Jon Gilbert's Reviews > The Fear Index

The Fear Index by Robert   Harris
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Aug 18, 2012

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Read in August, 2012

Well this book certainly seems to polarise opinion. Those who love rattling thriller yarns whilst sitting by a pool will almost certainly be satisfied. Those who expect more from a supposedly literary writer may be disappointed.

The recurring criticism on goodreads is in my opinion quite justified. There simply is not enough to like or care about the main characters to really pull you in. Some of the information regarding hedge funds and trading is actually quite interesting and kept me reading. However, some of the plot lines are ludicrous.

The 'Is he mad or is he being made to feel mad' theme becomes tiresome after a while. The fight in the hobos room is a clanger and the almost Dr Strangelove like ending is again too clumsy to make you feel anything.

The idea that an algorithm in a computer can learn as it develops to the point where it overides human intervention is an interesting hypothesis and there is certainly a germ of an idea here. Unfortunately it isn't executed as well as it could have been and as such just makes you think 'here we go again'.

All in all, I read this in two days, wanted to know the outcome but found it all rather ridiculous in the long run. It's not as bad as some have said but it's no masterpiece either.
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message 1: by JS (new)

JS Found Hi. I specifically created an account on this site just to comment on reviews for this book on here and amazon. I read a lot of reviews on these sites on books that are poorly reviewed for stupid reasons. The problem is that a book's characters do not have to be sympathetic for the book to be good or bad. You're not supposed to make friends with them. If a character is not likable then the author wrote him that way for a reason.

Hoffman is not likable because he's arrogant and full of hubris, as Victor Frankenstein was. The book is Frankenstein set in the modern world with billion dollar hedge funds and AI. Rating the book because it's hokey and implausible is fine (the NY Times reviewer did just that.) But for the love of God, everybody stop judging books because you don't like the characters. That's not relevant unless the character is supposed to be liked, which this character isn't. He has flaws because this is a cautionary tale about marrying human greed with human technology.

And also for the love of God, taste is different than quality. If you don't like a certain genre or wish the story had gone where you wanted it to go instead of where it went, then that's your problem, not the author's. The author doesn't know you and doesn't know what you like. Quality is how the book was written, the language, the story, and most importantly the themes, what the author was trying to say.

It is very aggravating that people on sites like this don't know how to properly read a book. I guess they watch too much TV and expect the characters to be likable, but books don't work like that. Hamlet isn't likable. The hero of Crime and Punishment isn't likable. But these are considered art, and rightly so. We are losing the ability to critically think. Thank you.


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