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The Fear Index

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  8,938 Ratings  ·  1,080 Reviews
Meet Alex Hoffmann: among the secretive inner circle of the ultra-rich, he is something of a legend.

Based in Geneva, he has developed a revolutionary system that has the power to manipulate financial markets. Generating billions of dollars, it is a system that thrives on panic - and feeds on fear.

And then, in the early hours of one morning, while he lies asleep, a sinister
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Arrow (first published September 29th 2011)
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Charlotte Wildflower I'm sure it is the last part of your question that is true.
To be free.
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Manda Scott
Oct 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 wou
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Lentz
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 ...more
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 i
Sam Quixote
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 someth
Jay Connor
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 "Flas ...more
Nick Davies
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, book-group
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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 esp
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)
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 quickl ...more
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.
*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 ...more
Ivica Mikic
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.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
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 s
Michael Boxall
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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 ...more
L.K. Jay
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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
Simon Lipson
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 ...more
Henri Moreaux
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 th
Ruthanne Davis
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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 ...more
Wayland Smith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My 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
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
3.5 stars.

A hedge fund manager designs a trading program that becomes too advanced.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rig ...more
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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more
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“Right, you see that girl over there, the one in that group that keeps looking right at you?'...'Right, let's say I'm convinced she's wearing black knickers - she looks like a black knickers kind of gal to me - and I'm so sure that's what she's wearing, so positive of that sartorial fact, I want to bet a million dollars on it. The trouble is, if I'm wrong, I'm wiped out. So I also bet she's wearing knickers that aren't black, but are any one of a whole basket of colours - let's say I put nine hundred and fifty thousand dollars on that possibility: that's the rest of the market; that's the hedge. This is a crude example, okay, in every sense, but hear me out. Now if I'm right, I make fifty K, but even if I'm wrong I'm going to lose fifty K, because I'm hedged. And because ninety-five per cent of my million dollars is not in use - I'm never going to be called on to show it: the only risk is in the spread - I can make similar bets with other people. Or I can bet it on something else entirely. And the beauty of it is I don't have to be right all the time - if I can just get the colour of her underwear right fifty-five per cent of the time I'm going to wind up very rich...” 6 likes
“This was the problem with drinks parties: getting stuck with a person you didn't want to talk to while someone you did was tantalisingly in view.” 6 likes
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