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"The Fear Index": Smart Tech Fiction
February 7, 2012 - 8:11pm

The Fear Index by Robert Harris

We are suffering under an acute shortage of technologically literate smart fiction. The Fear Index should be read up by everyone who works in and around computing. Not that the book will have much to teach technology folks, but more that technology folks will be hugely entertained by a book that is simultaneously smart about computers, character and plot.

Why don't we have more technology literate quality fiction? Is it because good writers don't tend to hang out in server rooms or with coders? Or maybe because software engineers seldom become novelists?

Robert Harris is not a technologist, but he is a terrific writer, (and the author of a two of my favorite books, Fatherland and Enigma). In The Fear Index, Harris has something to say about the financialization of the economy, the growth of unregulated and un-checked hedge funds, and the dangers of handing off our economic decisions to computers and algorithms.   

The Fear Index reminds me a bit of Daniel Suarez's books Daemon and Freedom (Suarez was a technologist), but I think that Suarez would even admit that his writing is not in the same class as Harris.  This is not to denigrate Suarez, or the work of other cyber-thriller authors, only to note how rare it is for a quality novelist to take on technology as a central theme.

I don't usually share and recommend fiction (although the new Elmore Leonard's new book Raylan is cracking good), as I like to review books that are somehow relevant to higher ed. However, when a book as good as The Fear Index comes along it seems prudent to drop everything else and start reading.

What technologically literate quality fiction can you recommend? 


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