Robert. The Fear Index. Knopf.
Feb 2012. c288p. ISBN 978-0-307-95793-1. $25.95. Fiction.
Physicist Alexander Hoffman left CERN (builder of the Large Hadron Collider, an underground particle accelerator near Geneva) following a nervous breakdown. Since then he has continued to develop his algorithmically programmed computer, VIXAL-4, a machine capable of operating independently and teaching itself at a rate far beyond that of human beings. Unable to use CERN’s data to test his machine, Hoffman and a colleague have set up a hedge fund run by VIXAL that monitors fear throughout the digital world in order to make financial decisions. So far, over the four years during which the stock market has tanked, the machine has helped them increase their assets by over 80%. But now, someone has is manipulating Hoffman's work to convince others that he’s suffered another breakdown. When everyone else thinks you’re crazy, but you know you’re not, how do you face the fear . . . and not go mad? And how do you face the horror of a machine that has outpaced all human efforts to control it? VERDICT Harris's (Imperium) outstanding thriller, a worthy successor to Frankenstein and 2001: A Space Odyssey, will kindle readers' minds from the first page. Get ready to enjoy a brilliant integration of fascinating research, compelling themes, and vivid characterization.