the soul enters the fetus at an early stage in gestation. Animal lovers have to cope with the fact that Old Yeller has no soul.
    The other key “idea” that drives the story is that of computer artificial intelligence (AI). This is a spin-off technology from the brain-scan that discovered the soul. Now a personality can be captured. All this happens by the half-way point in the novel.
    This book does what a good book should do: It provokes deep thought. Some novels accomplish this by means of great insights into the way people think and feel; expressing that humanity with great depth of characterization. Some non-fiction books do this by revealing something profound about the way the world works. This novel qualifies as a good book by raising some of the grand themes of all time: When does human life begin? Is there life after death? And on top of it all is a satisfying mystery thriller.
    I have read several of Sawyer’s books and find that he is typical of many Science Fiction writers. Like Arthur C. Clarke and the aforementioned Isaac Asimov, Robert Sawyer, although a supposedly a materialist in his personal life, he often writes stories dealing with spiritual, ethical and moral questions. Clarke wrote the stories “The Star” (Christ’s natal star), and “The Nine Billion Names of God” (God is real) both revolving on religious matters. Asimov’s famous story “The Last Question” postulates the origin of God Himself. Sawyer, too, explores such themes. His novel CALCULATING GOD revolves around the idea of an advanced race of aliens that are theists, in contrast to the scientific community on earth which is largely atheistic. Sawyer’s FLASH FORWARD deals with determination and free-will. I raise this subject to make the observation that such curiosity is probably endemic to the human condition. Moral questions, like those investigated by Sawyer, and his fellows, form the basis of their most compelling work. It seems that the poetic muse for atheistic writers is thoughts of God.

    Paul Hecht reads this novel in straight fashion. His tone is deep and pleasant. I usually gravitate toward the narrators who give flamboyant performances, but I found that Paul Hecht here allowed me to fully engage with the words of the story. His performance was unobtrusive and very enjoyable. As a bonus he does something that most narrators get wrong: he correctly pronounces the word “sentience” as SEN-shunce; for that alone he gets kudos.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 11-29-13
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2011

    Checking out Brandon Sanderson's work

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting set of story angles"

    This book covers many disparate topics from religion (existence of a soul) to determination of when someone is actually dead - for organ donation purposes. The technology discussed moves between things long gone (technologically speaking) to things that have not been done. The concept that one could record one's self and store in on the internet, turn it on and have a discussion with your self is kind of interesting. The fact that there are limitations to that recording vs the physical experience is not surprising.

    The story carries well although a little weak on the ending. The reading is good and captured my attention. Overall a great performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cameron Arnold, MD, United States 12-15-11
    Cameron Arnold, MD, United States 12-15-11 Member Since 2011

    A lover of contemporary, character driven sci-fi.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kept me reading to the end, where it let me down."

    Good characters and a high-tension plot, very cohesive story. The end, however, was a bit anticlimactic, much like other Sawyer works. Still, it's not like I want that part of my life back or anything. Meh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronn BRENTWOOD, TN, United States 05-11-11
    Ronn BRENTWOOD, TN, United States 05-11-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    41
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    "Deserves 4.5 stars"

    Another compelling page-turner by RJS. With the right director, this book has all the components for a very good movie IMO.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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