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The Fear Index cover art

The Fear Index

By: Robert Harris
Narrated by: Christian Rodska
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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 listeners say about The Fear Index

Average customer ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

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15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

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4 people found this 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.

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4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Another Great Book

Robert Harris has never failed me yet. This book is an addition to the long list of his titles that I have enjoyed. I was initially worried that it might be a bit 'dark' but it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read - and right up-to-date!

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3 people found this helpful

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

Laughably poor writing

Great literature this is not. It's an airport pulp novel. Full of cliches, stock two-dimensional characters and show-off plot exposition dialogue. The female characters are ciphers and the men are all thrusting, aggressive stereotypes. The narrator almost seems to be parodying the abysmal writing by employing some of the ripest, hammy acting ever recorded. However, it's quite a fun story and the author gives the impression of understanding a fair bit about the financial world and how it may develop.

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1 person found this helpful

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

Classic Harris

If you enjoy Robert Harris, you'll like this. It's fast-paced, and full of action and mystery. Rodska does a great job keeping up the tension. (It would make an excellent movie!)

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1 person found this helpful

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

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.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb, intelligent thriller

The beginning is unsettling and gripping, the ending is disturbing. Harris has again written a thoroughly intelligent thriller, this time grounded in the world of finance, hedge funds and computers. He succeeds because the novel has a lot of truth in it from his thorough research (and the research never overshadows the plot), he has cleverly given it a tight time-frame, and he has layered it with philosphical and scientific ideas which bring a further richness to it. And the icing on the cake; it is read by the wonderful Christian Rodska.

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1 person found this helpful

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

Idea of AI taking over the world

Liked narrator and reference to Darwin etc . The momentum built strongly as the story continued

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

The Fear Index

Very good novel. The fact that Mr. Harris has written about AI and what can happen if things are left unchecked, twelve years before ChatGPT makes the novel all the more relevant. Another great novel from an excellent writer.

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