The Fear Index

by

Stepping into the world of hedge funds, the lead character, Alex Hoffmann, co-owns a very successful fund which uses a clever algorithm that tracks human emotions.  He and his partner are about to close another record round of funding, everything looks rosy and then his world falls apart.

While Alex feels like he’s going mad and tries to get to the bottom of the events that threaten to overwhelm him, we learn more about his past and the technical aspects that made their hedge fund so successful.

I’ve been a fan of Harris for a while, some of his earlier books are amongst my favourite reads, but his more recent work, focusing on the present day, seem to be more about his political views or punishing perceived injustices and they haven’t really hit the spot.  His best-known work is historical fiction, even alternative history, which seems to be where his strength lies.

To be honest, I felt the ending of this book was so obvious I had picked it up from well before halfway, which limited the appeal a bit, I kept going, expecting some sort of twist that never came.  Even then there were some gaping holes that raised questions.

I didn’t really engage with any of the characters.  Harris’ obvious disdain for investment banking (mirroring that of the rest of the world in the current climate) could be felt throughout and led to none of the characters being sympathetic, even those who weren’t.  Many of his characters have been fairly dirty and squalid members of society, but the main characters always had a good core.  I didn’t find that here.

One highlight was the reading, by Christian Rodska, which was excellent and did well to try and bring personalities to often flat characters.

Not a bad book, with some interesting ideas, but largely it didn’t hit enough solid notes to let it ring home for me.

Christian Rodska

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Reviewed: 4th July 2012