Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Thriller THE FEAR INDEX a Timely Warning

The new Robert Harris thriller The Fear Index is a timely warning about what can happen in nervous world financial markets when a hyper-powerful computer trading program gets too smart and decides to go rogue.

Dr. Alex Hoffman, a mathematics genius, creates the VIXAL algorithm to execute large scale, instantaneous financial trades for a hedge fund. But when VIXAL begins to operate autonomously outside of human controls, the result is potential market chaos.

At the same time, Hoffman himself comes under attack in a series of anonymous actions that threaten to destroy his entire life.

This stylish, literate thriller is a cautionary warning about the potential for a sudden financial market collapse and the threat of unchecked artificial intelligence advances. What happens when the technology outgrows its human creators?

For those new to British writer Robert Harris, his previous work includes the chilling political suspense novel that was the basis for the film "The Ghostwriter." He is also the author of the excellent suspense novels "Enigma," "Fatherland," and "Archangel."

BEACH RATING: 3 and 1/2 Palm Trees

Saturday, March 3, 2012

RAYLAN One of Elmore Leonard's Best

The new Elmore Leonard crime novel, Raylan, features fast-draw U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens going up against canny, treacherous offenders in Kentucky coal country. His foes include callous body organ thieves, coal company hired thugs, and a murderous bank robber.

It's Leonard's best book in years, reminiscent of his Nineties hot streak of Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, Rum Punch, and Pronto. The later novel was Raylan's first appearance as a character.

Leonard brought back Raylan in Riding the Rap and a short story, Fire in the Hole. The character is also the basis of the hit FX Cable series Justified.

The new novel is a set of linked episodes full of sharply written, dead-on dialogue and a collection of oddball country criminal types. In the past, Leonard applied his trademark dialogue ear to streetwise slang in Detroit and Miami. It works just fine here with hill country folksiness.

Raylan is an entertaining, can't-miss read for Elmore Leonard fans.

BEACH RATING: 4 Palm Trees