The Fear Index
Since his first novel “Fatherland” I have been following Harris`career, and it is really fascinating, how, like a chameleon, he invents himself new in every new novel.
In his latest thriller he plunges in the world of finance and AI at the same time and maybe this was just too much for his creative energy, so his human characters lack credibility. The reader just does not care for Dr. Hoffmann, the computer genius, who first worked for CERN, developing self-learning algorithms. When his project is stopped because it turns out to be uncontrollable, he leaves and starts his own hedgefond company. Together with his more worldly-wise partner Quarry he soon makes billions by putting the financial Fear Index to good use with the help of his algorithm. The firm is run by the computer system, his “quants”, computer scientists, just watch and rake in.
When he had to leave CERN, Hoffmann had a nervous breakdown and, the true genius, is still mentally unstable, although he has Grabrielle, his faithful and supportive wife. But there are incidents, that increase his personal fear index: He is sent a first edition of Darwin`s “On the Origin of Species”, an intruder to his high security villa knocks him down and it takes him more time than the reader to find out that his Vixal computer system is running wild. Lincoln Child wrote a fascinating thriller about this topic, “Death Match” , in 2003. Unfortunately Harris is far off that level, and consequently the end is very much up in the air.