His name is carefully guarded from the general public but within the secretive inner circles of the ultra-rich Dr Alex Hoffmann is a legend – a visionary scientist whose computer software turns everything it touches into gold. Together with his partner, an investment banker, Hoffmann has developed a revolutionary form of artificial intelligence that tracks human emotions, enabling it to predict movements in the financial markets with uncanny accuracy. His hedge fund, based in Geneva, makes billions.
But then in the early hours of the morning, while he lies asleep with his wife, a sinister intruder breaches the elaborate security of their lakeside house. So begins a waking nightmare of paranoia and violence as Hoffmann attempts, with increasing desperation, to discover who is trying to destroy him. His quest forces him to confront the deepest questions of what it is to be human. By the time night falls over Geneva, the financial markets will be in turmoil and Hoffmann's world – and ours – transformed forever.
©2011 Robert Harris (P)2011 Random House Audiobooks
"Robert Harris’s superb The Fear Index guaranteed to appeal to anyone who shudders when their laptop unaccountably fails to switch off." (Phillip Hensher Spectator)
"On the crime front, Robert Harris’s thriller The Fear Index combined a gripping narrative with intelligence and wild imagination." (Allan Massie Spectator)
"More modern thrills were provided by Robert Harris’s The Fear Index, a financial what-if melding artificial intelligence with hedge funds." (Justine Jordan Review, Saturday Guardian)
"The Fear Index sees Robert Harris step away from the traditional political environment of The Ghost and focus on where the real power lies: investment banking… the idea of sentient computers is always intoxicating and Harris undeniably uses it well." (Alexandra Heminsley Independent on Sunday)
"I loved Robert Harris’s thriller The Fear Index with its gripping and timely setting of collapsing financial markets and super intelligent computers." (Mariella Frostrup, Mail on Sunday)
“Mock-gothic variant on Frankenstein relates what happens when a computer programme goes rogue and ravages the money market. Suspense and satire combine in a book that is as up to the minute as a news flash.” (The Sunday Times)
“Harris’s latest bestseller is a gripping, funny and timely tale of money – losing it or, more terrifyingly here, making too much of it… A high-speed plot, deft characterisation… and Harris even manages to explain what a hedge fund is.” ( The Lady)
The overall theme of a financial crisis and hedge funds doing whatever they can to make a dollar is very appropriate in todays markets.
The story is both a mystery/thriller and slightly sci-fi, however I found the mystery part fairly predictable.
The writing, characters and narration were very good, which makes this one well worth the credit.
Most certainly, because one had to know if he was going mad or was correct about what was going on. Would he succeed?
Pace, consistency, colour to the characters
Yes, but impossible to do.
"Unpleasantly close to the present"
As always, Robert Harris is a masterly writer. The language never gets in the way of the reader - or listener - but creates and maintains the atmosphere of authenticity so characteristic of his other titles.
In this book the threat of imminent financial collapse is the backdrop - a bit too close for comfort. He uses Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species to kick off the suspence. Quotes from the same work introduce each chapter. Not surprisingly the theme is fear but not the usual and superficial kind of horror stories.
Well-researched and convincing. Well-plotted.
Kudos to Christian Rodska as narrator. I especially enjoyed his perfect switch between the American main character and the accents of the other nationalities: Nigerian (just three words, but convincing!), Polish, French-Swiss, and Dutch.
An enjoyable experience.
I'm a big fan of Robert Harris and I think he's a masterful writer. So it's mystifying how he could write this drivel that reads like a poor imitation of a Michael Crichton novel. There are definitely hints of his usual descriptive panache (the only reason I didn't give it only a single star) but it's not enough to sustain a very weak storyline full of plot-holes and characters that never fully develop. In the end, it's a waste of time and potential readers should focus on Harris' other works.
"Engaging story: could do without the Darwin"
I've enjoyed a number of Robert Harris' books and in the Fear Index he hasn't lost his touch in creating an engaging thriller that keeps you listening. Hedge funds being no more than betting on the stock market is certainly a topical backdrop to an inventive, if at times implausible, story. Sci-fi meets crime fiction.
I could have done without the grafting on of supposed parallels with Darwin's evolutionary principles that often seemed forced.
Christian Rodska is an admirable narrator.
"Pretty good read, though not Harris's best"
I found some aspects of the plot clumsy, but overall it was very entertaining. A strong idea, developed quite well.
"Another Great Book"
Robert Harris has never failed me yet. This book is an addition to the long list of his titles that I have enjoyed. I was initially worried that it might be a bit 'dark' but it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read - and right up-to-date!
Gripped us to the end. Fast paced and so believable. Interesting to learn about the financial world which seems to be just an elaborate form of gambling.
This takes place over 24 hours and everything happens so fast, giving the adrenalin rush that must be felt by dealers buying and selling in the markets.
A thriller that proceeds at a breakneck pace. Very thought provoking situation, believable characters, and delightfully narrated.
"Fairly plausible, the way things are going!"
This was a great performance of a great story. Very well read.
I'm currently studying corporate finance as part of an MBA so the whole story tied in perfectly with some of the principles in that.
I've not listened to any other performances but having enjoyed this, am likely to look for other performances in the future.
Do we control the markets, or do they control us?
Definitely an interesting slant on behavioural analysis.
"Worth listening to"
I loved the idea of the story, the subject matter was interesting and kept me engaged, I didn't really like the narration in places... the French accent was particularly poor.
He was convincing in all parts apart from the French accent.
"Don't be put off by the financial jargon"
The plot, especially as it's set very much in today's time so is very easy to realise how true it could all become. If you've ever worried about becoming a victim of burglary, identity theft, how much power the banks have got, CCTV nation, what computers can do, this is really the story for you. Except it won't stop you worrying...
Very well read, especially given the wide range of accents used
It took me a while to get into this story because there's a lot of use of financial jargon, most of it meaning nothing at all. I almost gave up on it. Then I realised, if you understand the jargon then great. If you don't, don't worry about it! Most of it is actually almost irrelevant to the plot anyway. Start again and take a relaxed approach to it. Providing you have an basic elementary understanding of why stocks are bought and sold, that's all you really need to know. In fact, it's this over reliance on financial terms that has caused me to knock it down to 4 stars.
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