The Fear Index meets Headcase

Photo by Xin on Unsplash

In the novella Headcase – A Post-truth ghost story, a medieval Czech myth collides with a 21st Century political fake news campaign. You never quite know where you are in the book. Is it a ghost story? Is it a political satire?This feeling of uncertainty is made more perplexing by the introduction of a Nick Cage lookalike, in the form of one of the central characters, Inspector Tomáš Novák. Does the character think he looks like the actor or is Mr. Cage actually the character in the story? Throughout the novel’s twists and turns the reader is never sure what will happen next or who or what to believe. The series The Fear Index, on general release this month in the UK, deals with similar themes.

The original book by Robert Harris that the series is based on centres around a high-end brokerage firm based in Switzerland that has developed an algorythm that can detect – and therefore make money from – fear itself. But the kingmakers (Josh Hartnett and Arsher Ali) who created this digital money tree are far from in control; what we have here is an assemblage of Frankestein meets Gordon Gekko (with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis thrown in for good measure). The book – and the series –  also investigates how our digital lives have come to define one’s whole sense of reality, and this element of The Fear Index, is its most most interesting one. Headcase picks up this theme and runs with it around the Prague streets like a headless corpse stuck in a digital echo chamber (in a good way).

In the same way that Don’t Look Up highlights how the trivial – or worse – fake media cycle has hijacked important news reporting, Headcase and The Fear Index present us with the horror of a Post-truth world, in which information is being manipulated to such a degree that human agency is becoming irrelevant. The dog is being wagged by the digital tale – or is that tail?

The Fear Index is out on Now TV and Sky. Headcase – A Post-truth ghost story by Seb Duncan is available on Amazon KDP.

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