Read The Fear Index by Robert Harris Online


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 ultra-rich he is a legend. He has developed a revolutionary form of artificial intelligence that predicts movements in the financial markets wAt 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 ultra-rich 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....

Title : The Fear Index
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780099553267
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 385 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Fear Index Reviews

  • Manda Scott
    2019-05-12 11:04

    I read this book for two reason. First, Mariella Frostrup said it was wondrous (Radio 4) and second, a friend in publishing said they were 'spitting mad' that Harris could turn out a 'half finished' book and have it sell by the bucket load when everyone else had to polish theirs to perfection and still didn't sell half as many.So with that kind of bipolar recommendation, I had to have a look. And my friend in publishing wins. Clearly Harris has reached the point of being uneditable because I wouldn't hand in a first draft with so many holes in it, so badly written and he not only hands it in, but has it published without so much as a red pen clean-up of the text. This doesn't quite make the Da Vinci Code look like Chaucer (as was once famously said of another 'literary' author) but it's not far off. And it has the same kind of ring to it as Dan Brown: good idea researched to the nth degree and then *very, very clunkily* played out on the page. The basic premise is clever: look at hedge funds and how they cleaned up during the 2008 crash. Look at the super-computer geeks/nerds/quants and what they can do and extrapolate just a tiny bit (or maybe not?) to a computer that teaches itself how to make money better and then proceeds to do exactly that without any remorse or morals or ethics: how it drags people in its wake because if it can make $9 million in the time it takes to walk across the room and look at a computer screen, and you stand to get some of that, are you really going to stop it? But the rest of the plot: the fear factor, in fact, is risible and so absurdly full of holes it's not worth trying to tie it together. Our 'hero' (the ultra nerd who has made the programme that is doing this) is being targetted by someone who is clearly trying to drive him mad. Or maybe he's mad in the first place and doing it to himself and doesn't know it. That cloak is trailed half way through and goes nowhere except that we find he had a nervous breakdown when at CERN (Dan Brown fans note: to sell by the bucket load, mention CERN at least 3 times a page for a bit) and has a cupboard full of antidepressants so it might be that his mysterious night visitor who clonks him on the bonce with a fire extinguisher is, in fact, him. Or then again not, because it's pretty hard to hit yourself with a fire extinguisher, so maybe he's just invited a madman into the house, given him the key codes to the super-effective security system and wants to die. And wants to be divorced from his artistic wife (why she is married to a man in advanced Asberger's is not made clear except that he gave her a house worth EU60 million. Women, evidently, do things that defy logic. Who'd have thunk it?) In the end (WARNING, SPOILER) it's the machine wot did it. As 'research'. Really? Why? What kind of research is it doing and what has it learned? Who knows. And frankly, who cares? Which is all very sad given that I loved 'Fatherland' and 'Archangel' and did kind of think Robert Harris was a 'literary' thriller writer (but only if Laura Wilson and Andrew Taylor are literary thriller writers: and both are a) far more literate and b) far more thrilling) - now, he's sub par, below Dan Brown. This feels like something he crunched out between rounds of 'Angry Birds' and then slammed his editor's head on the desk when the poor infant tried to suggest the odd tweak here or there. Unless the first draft was worse than this, which is a truly terrifying thought. I used to love Robert Harris and I still think, 'Ghost' was intelligent and clever and funny. But I'm not planning to read another in a hurry - and Mariella? Sorry, love, you just lost all credibility.

  • James
    2019-05-12 06:14

    Set in the world of (very) high finance, investment funds, and hedge funds at the time of the so-called ‘Flash Crash’ of 2010 – this is very much a dark and murky world of power, corruption and lies.‘The Fear Index’ by Robert Harris is an excellent and all too believable financial thriller – brilliantly conceived, well written and intelligently executed. This is an unusually contemporary setting for Harris, but unlike ‘The Ghost’ (Harris not at his strongest) – ‘The Fear Index’ stands alongside many of Harris’ best (historical) novels. It is compelling, engaging and feels all too frighteningly feasible – this is a novel where the world of high finance, market prediction and manipulation meets those of high science, artificial intelligence, machine-learning algorithms and much more besides.Whilst many argue about the implausibility of a scenario such as that depicted in ‘The Fear Index’ – particularly in terms of the real power and ‘intelligence’ of financial computer systems and I am certainly not best judged to pass comment – other than to say – let us consider the exponential rise in computing power achieved in even just the last 10 years, so who knows how far way the computer ‘intelligence’ and ‘self-learning’ depicted in this novel actually are?The feasibility of the central computer based element to Harris’ narrative aside, whichever way it’s viewed, this is undoubtedly a first rate crime thriller from the great Robert Harris – highly recommended.

  • David Lentz
    2019-04-24 04:11

    I read this book because it offered a theme that I had used in one of my early novels, "The Day Trader" first published in 2001 when day trading was only just emerging: what would happen if a complex, computer assisted algorithm for day trading went wildly awry? As I live in Greenwich, CT, I actually was quite curious after reading a review to see how Harris treated this theme as it relates to hedge fund trading in Geneva. With the steady emergence of artifical intelligence in IBM's Watson, who became a "Jeopardy" champion and just was offered a new job on Wall Street, the theme seemed rather timely now, too. In a sense the question is whether the theme of HAL in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" may have even more relevance now. I had written a literary novel and Harris was targeting the commercial, mainstream audience focused upon best-seller lists. So I don't want to criticize his novel as if it were intended as more than a commercial thriller. However, I do have some problems with the novel within the context of a best-seller. The first question is why do so many people read books like this? I am as willing as the next person to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good read. But this thriller genre is rife with questions and so is the writing of this particular best-seller. Both the genre and this book are so incredible and unrealistic that they ask us to buy grotesque plot points for the sake of cheap thrills. I won't spoil the story line by outlining such incredible stretches of the imagination but they exist abundantly. In particular, I was surprised that Harris created such universally hateful characters. Does he want us to like any of them? Alex is a genius, of course, an exceptional mind devoted to physics, mathematics, investing, technology and Charles Darwin. But like many of those who reside in Greenwich and work at hedge funds here in the so-called "Hedge Fund Capital of the World," exceptional Alex in his Swiss mansion comes across simply as an exceptional dick. Are we fed up yet with all the Ann Randian, entitled and wealthy egomaniacs portrayed as heroic? Alex just struck me as an archetypal social clown: a self-centered, Randian "objectivist." Alex is akin to those captains of industry pulling strings as puppet-masters in our Federal elections, Congress and courts, which is simply more troubling than I can really say. For example, Alex pays his PR team to keep him out of the newspapers: they recommend that he not contribute to charity and so he doesn't. What a lovely concept for every billionaire to espouse. Even if Alex had Aspergers, maybe he could help cure it with a charitable contribution. However, Harris unbelievably intends for Alex to seem heroic somehow. Don't you find this odd in these economic times when so many people are so angry at Wall Street? Harris' portrayal as hero just struck me as just tone-deaf but maybe he is just reading the sentiments of his target market. Ditto for Alex's business partner -- another Randian objectivist. Alex's wife comes across as a flat, 2D, cardboard cut-out for whom Harris intends us to deem an object of pity. Harris creates a fight scene between Alex and another odd character, the muddled writing of the action of which I haven't witnessed since the nude wrestling scene in "Borat." I do respect the genuinely intriguing premise and inventive title for this novel: however, my experience with algorithms is that they lose reliability during times of intense market fear and greed among the herd. If you enjoy thrillers, like so many other people, then you might enjoy this standard, commercial, best-seller fare. Personally, I can't read most thrillers with a straight face and normally avoid them. While I certainly envy Harris his royalties for this brief book, he seems to have made a Faustian trade to bring cheap thrills to his commercial, mainstream readers. I encourage you to up your game by reading a novel outside this genre with sufficient craft to render your willing suspension of disbelief more worthwhile and to leave you feeling gratified for investing your scarce time in reading the book. I fear that "The Fear Index" is off the charts as simply a silly read.

  • Kirsti
    2019-04-28 06:20

    Our story so far, five chapters in: Rich, successful douchebag (an American living in Switzerland) suffers a concussion during a home invasion, becomes annoyed when he has to go to a regular hospital that's full of poors, goes back to work against doctor's orders, tries to solve the crime himself, describes Swiss architecture in excruciating detail, and quotes Darwin a lot. As you may be able to tell, I'm having trouble sympathizing with the main character.UPDATE: Found out what the Fear Index is. Don't care.

  • Sam Quixote
    2019-05-15 09:27

    A physics genius called Alex Hoffmann working at CERN in Switzerland creates a programme which is like an artificial brain that works faster than human brains and learns to get better at what it does - namely, make money on the stock exchange. Years later and in its fourth incarnation, VIXAL, as it’s called, is a programme that has made Hoffmann one of the top scientists of his day and a billionaire. But things start to go wrong and over the span of 24 hours he will see the extent of the monster he has created and what he must do to stop it… before it destroys the world!Robert Harris adapts the story of Victor Frankenstein to the 21st century, riffing on the recent financial troubles, and creating a kind of HAL-like villain. The whole book covers 24 hours but Harris manages to convey much longer periods of time in that space, constructing backgrounds to the various characters effortlessly, all while keeping the action ticking over at a brisk pace.The Frankenstein theme is subtly hinted at throughout: the setting of Geneva, a quote from Mary Shelley, the Hotel Diodati, Dr Polidori (female, Hoffmann's shrink) but the bigger homage is that of creator and monster, Hoffmann and VIXAL-4. The full extent of his creation isn't revealed until the end and an even stranger story than the one imparted here is hinted at by the end.I thought that despite it being a thriller and geared toward quick reading, it was still written well and all of the characters and the inscrutable world of finance were conveyed clearly and effortlessly by Harris. The story goes in unexpected directions and I even found myself liking some of the more reptilian characters (the smug Englishman Quarry was brilliant). I don't think people appreciate how difficult this task is and the fact that Harris did such a good job of it is understated in the majority of these reviews.A well written thriller with an excellent story, handled perfectly by a master novelist at the top of his game - I recommend anyone looking for a good read to turn to "The Fear Index" for a diverting few hours of entertainment.

  • Eric_W
    2019-05-02 07:21

    Update: 8/3/2012 This article related to an automatic trading algorithm run a-muck is pertinent to this book. A larger question is whether this kind of trading benefits capitalism, in the sense it helps supply capital for businesses to grow, or whether it serves only the financial industry in its quest for making huge amounts of money without making anything.The best thrillers and horror stories don’t involve chain saws or mutated snakes. They take something prosaic, something we are all familiar with, something we trust, and then tweak it. That’s the premise of a wonderful book I read years ago calledAdolescence of P-1 by Thomas Ryan. An algorithm created to seek out knowledge learns and soon desires to protect itself. Read it.What separates humans from other animals is language. That used to be the case. It’s no longer true. Computers can now assimilate, translate, and communicate. Not to mention that they are all connected and have access to virtually all of human knowledge. So can they learn and adapt? The other thread that surfaced while reading Fear Index is what happened to Long Term Capital Management in 2000. A hedge fund founded by a brilliant economist, the premise was that if you get enough smart people together you can write some brilliant computer algorithms that will permit outperformance of the market. They collapsed spectacularly in 2000 requiring a bailout. Combine those two events and ideas and you have Fear Index.Alex Hoffman is a brilliant physicist who founds a hedge fund which does spectacularly well bring returns of 80% to its investors. Constantly tweaking its algorithms to provide even better returns, they are poised to add even more money to their fund. But some weird things are beginning to happen. Alex gets a rare book in the mail with no indication who might have sent it. Investigation reveals it was purchased using an account in the Caymans he owned but was not aware of. All the transactions happened over the Internet. Then his house is broken into by someone who had all the key codes. The algorithm Hoffman’s company created uses sophisticated analysis of human fear to determine market positions. All of a sudden the company finds itself taking huge short positions that pay off when companies they were shorting suffered some form of catastrophe. They reap immense profits, but how could the algorithm have foreseen those seemingly random events? And how did the notes of Alex’s therapy get on the web. And who installed the surveillance cameras and built the server farm? In the meantime, Hugo’s algorithm is learning and doing things on its own. Really good story. 4.5 stars. Less than 5 only because it’s so similar in concept to Ryan’s book.As an aside, Harris has a very nice explanation of what a hedge fund does and how hedges work. Let’s say, as in his example, that you make a bet with someone for $1,000,000 that the girl across the hall is wearing black knickers. Whether she is or not really isn’t relevant to the bet because you’re going to bet someone else $950,000 that her knickers are NOT black, so your maximum exposure is $50,000. You can, of course, hedge your other bet even further as will all the other betters. There will be winners and losers each time the knickers are revealed but the maximum exposure should be relatively small and if you make enough bets over a period of time it doesn’t matter if you are wrong some of the time, because you’ll win enough times to come out ahead. In theory. That’s what hedge funds do and it explains why there are trillions of dollars being bet on trivialities and when things go wrong, as in Corzine’s little escapade, billions can be lost, or in his case, disappear. (Did the accountants make off with it, perhaps?) In the meantime, I’m making a side bet that the fried, fat encrusted ribs and whipped-cream-covered chocolate chip ice cream I just ate won’t kill me before I get this review up.

  • Jay Connor
    2019-05-23 09:14

    Starting with this real world premise -- The May 6, 2010 Flash Crash[1] also known as The Crash of 2:45, the 2010 Flash Crash or just simply, the Flash Crash, was a United States stock market crash on May 6, 2010 in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged about 1000 points—or about nine percent—only to recover those losses within minutes -- Harris delivers a powerful story about market manipulations and greed at a speed faster than intervention could arrest. During this seven minute "Flash Crash," 19.4 billion shared were traded on the NYSE. That is more than were traded in the whole decade of the 1960's! Events were denominated in milliseconds -- far beyond human comprehension.I reviewed favorably recent non-fiction books on the late 2000's market crash. Most notably: "All the Devils are Here" and "Boomerang." But leave it to good fiction to bring the absurdity of our financial markets into sharp relief. I've enjoyed Harris for awhile. His recent political intrigue "The Ghost" was great fun. But here, this "story" is less a romp than a cautionary indictment of our pervasive greed and its attendant huge costs to society. We expect greed in the markets -- Gordon Gekko: "greed is good" -- but what when this unbridled greed unravels the very fabric of society?In Harris' hands, it is a story of great depth with range from the ridiculous to the sublime. In describing the NEXT processor in 1991 in Cern, Switzerland, that started the world wide web and goes on to, depending on your point of view, either best represent Pandora's Box or the the law of unintended consequence: "You start out trying to create the origins of the universe and you end up creating E-Bay." A far more troubling example of the law of untended consequence is another real world story of a $10 billion decision to close down Desertron in 1993. Closing down this US super collider in Waxahachie, Texas wiped out the career plans of an entire generation of academic physicists. Many of these disposed scientists migrated to Wall Street to become Quants who helped build derivatives instead of particle accelerators. When they went wrong in 2008, the worldwide banking system imploded to the tune of $3.7 TRILLION. How much better would we, as a society, have been if we had keep them down on the farm in Waxahachie?

  • Nick Davies
    2019-05-05 10:04

    This was an enjoyable read, which I'd say is probably the most important thing about fiction. Robert Harris is clearly a very decent writer, and I have enjoyed two or three of his 20th Century historical novels very much, but was a little apprehensive after being given this to read by my book group - having been less keen on Harris' 'The Ghost' and 'Pompeii'. No need to be. This is clearly a well researched and ambitiously (yet realistically) complex story about the use of computer algorithms to gain an advantage when trading with hedge funds. A slightly dry application is given interest by reference to how it affects the people involved, and how machine learning relates to Darwin's theories of natural selection and evolution. At times I found the thriller aspect all a bit silly (can't quite believe an academician and theoretical physicist/mathematician would be able to counter deadly assailants and threat like he does) and moments of financial detail lost my attention, but overall a good read.

  • Heikki
    2019-05-01 11:07

    A review of The Fear Index by Robert Harris I am a big, big fan of Robert Harris. I found his book Enigma when my interest in the code breaking of Bletchley Park in WW2 was at its peak; that mix of fact and fiction blew me away and it remains his best book in my mind. On a par with it there is Fatherland, the alternative history classic, and almost level, Pompeii. Archangel is also not to be missed.So, when I started The Fear Index, I was positively titillated with anticipation - a new Harris is always good news.Within 50 pages, my enthusiasm was dampened somewhat, and after 150 pages, I was downright disappointed. This tale of a brilliant physicist who leaves CERN to write the best algorithmic investment system ever seen was just not what I have always liked best in Harris. In my mind, Harris shines when he tells the tale of the single man, cast in a role by chance and personal talent, conquering insurmountable odds. Tom Jericho in Enigma, Xavier March in Fatherland, and Fluke Kelso in Archangel have all been set in a situation where only their personal integrity and hard work will win the day.Not so in The Fear Index. Harris writes well as always, but the picture he draws of Alex Hoffmann has none of the usual charm of a Harris hero. Hoffmann is arrogant, talented, and definitely the man for the job, but his almost autistic lack of interaction doesn't endear him to the reader. Alex's relationship with his artist wife Gabrielle is superficial and uninteresting, even if the culmination point of that relationship in the art gallery raises eyebrows in the best tradition of Harris' books.Another thing that worried me much was that Harris ventures into Clancyist methods of adding technobabble to add excitement. I was especially disappointed with the small things that he's always done really well: risking that I will be called a muppet by some people, I'll say that CPUs do not hum - transformers do, and there are no files in a computer's registry. Such small items become more and more evident towards the end of the book.And the crucial element of any book of this type, namely suspension of disbelief, just didn't go far enough. I will not disclose the plot, but at 2/3 of the book it fell flat for me and I read the rest merely to see what happens, not on the edge of the seat enjoying every moment of it.I will repeat that he writes just as well as ever (with a few somewhat tired similes, a first for me in his books), and to some people, especially in the world of finance, this may be more interesting than to the average lay person, but my expectations were not met, and I will remain in wait for his next book to see if he goes back to creating a truly interesting character in a complex and dangerous situation.

  • paula
    2019-04-28 04:32

    I think this book is more ambitious than it appears to be. A thriller set in the world of European high finance and IT, it is decorated with glass office buildings and large Mercedes cars, but populated with immensely unlikable characters, one of whom creates a monster. Robert Harris is trying for Frankenstein here - after all, it was Dr. Frankenstein's lack of insight and not his technical expertise that really created the monster - and it is a similar lack of insight into the nature of the organism he has created that dooms Harris's protagonist, Alex. Alex is nominally a physicist, but his expertise really lies in the identification of data predictors and analysis. So he has created an algorithm that analyzes the activity of the financial markets in order to make a shit-ton of money doing microtrades and predicting market events. And in the tradition of bad robots everywhere, the algorithm begins to work too well. It's at this point that one might expect the computer to start maximizing its efficiency by bypassing unpredictable human intervention and manipulating events itself - a la War Games - but that's not what it does. Instead, it appears to have identified so strongly with its creator that it attempts to make all his dreams come true. With hilarious results! No. Not hilarious. I'm kidding.Where the book fails is in establishing this connection between Alex and his monster. Alex is your standard slightly Aspy science guy, but not until the very end of the book do we find him alone with the algorithm. We don't see the long hours crafting it, fine-tuning it, lovingly placing the bolts into the creature's neck, so to speak. So the book fails the belief test when we are asked to believe that the algorithm wishes to please its master, but also when Alex quite stupidly underestimates its foresight.On the other hand, I was extremely impressed with the readability of this book. It's truly a one-sitting book. And there are some very cogently expressed insights about computers and about finance. There's a paragraph or two about the tasks we expected robots to take off our hands - housework and labor - and what computers turn out to be actually better than us at - analysis and decision-making - that made me close the book and think for a minute or two. This put me in mind of Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson.

  • Louella
    2019-05-17 06:12

    I honestly didn't want to give this only two stars because I harbour a residual loyalty for Robert Harris following his earlier great thrillers. Sadly, though, I found it incredibly difficult to relate to the characters, setting and plot of this book.Briefly, the protagonist, eminent scientist-turned-hedge-fund-manager Hoffman, accidentally lets loose artificially intelligent software across his trading floor and his life, with disastrous, if somewhat predictable, consequences.Hoffman is not especially likeable, which is more, I think, through Harris's failure to fully develop him rather than his inherent flaws. This makes it difficult to care too much about his eventual fate. In fact, none of the characters is very sympathetic, with only the downtrodden police officer Leclerc garnering any degree of warmth from the reader. Perhaps this is unsurprising given that the action is set in Geneva, which is made to appear as a cold, unwelcoming sort of a place, peopled by a global pool of unlikeable billionaires based there for tax avoidance purposes. There is no community, no family, just individuals worshipping at the alter of the markets. Spoiler followingBut the greatest disappointment in this is its lack of resolution. I know, I know, authors like to leave the reader with something to think about, something to chew over once the covers are closed. Still, though, I think some of the threads should be tied up more clearly. Are we meant to conclude that Hoffman's brain scan was correct in identifying the onset of a mental illness? Did he set himself up and then forget what he'd done? Or was the whole thing orchestrated by his out-of-control algorithm? Will Hoffman survive his fall? Will he and his wife reconcile? I can accept that leaving the fate of Hoffman's company hanging (with Quarry's decision to leave the cameras in place a tantalising prospect) but the main questions need greater resolution if you don't want the reader to come away with a nagging sense of frustration.Better luck with the next one, Robert.

  • Daniel
    2019-05-23 12:25

    This book was terrible.The characters are uninteresting, the plot is obvious and you can see the answer coming from miles away, and it has more holes than swiss cheese. Which, by the way, it's set in Switzerland, so that's convenient.(view spoiler)[The hedge fund's algorithmic trading program becomes self-aware, turns into a rogue AI and tries to kill its inventor. The inventor figures it out and tries to destroy the AI, but the AI has backups. At the end, the AI is still out there, still trading stocks.The utter lameness comes from the realization that the money the hedge fund is making from trading would be dwarfed by the money they could make by HAVING INVENTED A SENTIENT AI.Also, it's kind of a plot hole that the AI is sufficiently sentient that it can watch the people through cameras and figure out what they're doing, and impersonate them through email (it has the security chief install more cameras so it can see better, it opens bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, it convinces an Internet Weirdo to come from Germany and attempt to assassinate the protagonist), yet nobody ever comes up with the idea of just picking up the phone and saying, "We've figured out it's you. Hello in there." (hide spoiler)]

  • Whitley
    2019-05-04 04:24

    This book has received mixed reviews--largely, I suspect, because reviewers understand little about finance and computer technology. Actually, it's a hair-raising triumph, one of the most subtle and convincing stories about artificial intelligence I have read. Having written a book on this subject myself--Hybrids--I know a good deal about the progress being made in the field, and some of it is startling, chilling and quite wonderful, and Harris really captures the strangeness and menace of such machines.

  • Debbie
    2019-05-02 05:27

    3.5 stars for this one. I have definitely become a fan of Harris after reading a few of his novels. This one was a little different than the others I've read in that it isn't a war/historical-based novel. It's modern and deals with the topic of AI, how much computers have taken over our lives, and what might happen if programs were to gain the capacity to "operate independently & teach themselves" at a pace that outstrips human ability. The story is engaging and definitely moves along quickly. There were times the dialogue/vocabulary lost me due to my extremely limited understanding of the stock exchange & hedge funds. However, like in his other novels, Harris keeps the main thread going so the technical jargon doesn't detract from the plot line. I enjoyed his other novels a little more than this one (I would've liked him to have gone a bit more in-depth with Hoffman's history, etc), but it was still a good read.

  • Allan
    2019-05-05 09:22

    Not anywhere near my favourite Harris novel that I've read - I wasn't sold on the technological aspect that was the premise of the plot, though I suppose its pace kept me reading and curious as to what would happen. Glad it wasn't the first of his that I'd experienced, because I probably wouldn't have gone back to him if it was.

  • Jack
    2019-04-29 04:28

    *The Fear Index* is a breakneck thrill-ride that courses its way through the worlds of artificial intelligence and hedge fund investment, with a very brief side trip to a truly terrifying Internet outpost. The story twists and turns like a rollercoaster and a tilt-a-whirl put together (a tilt-a-coaster?), and I must admit that Harris had me hook, line, and sinker from the first paragraph to the last. If I had a shelf titled "High Speed Page Turners" on my Goodreads profile page, this book would definitely belong there. And wow...there are some mind-blowingly disturbing moments here, really frightening stuff. The guy with the gray ponytail? Yikes! I've decided that when my hair turns gray, I will never ever EVER pull it back into a ponytail, just 'cause of this book. Seriously, I'll never do it!So I gladly went along as Robert Harris buckled me into a seat on the Tilt-a-Coaster and dragged me by the collar through Gray Ponytail Guy's House of Horrors. Ultimately, however, the technology-run-amok theme that Harris develops at the end of the book was a little too "Twilight Zone-ish" for me. Final score: Three stars, which means I think it's better than Harris's *Conclave* but not even in the same class as *The Ghost*, *Fatherland*, and *Archangel*.

  • Ivica Mikic
    2019-04-26 07:03

    Robert Harris hat die Personen und die Handlung fantastisch beschrieben. Diese Spannung und Ungewissheit ob dem Hauptdarsteller seine Krankheit, ein Gegenspieler oder etwas anderes das Leben langsam aber sicher zerstört ist einmalig geschildert worden. Leider wählte Herr Harris die schwächste Variante. Er erweiterte sie mit Details bis zur absoluten Unglaubwürdigkeit und verpasste dadurch den brillanten Anfang bis zum Ende durch zu ziehen.

  • Tony
    2019-04-29 12:19

    THE FEAR INDEX. (2011). Robert Harris. ****. Here’s the latest techno-thriller from this English master of the genre. His last book out was “The Ghost,” whose title was changed to “The Ghost Writer,” when he collaborated with Polanski on the screenplay. If you haven’t seen that film, rent a copy immediately. Anyway, back to this one. It’s the story of Dr. Alex Hoffmann, a genius in computers and AI. He lost his job at the CERN facility in Geneva and split off to develop a hedge fund based on a series of algorithms that he developed. What was different about his algorithms was that they were based on the level of fear detectable in the world’s investors. He believed that fear was the driving force in the investment community rather than actual company performance or any other economic indicator. His hedge fund soon grew to the point that he and his partner manages several billion dollars for their clients. Suddenly, however, Alex began to experience events that were supposedly driven by his actions, but he had no memory of having done anything to set these actions in motion. The first event was his receipt of a first-edition copy of Darwin’s, “The Display of Emotions in Man and Animal,” with the section on fear noticeably marked. Although the bookshop claimed he ordered and paid for it himself, he had no recollection of doing so. Other events followed in a similar vein. What was happening? During the course of the story, we also learn that the computers running the business were exceeding the hedge risk without authorization. One thing you should be prepared for with this novel is the extensive use of financial terms related to today’s processes of electronic trading in a variety of markets. Also be prepared for a lot of computereze jargon, even though you can get by with being a duffer like me and not miss the thrust of the story. As the story progresses, we are presented with a variety of clues to what might be going on: maybe his partner is involved; maybe his old associates from CERN are involved, or; maybe the computers are evoving into something more than they were designed to be. Aside from the haziness of the possible solutions, the author manages to keep you riveted to the page to follow Alex during these times of upheaval. Recommended.

  • Michael Boxall
    2019-05-16 05:25

    This is the third Robert Harris novel I’ve read. Being dysnumerate—numbers make as little sense to me as the alphabet makes to dyslexics—I was put off Enigma by the math and never warmed to it much. The Ghost was more compelling, in part because the writer’s former career as a current affairs journalist seemed to lend it a Le Carre-esque veracity. I kept expecting Tony Blair to sue (although Harris must have bet, rightly, that Blair was too slick an operator to blunder down that particular alley).I was drawn to The Fear Index by the title. How many books can you say that about? (Imagine the jubilation in the publisher’s office when they came up with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.) There’s something visceral about this one. Even if it doesn’t actually jump off the bookstore shelf (assuming they still have bookstores. And shelves) it does dance an obscene little dance and beckon with one finger.“Above the inky expanse of lawn, the moon was a silvery-blue discus that seemed to have been thrown at great speed through scudding masses of black cloud.” Sentences like that keep me reading. And did, through the longeurs of explanation about how hedge funds work—analogous in some way to making a bet on whether a girl is wearing black knickers. My dysnumeracy must have metastasized: I couldn’t even understand that.Long story short, it’s Frankenstein without the neck bolt. Or anything else, for that matter. This is a monster without a body, moving billions of dollars to settle for a millisecond on one investment, then off again to the next. An alogrithm gone apeshit, making money at unimaginable speed. The Fear Index has a premise as good as its title, and one that becomes less far-fetched by the day. I couldn’t put it down.

  • L.K. Jay
    2019-04-26 07:16

    I'm definitely a Robert Harris fan but I did wonder if I would be disappointed by this book due to the reviews on here. But I downloaded it anyway as I had some spare time on my hands. Well I'm glad I did as yet again, Harris has given us a well crafted, page turning thriller. This novel is set in the financial world but don't let that put you off if, like me, you find stocks and shares confusing and impenetrable. The main character, Alex, is a genius in the finance world and we follow him as he has one hell of a day. He is a member of the super-rich but this book gives us an insight into his world of wealth. He is under threat and the tension slowly builds up until you are rattling through the pages to find out what happens.I liked this book, it's a taut thriller that keeps you engaged and I learnt a bit about the finance world as well. I like Harris's uncluttered prose - he doesn't dwell on pretensions but his thrillers are intelligent enough to make you think. Worth a download, it's a good thriller.

  • Simon Lipson
    2019-04-27 06:25

    I've read a few Robert Harris books over the years and generally enjoyed them. The Ghost was a rare treat - witty, current and insightful. The Fear Index, on the other hand, is current but little else. A potentially interesting protagonist - scientist, genius, money-making machine - is one-dimensional and those around him are equally uninteresting. Harris's attempts to convey the lives of the rich, successful, privileged and/or arty fail hopelessly as he wobbles towards cliche. The story is thin and ploddy, so I shan't recount it here. Suffice it to say that I got to the end and asked, 'Is that it? I've come all this way for that?' Lots of exposition - much of it dull, financial instruments/institutions based and high-tech stuff - and the denouement is, frankly, implausible. A disappointment, but we're all entitled to one duffer and hopefully, with this one, Harris has got it out of his system. Expect a return to form with his next.

  • Henri Moreaux
    2019-04-25 11:21

    Ah, I love a good financial thriller, and this is certainly one.I've enjoyed every Robert Harris book I've read so far and this one is no exception. Whilst some may be turned off by the financial jargon and intricacies involved I found it suitable for the premise of the novel. There's nothing worse than reading a book about a topic the author is clueless on - thankfully that is not the case here.About half way through you get a sense about whom is behind what's going on, however I didn't feel this took away from the novel. Much like knowing Titanic sunk didn't make it pointless to watch. Additionally, there's also more going on than what you're able to establish which makes the read even more pleasurable. Definitely a keeper. Reminds me a little of Erdman in his prime.

  • Ruthanne Davis
    2019-05-09 04:18

    Though I know very little of the operations of the stock market, I had no trouble with the ins and outs of this fine Robert Harris novel whose two main characters are a rather misanthropic genious and artificial intelligence in the form of a computer that plays the stock market with astounding results. Sound boring? Believe me, throw in a murder, a horrible accident in an elevator shaft, and a bizarre home will keep you on pins and needles.This was my first Robert Harris book and I will definitely read more.

  • Rushi
    2019-05-01 12:11

    The Fear Index is a breezy, fun read. Clearly the author has done his research on the financial markets and the world of hedge funds. Even the basic idea behind the protagonist's hedge fund is feasible. Where the book falls short is in the plot. The HAL 9000 \ AI elements of the story are weak and similar stories have been covered a lot better, for example, by Charles Stross in Rule 54 or Accelerando. If you are looking for a fun thriller, I heartily recommend The Fear Index. If you are a fan of science fiction, you might want to steer clear.

  • Wayland Smith
    2019-05-15 09:23

    Ok, I don't generally do spoilers. The fact that I did here is a clue. So be warned. Spoilers. Alex Hoffman is a scientist working on Artificial Intelligence. His newest project has paired him with an Englishman named Quarry who is all about making money. They have created a vastly successful investment firm based on the incredibly complex algorithm that Hoffman created. Hoffman himself seems to be the prototype anti-social scientist while Quarry is the salesman/people person. They are on the verge of launching a new version of the program that makes stock predictions based on human negative reactions; specifically, fear. But strange things are happening. Hoffman gets a rare book he never ordered... but the computer records say he did. A stranger breaks in to his home and seems surprised to not be welcome. His wife, Gabrielle, has her first art gallery showing, and someone buys every piece, with one of Alex's accounts. Is Alex having a mental relapse? Is he working against himself?As the story goes on, the truth is more disturbing. The problem with working on artificial intelligence is you just might succeed. And it might have its own ideas about how to do things. The climax is a big showdown as everyone thinks Alex is going mad, and only he figures out the truth. It's a good story with some decent twists. The only reasons I don't rate it higher are that I found parts of it predictable. I also got lost a few times in the financial jargon. But it was definitely worth reading and a really interesting idea.

  • Greg
    2019-05-05 04:10

    Stanley Kubrick's film masterpiece, "2001", put the nail in the coffin of the "Computers Gone Wild" trope over 50 years ago. There is nothing new here. However, the hard book version I read had a spectacular cover: thousands of raised, green tiny dots which gave the actual reading of the book a tactile experience and the book/hardware does look great. So one star for the story, but another star for the very nice cover design, hence my 2-star rating.

  • Lucinda Clarke
    2019-05-06 06:05

    A REALLY GOOD READMy husband brought this home as a paperback gift form a friend and I bought it and down loaded as it is easier to read on my kindle. The concept of robots controlling the lives of ordinary people and taking control way beyond their intended use is not new, but coupled with the world of high finance this added an extra and interesting dimension. The only reason I’ve not given it 5 stars was the end was rather predictable.

  • Graham Joseph
    2019-05-20 04:06

    Pretty good! I didn’t always enjoy reading it, and I found it a little predictable, but towards the end I realised that it is in fact a very clever book. There are significant aspects of Frankenstein embedded in it, though it lacks the question of the moral obligation owed by the creator to his creation. Certainly a morality tale for the 21st Century, though, and a good one at that.

  • Tom Swift
    2019-05-18 10:30

    3.5 stars.A hedge fund manager designs a trading program that becomes too advanced.

  • Russ
    2019-05-05 04:27

    Based on the dust jacket, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it would involve finance and technology, two topics I like, but beyond that I didn't understand what the plot would involve. Basically, Dr. Hoffman, a brilliant physicist and corporate president, becomes the apparent victim of a series of events that are traced back to his own hands, calling his sanity into question. It's hard to say much more. Do yourself a favor and read the first two chapters; you'll have a better idea if it's right for you.(view spoiler)[That being said, the culprit behind the strange activity was predictable. You may not guess it at first but you will guess it before the culprit is revealed. Nevertheless, the plot arc is still exciting. (hide spoiler)]Don't let the technical topics scare you--the author is clearly knowledgeable about the subjects involved, but he makes it all clear and easy enough to understand.The Zurich setting was a treat. I don't know much about Switzerland and I felt like The Fear Index landed me there on a direct flight. I liked the main character, his business partner, his wife, and the police detective.(view spoiler)[A scene where Hoffman's business partner fires the company's risk officer was so satisfying. It was probably my favorite scene of any book I read this year. I laughed out loud. (hide spoiler)]This would have been a great episode of the Twilight Zone.Unfortunately, the ending was lousy.