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Summary

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

Critic reviews

"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)
"Taking an up-to-the-minute scenario, The Fear Index gives it the scary features of Mary Shelley’s 1818 shocker Frankenstein. Like Frankenstein, the novel is a tale of the catastrophic consequences of galvanising inanimate matter into uncontrollable life… Depicting all this with sardonic relish, Harris switches the high-tension techniques that give his thrillers their heart-pounding suspense into black comic mode. His tongue-in-cheek flesh-creeper is a virtuoso specimen." ( The Sunday Times)
“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 Fear Index by Robert Harris is a great story set in the world of finance about markets being manipulated, how technology has changed financial markets and greed." ( Ed Milliband, New Statesman Books of the Year)
"[Robert Harris] keeps you gripped with the perfect mix of character, tension, information and background" ( Simon Reeve, S Magazine, Sunday Express)
"Harris is the master of the intelligent thriller…a gripping human drama steeped in paranoia and violence" ( Paul Pender, The Week, Scotland on Sunday)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Nils
  • Olstykke, Denmark
  • 08-10-11

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Nicholas
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 23-12-11

Very Disappointing

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Roderic
  • Victoria Park, Australia
  • 10-11-13

Pretty good read, though not Harris's best

Any additional comments?

I found some aspects of the plot clumsy, but overall it was very entertaining. A strong idea, developed quite well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Reasonable but not one of Harris’ best

Reasonable but not one of Harris’ best. Well read. The story is a little simple.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic<br />

Thrilling story, right to the end. Just what I expect from a Robert Harris book.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

good narration

Would you try another book written by Robert Harris or narrated by Christian Rodska?

This was the second audio book written by Robert Harris I listened to, after enjoying 'Convocation which was similarly engrossing

What could Robert Harris have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

good as it is

How could the performance have been better?

it was excellent

What character would you cut from The Fear Index?

none

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Intelligent Thriller

A clever cyber thriller - basically, what happens when artificial intelligence runs amuck with a hedge fund, and the subsequent implications for global markets and events. A superb story from the thriller maestro. Scared me off stocks &amp; shares for life. Very well narrated by Christian Rodska.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

not his best

I'm a great robert harris fan with an interest in finance but was slightly disappointed in this book. good premise for a book but never quite hit the highs I was expecting

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

the fear index

To appreciate this book and its plot the reader would have to have an intimate knowledge of money markets to appreciate the nuances as the plot unfolds. To such a person it would be excellent and exciting read

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Hugh
  • 25-10-11

Topical tale, well told.

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • 18-12-17

Brilliant voices on a good story

Fun, easy to digest thriller with twists and turns. The big winner in this is the performance- particularly the accents. They bring forward the style and nature of each of the characters

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • LaBaum
  • 13-01-12

Truly disturbing story

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

Most certainly, because one had to know if he was going mad or was correct about what was going on. Would he succeed?

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

Pace, consistency, colour to the characters

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but impossible to do.

Any additional comments?

highly recommended.