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
"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)
Plot seemed very predictable - the M5 from Star Trek, HAL from 2001, WAR GAMES, and any number of other stories where artificial intelligence eventually runs amok. Other Robert Harris books that I have read were outstanding but I was underwhelmed with this one. The narration by Christian Rodska was acceptable, although his performance in this was very much inferior to the one he had in Winston Churchill's the Second World War.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
Have you read "Digital Fortress" Dan Brown's clanky stew of improbabilities? Pity, you should have read, and still should read "The Fear Index". I'm an economist with a specialty in finance. And I wondered throughout this book if Harris sat behind me in class, taking better notes? Or maybe he was off studying the art market? Or maybe he spent those study years in cyber studies… or…
A number of authors have played with the general theme of "The Fear Index"… none better than Harris does here. And Christian Rodska is so superb that he'd surely win some sort of Academy Award for excellence in the audio genre if only one existed (Does it? Why not?).
I'm giving copies of "The Fear Index" to friends this Christmas. When you do that, you're reputation for picking thrillers is on the line. I'll walk that line ho-ho-ho-ing with Harris in my Santa bag.
Treat yourself, listen to this one.
mostly nonfiction listener
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?
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Having read and so thoroughly enjoyed "The Ghost", I was extremely pleased to get another Robert Harris book. I ended up genuinely surprised these two works were from the same author.
From the beginning of this "mystery", there was an overly obvious ending that suggested itself at every turn. For that reason, I assumed that it must be some sort of reverse psychology attempt, to draw the reader's attention to one possibility, so we'd be surprised when the clues left for the actual resolution were laid out.
As the story progressed, I started to get nervous; my hopes for a clever ending started slipping away as the hints became increasingly clumsy and heavy-handed. Sure enough, the "plot twist" ended up being no twist at all, but rather the unoriginal concept so clear from the beginning.
I didn't hate my time with this book, but it left me bewildered and disappointed. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time; but there are better ways as well. For that reason, this won't be one of the selections I end up passing on a recommendation for.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
Robert Harris is a wonderful writer, but this book is not his best by any means. Unfortunately I was stuck in airplane mode with this the last book in my downloads. Otherwise, I don't think I would have finished it. It felt like being stuck at a very long cocktail party with a quant. I kept looking at my watch wondering when it would be over, which is not something that happens to me when I listen to a Harris book! I was really surprised at how little I cared about the characters and how unbelievable the plot became. This is really a sci-fi book.
Rodska's narration was uneven. He's great at portraying a pompous corporate character, but falls short with the foreign accents. He seems to believe a Dutchman sounds like either a concussed Swede or someone who has a broken jaw. Very annoying.
So if you want my opinion, give this a miss unless you're obsessed with numbers, trading, and computers. Choose another of Harris' excellent books.
I love books!
I first learned about this book when I heard the author interviewed on NPR. It sounded interesting so I decided to give it a shot. It was really a present day story. The financial services/stock markets environment, which I work in, throw in Charles Darwin and his "Survival of the Fittest" and a dash of Space Odyssey and Hal and you have the making of a god yarn. I enjoyed it and I'll look to see if any other books by this author catch my eye.
I've loved several of Robert Harris's books and I'm a techie nerd, so I expected to love this book. Disappointing from the first chapter, I hung on, hoping it would get better. It did not. The protagonist is referenced as brilliant and a clear, fast thinker--frustrated because no one around him can keep up with the speed of his mind. You would not know it from the plot. The "culprit" is clear nearly from the start and the ending is completely nonsensical. There wasn't a single character in the novel with whom I connected with as a reader. What did stand out: the narration, descriptions of Geneva, little pieces of CERN history, and a mini-education on hedge funds.
Clinical treatment and research awareness. Sci-fi to Science to Maximim PC/parenting. How to best network HDMA? 70% SciFi-thrillers-30% science
Another riveting discovery for me. Good story, easy listen, and fast takeoff. Fun and fast, but not a mindblower.
The Fear Index is morality tale about two partners, Hugo and Alex, who manage a phenomenally successful hedge fund. The backdrop is Geneva, Switzerland, where money is the primary industry. The book is fast paced and provides insights into hedge fund operations and machine intelligence. One of the most interesting aspects was the author's use of Darwin's Origin of the Species to foreshadow events.
As the previous reviewer said, it's easy to discern the perpetrator of the fear and paranoia that consumes Alex, the protagonist. The author portrays Alex as a genius who lacks some important social skills. I would have given this book an additional star had I felt some sympathy for Alex.
Hard to tell you why I liked this so much without being a plot-spoiler. Very well written, perhaps a bit long, but also very well researched. I've done a little corporate finance work in Switzerland on a far lower level that the hedge funds this book describes but the backgrounds, the understanding of financial technology, and the details of expense account life in and around Geneva are dead perfect.
The characters are well rounded for this type of rona-a-clef and the narrator is perfect for the really good writing. You will learn something about derivatives training as well as being intrigued. (At least I did.)
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