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THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT
Copyright © 1995 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
Cover Blurb | Reviews | US Cover | UK Cover | Research Bibliography | Signed, numbered, 200-copy limited-edition hardcover available
Winner of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's
Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1995.
Winner of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award
for Best English-Language Novel of 1995.
Finalist for the Hugo Award.
- North American edition: HarperPrism, May 1995, ISBN 0-061-05310-4, US$5.50 / CDN$6.50.
- British edition: New English Library, May 1995, ISBN 0-340-63223-2, 5.99 pounds.
- French edition from J'ai Lu
- Italian edition from Editrice Nord.
- Japanese edition from Hayakawa
- Polish edition from Zysk I S-Ka
- Russian edition from AST.
- Spanish edition from Ediciones B.
- Signed limited edition from SoulWave Publishing (ISBN 1-891347-00-4).
Serialized in Analog Science Fiction and Fact under the
title Hobson's Choice in four parts from the Mid-December
1994 through March 1995 issues.
A selection of the Science Fiction Book Club.
In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which
decides our answers to all the questions life puts to us.
United Nations Secretary General
Prologue: December 2011
"What room is Detective Philo in?" asked Peter Hobson, a tall,
thin man of 42, with hair an equal mixture of black and gray.
The squat nurse behind the desk had been absorbed in whatever
she'd been reading. She looked up. "Pardon?"
"Detective Sandra Philo," said Peter. "What room is she in?"
"Four-twelve," said the nurse. "But her doctor has ordered that
only immediate family members should visit."
Peter began down the corridor. The nurse came around from behind
the desk and gave chase. "You can't go in there," she said
Peter turned briefly to look at her. "I have to see her."
The nurse maneuvered in front of him. "She's in critical
"I'm Peter Hobson. I'm a doctor."
"I know who you are, Mr. Hobson. I also know you're not a
"I'm on the Board of Directors of North York General."
"Fine. Go over there and bully someone, then. You're not
raising havoc on my ward."
Peter exhaled noisily. "Look, it's a matter of life and death
that I see Ms. Philo."
"Everything in the ICU is a matter of life and death, Mr. Hobson.
Ms. Philo is sleeping, and I'll not have her disturbed."
Peter pushed ahead.
"I'll call security," said the nurse, trying to keep her voice
low so as not to alarm the patients.
Peter didn't look back. "Fine," he snapped, his long legs
carrying him quickly down the corridor. The nurse waddled toward
her desk and picked up the phone.
Peter found 412 and entered without knocking. Sandra was hooked
up to an EKG; it wasn't a Hobson unit, but Peter had no trouble
reading its display. A drip bag of saline was on a pole beside
Sandra opened her eyes. It seemed to take a moment for them to
focus. "You!" she exclaimed at last, her voice raw and thin
the effects of the beamer.
Peter closed the door. "I've only got a few moments. They've
already called security to come and take me away."
Every word was a struggle for Sandra. "You tried . . . to have
me . . . killed," she said.
"No," said Peter. "I swear to you that wasn't my doing."
Sandra managed a weak shout, too faint to be heard through the
closed door. "Nurse!"
Peter looked at the woman. When he'd first met her, only a few
weeks ago, she'd been a healthy 36-year-old, with flaming red
hair. Now her hair was falling out in clumps, her complexion was
sallow, and she could barely move. "I don't want to be rude,
Sandra," Peter said, "but please shut up and listen."
"Listen, damn it! I had nothing to do with the murders. But I
know who did. And I can give you a chance at getting him."
At that moment the door burst open. The squat nurse entered,
flanked on either side by a burly security guard.
"Remove him," said the nurse.
The guards moved forward.
"Dammit, Sandra," said Peter. "This is your only chance. Give
me five minutes." One guard grabbed Peter's upper arm. "Five
minutes, for God's sake! That's all I ask."
"Let's go," said the guard.
Peter's tone was imploring. "Sandra, tell them you want me to
stay!" He hated himself for what he said next, but he couldn't
think of anything more effective: "If you don't, you'll die
never having solved the crimes."
"Come along now, buddy," said the other guard gruffly.
"No wait! Sandra, please!"
"Come along . . ."
Finally, a voice weak and wan: "Let . . . him . . . stay."
"We can't do that, ma'am," said one of the guards.
Sandra rallied a little strength. "Police business . . . let him
Peter twisted free of the guard's grip. "Thank you," he said to
Sandra. "Thank you."
The nurse scowled at him. "I won't stay long," Peter said to
her. "I promise."
Sandra managed to roll her head slightly in the nurse's
direction. "It's . . . okay," she said, faintly.
The nurse was seething. The tableau held for several seconds,
then the woman nodded. "All right," she said, perhaps the talk
of police business and unsolved crimes convincing her she was out
of her depth.
"Thank you," Peter said to the nurse, relieved. "Thank you very
The nurse scowled, turned on her heel, and left, followed
immediately by one of the guards. The other guard backed out,
his face an angry mask, all the time pointing a warning finger at
When they were alone again, Sandra said, "Tell . . . me."
Peter found a chair and sat down beside her bed.
"First, let me say I'm terribly, terribly sorry about what's
happened. Believe me, I never wanted you or anyone else to come
to harm. This this is all out of control."
Sandra said nothing.
"Do you have any family? Any children?"
"Daughter," said Sandra, surprised.
"I didn't know that."
"With my ex now," she said.
"I want you to know, I'm going to take care of her financially.
Everything she needs clothes, cars, university, vacations in
Europe, whatever. I will pay for it all. I'll set up a trust
Sandra's eyes were wide.
"I never intended any of this, and I swear to you that I've tried
repeatedly to stop it all."
Peter paused, thinking back to how the whole damned thing had
started. Another hospital room, trying to comfort another brave
woman who was dying. It comes full circle.
"Sarkar Muhammed was right I should have come to you before.
I need your help, Sandra. This has to end." Peter exhaled,
wondering where to begin. So much had happened. "Did you know,"
he said at last, "that it's possible to scan every neural net in
a human brain and produce an exact duplicate of the subject's
mind inside a computer?"
Sandra shook her head slightly.
"Well, it is. It's a new technique. Sarkar Muhammed is one of
its pioneers. What would you say if I told you that my brain had
been scanned and duplicated?"
Sandra lifted her eyebrows. "Two heads . . . better than one."
Peter acknowledged the comment with a wry smile. "Perhaps.
Although, actually, a total of three simulations of me were
"And one of these . . . committed . . . murders?"
Peter was surprised by how quickly Sandra grasped it. "Yes."
"Thought AI . . . was involved."
"We've tried to stop them," said Peter. "Nothing worked. But at
least I now know which simulation is guilty." He paused. "I'll
give you everything you'll need, Sandra, including full Q&A
access to the scans of my brain. You'll get to know me in
intimate detail better than anyone in the real world knows me.
You'll know how I think, and that will give you the knowledge to
outwit the murdering simulation."
Sandra lifted her shoulders slightly. "Nothing I can do," she
said, her voice weak and sad. "Dying."
Peter closed his eyes. "I know. I'm terribly, terribly sorry.
But there is a way, Sandra a way for you to end all
More Good Reading
An excerpt from The Terminal Experiment by Robert J.
Sawyer. Copyright © 1995 by Robert J. Sawyer. All rights
More about The Terminal Experiment
Robert J. Sawyer's essay on winning the Nebula Award
Other novels by Robert J. Sawyer
Short stories by Robert J. Sawyer
More Sample chapters
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