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The Fear Index | [Robert Harris]

The Fear Index

Dr. Alex Hoffmann’s name is carefully guarded from the general public, but within the secretive inner circles of the ultrarich he is a legend. He has developed a revolutionary form of artificial intelligence that predicts movements in the financial markets with uncanny accuracy. His hedge fund, based in Geneva, makes billions. But one morning before dawn, a sinister intruder breaches the elaborate security of his lakeside mansion, and so begins a waking nightmare of paranoia and violence.
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Publisher's Summary

At the nexus of high finance and sophisticated computer programming, a terrifying future may be unfolding even now.

Dr. Alex Hoffmann’s name is carefully guarded from the general public, but within the secretive inner circles of the ultrarich, he is a legend. He has developed a revolutionary form of artificial intelligence that predicts movements in the financial markets with uncanny accuracy. His hedge fund, based in Geneva, makes billions. But one morning before dawn, a sinister intruder breaches the elaborate security of his lakeside mansion, and so begins a waking nightmare of paranoia and violence as Hoffmann attempts, with increasing desperation, to discover who is trying to destroy him.

Fiendishly smart and suspenseful, The Fear Index gives us a searing glimpse into an all-too-recognizable world of greed and panic. It is a novel that forces us to confront the question of what it means to be human—and it is Robert Harris’s most spellbinding and audacious novel to date.

©2012 Robert Harris (P)2012 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Unputdownable.... Harris has achieved the impossible, or at least the improbable: an explanation of the extravagantly esoteric nature of hedge funds, which normal people can understand.... I gorged myself, devouring his dystopian vision of free markets enslaved by a sinister artificial intelligence in one breakneck sitting.” (The Daily Telegraph)

“Reminiscent of everyone from Michael Crichton to Ian Fleming, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.” (Financial Times)

“A virtuoso specimen.... Inventively exploiting current anxieties about algorithmic trading to update the Frankenstein story, The Fear Index is both cutting edge and keenly conscious of its literary predecessors.... A tour de force.” (The Sunday Times, London)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (306 )
5 star
 (75)
4 star
 (93)
3 star
 (99)
2 star
 (30)
1 star
 (9)
Overall
3.6 (252 )
5 star
 (60)
4 star
 (75)
3 star
 (73)
2 star
 (32)
1 star
 (12)
Story
4.0 (245 )
5 star
 (87)
4 star
 (92)
3 star
 (48)
2 star
 (10)
1 star
 (8)
Performance
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  •  
    Molly Las Vegas, NV, United States 02-15-12
    Molly Las Vegas, NV, United States 02-15-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    151
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not Robert Harris's best"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    No, unfortunately not. The writing is great, but the plot is not. I love Robert Harris, especially his historical novels, but this is one of his weakest.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Hot Money, Dick Francis


    What does Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He really brought the tension alive.


    Do you think The Fear Index needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Perhaps. It might work better as a series. This one was just thin.


    Any additional comments?

    no

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn SILVERTON, CO, United States 02-13-12
    Carolyn SILVERTON, CO, United States 02-13-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pass on It"

    Was very sorry I bought this
    Hard to get thru the whole thing
    Cannot recommend it the narrator does not do it any good either

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tom Mahowald Chicago IL 02-10-12
    Tom Mahowald Chicago IL 02-10-12 Member Since 2013

    Tom Mahowald

    HELPFUL VOTES
    95
    ratings
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    18
    7
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    FOLLOWING
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    Story
    "Stayed Up All Night; It Was THAT Good!"

    The scary part is that what happens in this story is quite plausible, and has already made our financial markets unstable and ungovernable. The "smartest guys in the room" since the 1990's became Wall Street "quants" who wrote the algorithms that make scads of money getting in and out of stocks in seconds or less, while hedging their downside. Being right 55% of the time is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The mental illness plot twist made the book even more difficult to put down. Christian Rodska's narration was really good, including the accents and pace. The setting in Geneva sounds lovely. Great book, from beginning to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 02-07-12
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 02-07-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1439
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    218
    195
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    275
    77
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Should be 3 1/2 stars"

    How can I say that a book was a disappointment when it kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish?...Well, there you go. I guess I was expecting more from the author of Ghost Writer -- which I thought was almost flawless. The Fear Index, while clever, had holes. One of the worst ones was that I figured out who the villain was way before the characters did -- so then you are just waiting for them to 'catch up.' Still, like I said, it kept me on the edge of my seat -- and the reader was excellent, so I would still recommend it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig Fort Worth, TX, United States 04-27-12
    Craig Fort Worth, TX, United States 04-27-12 Member Since 2015

    Military history, Contemporary sci-fi/fantasy, Classics and Sport biographies ... in that order!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Financial Cyber Debacle"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The lack of closure in it's finale.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Most interesting was the initial believability of the plot, which starts out strong then stumbles to its conclusion. Least interesting was the character development, most of which is shallow at best.


    What does Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A very good choice for this particular book, he has a rich sounding voice that is apt for this particular book.


    Did The Fear Index inspire you to do anything?

    Go back to non fiction for a while!


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed the Fear Index for more than 50% of it but I felt it could have been better. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I had better knowledge of the subject matter, not that it was discussed in great detail.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. W. Zerda Fort Worth, TX USA 04-15-12
    T. W. Zerda Fort Worth, TX USA 04-15-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    531
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "naive"
    Would you try another book from Robert Harris and/or Christian Rodska?

    Harris' other books have believable stories.


    Has The Fear Index turned you off from other books in this genre?

    It more a science fiction story than a psychological drama.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laljit United States 04-01-12
    Laljit United States 04-01-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Boring and Predictable"

    The narration for the book was fine and well done; therefore, no comment on that.

    The story, however, was poor to say the least. Having reading previous work by Harris, I had expected better. For anyone who has ready any science fiction, the premise was predictable. Even so, it could have been done better. Unfortunately, and this is the second point, Harris does a poor job of characterizing the finance world. I am surprised critics have lauded his ability to describe Hedge Funds to the ordinary masses. The description of Hedge Funds, algorithm-based investing, and behavioral finance are done through tedious monologues that read like Harris did little more than read a wikipedia article.

    None of the characters are particularly sympathetic and you don't really care about any of them. More importantly, they just aren't very interesting.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookmarque 03-07-12
    Bookmarque 03-07-12 Member Since 2007

    ksx2

    HELPFUL VOTES
    50
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    482
    41
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    Story
    ""That's a bummer." - The Dude"

    That about sums up my reaction to my first (and probably last) Harris thriller. It had such potential to explore the ethics of “artificial intelligence” and the dichotomy of the main character in perusing it among other themes, but Harris didn’t come close to exploring any. Instead we get a huge info dump about hedge funds, algorithmic programs and the crossing of the scientific and financial streams. At one point he has someone say something like, I’m sure you’re all familiar with Moore’s Law and then proceeds to explain it! OMG is was torture listening to these passages, even with the delightful Christian Rodska narrating.

    At least he didn’t give us a “HAL v. Dave” type scene between Alex and his creation. But neither did he really give the creation its own voice or much in the way of attention other than to explain its inner-workings. This makes the ending so ridiculous that I think I laughed. Quarry’s beatific eyeroll towards the spy camera over his head and his decision to let this money-making entity continue to do just that is ludicrous considering what came before. That is largely left up to the reader’s imagination though and it feels like a cop out and besides that, Harris pulls a lot of punches. At first I imagined that the application sent a tendril out to the airline’s own computers and caused the crash; that is truly horrific. Having it explained that the computer system only read a terrorist website and reacted to that was a let down, even considering (which I had to do on my own, Harris didn’t put this into the narrative at all) that the absence of Asimov’s Robot Laws kept it from warning and instead began acquiring short options.

    Also left unexplored are the ramifications of Alex being set up by this computer system. We’re given the facts that he was ruthlessly set up and thoroughly destroyed by this entity, but not why. No one else in the story knows this, instead they choose to think Alex went nuts again. It’s left up to the reader to wonder if his first breakdown was a set up as well. It’s up to us to realize the horror of the computer’s ability to destroy others’ faith in him (and by extension, us). It’s up to us to fully understand how much we’re dependent on them and how easily a conscienceless intelligence can take over and render us helpless. We have to explore this alone. The entity doesn’t even speak, which granted, could have led straight to hokeyville, but it could have also given us a more tangible enemy to fear. As it was, a reader could have been also convinced that Alex was indeed crazy. Alex didn’t even have one ally he could talk to and commiserate with over the machine’s betrayal and single-minded purpose in “life”. What a lazy storyteller. He basically left it up to us to tell it and so I’d really like a royalty check out of this, Mr. Harris. Heh.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kamran Bethlehem, PA USA 03-02-12
    Kamran Bethlehem, PA USA 03-02-12 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "inconsistent and full of lose ends"
    Would you try another book from Robert Harris and/or Christian Rodska?

    Not very probable


    Would you ever listen to anything by Robert Harris again?

    Not likely


    Any additional comments?

    There was so much emphases on the machine thing that left the story around it inconsistent and full of lose ends, and the author never actually connected the dots

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Silverton, CO, United States 02-13-12
    Carolyn Silverton, CO, United States 02-13-12 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pass on It"

    Was very sorry I bought this
    Hard to get thru the whole thing
    Cannot recommend it the narrator does not do it any good either

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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