The Terminal Experiment Paperback – 1 May 1995
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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 ageing 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. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
About the Author
Robert J. Sawyer has been selling science fiction stories since 1979 but took a long detour into the world of magazine and corporate writing before starting to write SF novels. His original ambition was to be a palaeontologist so its not surprising that dinosaurs feature so prominently in his work. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
Top customer reviews
The story relates the life of Peter Hobson, who becomes a specialist in brain signal detection after witnessing a corpse reacting to an organ transplant operation. His research discloses that the brain indeed possesses something that seems to transcend death. Pursuing that issue, he records his own brain signals, creating three identities. Meanwhile, Hobson's a lovely, devoted, wife betrays him with a creep, devastating him. The result is mysterious deaths, a world reaction to his discovery and some heavy discussion on human values.
The debate over human consciousness, whether it exists, whether it's unique in the animal kingdom and whether it has a long term essence, remains ongoing and intense. Works on evolution and sociobiology are permeated with the question of whether our ability to communicate ideas reflects the existence of a spiritual element in humanity. Ever since early humans could perceive the idea of death the question of 'what happens after' has dominated our thinking. Sawyer makes a good effort to deal with the first part of the question: yes, there's something there, and it's not limited to humans. As to the afterlife, Sawyer raises the question, then leaves it for a later book or someone else to decide.
The many comments below about Sawyer's characters reflect the maturity of his prose style. Readers looking for simplistic people and predictable action are not pandered to in this book. He introduces a devout Muslim AI engineer, surely a novel idea in speculative fiction, and a graduate chemist unable to shed her childhood disappointments. Current concepts of family stress, with separations, sex, and parental tensions all become major features in this story. While the characters here are mildly wooden [especially in comparison with Sawyer's later books], their models are real enough. Sawyer simply had too much philosophy and technology to present in too few pages. The lady copper, in particular, is a pretty fast thinker, given the novelty of the circumstances.
The philosophy redeems any faults in this book. We need to recognize where evolution has brought us. Sawyer touches that issue lightly, bringing the story to a level rarely encountered. We are left uncertain as to whether the concept of the soul is meaningful. That will leave some readers unsatisfied, but that's a major part of Sawyer's appeal. He will raise the questions, you must come up with some of the answer. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Frankly, I do not see why.
The story is based on two scientific premises: detection of the soul leaving the body and computer based artificial intelligence. Detection of the soul leads to experiments in AI to determine what life after death might be like. Dr. Peter Hobson, the inventor of the "soulwave" detection, uses AI and nueral net scanning to create three versions of himself: a life after death sim, an immortality sim and a control sim that is just like him. Hobson has some issues to deal with in his personal life (I won't play spoiler here), and those issues are duplicated into the three sims. One of them goes bad, and starts using the net to kill people.
Sawyer's claim to fame is that he will take premises like this and wrap very real characters around them. The concept of science fiction is in making both the science and the fiction work for the reader. Many writers tend to forget this, either throwing out unbelievable science or getting the science right but forsaking the characters or the plot. Sawyer is normally magic in this.
The Terminal Experiment is a good read, with nice pacing. It bogs down at times in the explanations of the science, and some of the philisophical discussions of the AI's. But the concept of killer AI computers has been hashed and re-hashed (remember HAL!), as has the concept of detecting something that proved life after death. And unlike other Sawyer novels, I had difficulty caring about the characters, esp. Cathy, Peter's wife.
I'm glad I read it, but I'm gonna go now and read Hominids, Humans and Hybrids, his classic Neaderthal Parallax series.
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