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 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.
Fiendishly smart and suspenseful, The Fear Index gives us a searing glimpse into an all-too-recognizable world of greed and panic. It is a novel that forces us to confront the question of what it means to be human—and it is Robert Harris’s most spellbinding and audacious novel to date.
In this smart but uneven thriller on technology run amok from bestseller Harris (The Ghost Writer), Dr. Alex Hoffmann, an American scientific refugee from the abandoned Texas supercollider who lands on his feet at CERN in Geneva, eventually goes on to found one of the world's most successful hedge funds. Hoffmann's secret VIXAL-4, an artificial intelligence project that forecasts financial market movements, appears to have a mind of its own, which is more than can be said for its creator. Unbeknownst even to his English avant-garde artist wife, Hoffmann has shown signs of serious mental problems in the past. Could a series of strange occurrences in the present be random, the work of a mole in Hoffman's company, or part of his unconscious pattern of self-destruction? Pure science enjoys an uneasy existence with large profit making at the expense of downward-market spirals. Despite some less than engaging characters and a story that sags a bit, this novel's philosophical underpinnings will keep most readers engrossed. 200,000 first printing; 5-city author tour.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Beautifully crafted but lacking
Harris's writing is luxurious, so clear, so precise and so alive --- you taste his tastes, see his colours, acutely feel the pain of his characters. The premise of the story is good, and the storytelling captivating --- it really is hard to put down. But for all that I was left disappointed. In my opinion Harris lost his way during the last quarter of the book, as the characters became less believable and the plot a little strained. In the end there was no closure, and in particular the rationale for the events designed to destroy Hoffmann were never revealed (we learn the what but not the why).
Robert Harris is a fabulous writer, and never disappoints. His stories of Rome are masterpieces, and, like Ghost Writer would all make fine films. Fear Index would as well. The book is not his best because things happen that aren't quite right, a bit odd as the main character manages to get in and out of situations too easily.
Where are the security cameras at his house, for instance? Why does his security guard not follow him when he leaves the building ? As the clever plot unfolds, I found the book reading more like a Michael Crichton novel where things keep going wrong that shouldn't.
At the same time, I could not put it down! Intelligent and perfectly researched, it is a thriller.
In the end I was reminded of the great line from 2001 A Space Odyssey: "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."
Harris is a favorite of mine as many friends who receive signed copies from me can attest. I eagerly await his next.
The Fear Index
Could not put down.... Read in two days...fast pace technology /stock market finance thriller with several turns. Harris is an excellent story teller..