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The Fear Index by Robert Harris

The Fear Index (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Robert Harris

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8273610,945 (3.24)29
Title:The Fear Index
Authors:Robert Harris
Info:Vintage (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Fear Index by Robert Harris (2011)


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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I especially liked the central premise of this novel, which involves global high finance, computer driven trading and the "intelligence" of machines. It reminded me a lot of something William Gibson might write and Fear Index should really be tagged as a science-fiction thriller. Like many science-fiction writers, Harris is an "ideas" author and he is no different from most thriller writers in that his characters are a little thinly drawn but not so that we are indifferent to their fates.

The main character, Alex Hoffman is a reclusive, almost autistic genius with all the personality quirks that we expect from brilliant mathematicians. Introverted and withdrawn, he has trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy and easily gets lost within his own obscure and complex ideas. He and his more down to earth partner have a fast-rising hedge fund and are blazing a trail in the arcane field of applying complex mathematics (also known as artificial intelligence) to the process of buying and selling stocks.

This is very much a here and now story as this very thing (using artificial intelligence to profit in the markets) is going on all over the world and has the potential, many think, of destabilizing the worlds delicate and complex financial systems. What might happen if the mathematics gets so complicated that we had trouble understanding and controlling them? All kinds of unforeseen consequences might ensue and it would make for a great story. Fear Index is that great story.

As always, Harris brings a keen eye and a thorough and detailed setting to all his stories and you get the feeling that he has walked the terrain that he sets his scenes in and he writes with the ease and confidence of an experienced storyteller. Fear Index is only his eighth novel in 20 years, which is not surprising since he is known for the depth and quality of his research. Harris is a master at developing and unfolding a storyline and I was caught up in the story from page one right to the end. I have now read four of Harris's novels: Fear Index, Enigma, Archangel and Pompeii and liked them all especially Enigma and Pompeii. I would rank Fear as among his best.

At around the 2/3 mark in this book, the storyline had been so well and tightly drawn that the author incurs a debt to the reader. By this I mean that the central premise has gripped the reader and you just have to know what the heck is going on. The author better have something up his sleeve and it better make sense.

In the case of Fear Index, he does and it does, at least for me.

I really liked this book. I found it thought provoking and plausible. In the end it's a very simple story and Harris tells it beautifully.

( )
  blnq | Dec 27, 2016 |
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. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | Aug 31, 2016 |
Based on a couple of his other novels I really liked, I expected a lot from 'The Fear Index'. Boy, was I disappointed. Bad character development, unlikable characters, a plot that seemed interesting for awhile but then took a bad turn, and very pedestrian writing. The story has the feel of being a partially developed idea that the author just sort of plowed his way through without doing much research or polishing his prose.

If you're a techie, you'll probably find many targets to mock, likewise if you're a financial person. I can deal with the occasional error if there's a great story or fantastic writing, but this had neither. ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
intriguing story line, constantly builds tension until the climax at the end of the book, so that you can't put it down. ( )
  petrichor8 | Jun 6, 2016 |
I always liked Robert Harris works, but this one was somewhat of disappointment. It's basically another version of old 'AI going hostile' plot. It is framed in a new settings of a hedge fund and has a reference to the real events on financial markets (nice touch) - but overall you know what's going to happen almost from the beginning. ( )
  everfresh1 | Apr 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Humans have emerged as the top predators of the biosphere, but Harris warns that a new life form, brilliant and brutal, could be emerging from our algorithms, silicon chips and fiber-optic lines. Corporations aren’t people, he tells us, but they will be alive. Will we survive the rise of the machines? Lovers of the “Terminator” and “Matrix” films know the answer. In evolution, as with a prospectus, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Is “The Fear Index” fearmongering? Possibly. Like most dystopian novels, it taps into anxieties - about the mysterious workings of computers in this case. Like the best novels of this genre, it offers something to chew on - and it’s entertaining.'
When the reason behind the eerie incidents becomes apparent, the effect is chilling—and, for some characters, fatal. Only when the plot's smoke clears will certain fussy readers feel their suspension of disbelief plummeting and say: Now, wait a minute. That's another kind of flash crash.
“. . . the premise of The Fear Index by Robert Harris is seriously creepy. . . . The Fear Index is a solid, competent techno-thriller, carefully researched and intelligently executed. If you enjoy this genre—and who doesn’t now and then?—put this one on your to-be-read list.”

Foreboding runs through the system of The Fear Index like an IV drip. But if the novel sells itself short anywhere, it's in the author's clearly conscious decision to sacrifice character development for the sake of story pace. Still, it doesn't take a super-computer to know The Fear Index is a worthwhile investment of your time.
added by geocroc | editUSA Today, James Endrst (Jan 30, 2012)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Harrisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwart, JannekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dr Alexander Hoffmann sat by the fire in his study in Geneva, a half-smoked cigar lying cold in the ashtray beside him, an anglepoise lamp pulled low over his shoulder, turing the pages of a first edition of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal by Charles Darwin.
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Book description
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.
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"A visionary scientist creates 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 after an intruder breaks into his home, he has to try to discover who is trying to destroy him"--… (more)

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