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The Fear Index

Robert Harris

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Published by Hutchinson, part of Cornerstone Publishing

Format: Hardback

£18.99

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EAN: 9780091936969
Published: 29 Sep 2011

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About the book

Synopsis

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.

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Press

What the critics say

The Fear Index could scarcely be more of the moment
- The Times

In The Fear Index , the latest thriller by Robert Harris, now heading for the Christmas bestseller lists, a brainbox hedge fund manager with little in the way of interpersonal skills discovers that his computer-driven trading system has flown out of control and threatens to send the world's stock markets into a tailspin. Anyone familiar with Mary Shelley's Dr Frankenstein will recognise the genre of the oddball genius consumed by his own creation - populist fiction at its best.
- Spectator

I would recommend The Fear Index, the new novel by Robert Harris that delves into the world of modern finance. The writing is as elegant as ever
- Financial Times

Robert Harris is renowned for his historical novels, although his eighth offering, The Fear Index, could hardly be more contemporary and relevant . . . Harris writes with a deceptively languid elegance, so that the novel straddles not only the crime and sci-fi genres but also that of literary fiction. A satisfying read on a number of levels, it is strongest as a character study of a man who discovers, pace Hemingway, the true meaning of the phrase 'grace under pressure'.
- Irish Times

Robert Harris's eighth novel is a timely blockbuster of a thriller that takes the global financial meltdown as its backdrop, with nods to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . . . An assuredly intelligent and deftly-paced novel, the fear of the protagonist is increasingly palpable as he's buffeted by genuinely unexpected spine-chilling twists. Perhaps the greatest thriller writer around, Harris has delivered his best work yet. A modern classic.
- Irish Examiner

VIXAL-4 succeeds partly by keeping a close eye on the news and clearly so does Harris: the plot ingeniously combines a number of recent phenomena (financial, political, online, artistic) covered by journalism . . . Grippingly dramatising the workings of the economy (I understood for the first time how hedge funds work), The Fear Index is in another sense, an economic novel, not merely in its condensed time-scheme but its sparing wordage.
- Guardian

Robert Harris's thriller covers a single day in Dr Hoffman's life - May 6, 2010 (the date of the last British general election) - when it all goes wrong, or rather, which is more frightening, when it all goes dramatically, unstoppably right . . . The Fear Index is a frightening book, of course, as, with its title, it intends. Harris has an excellent sense of pace, and understands as much about fear in literature as Hoffman does in markets.
- Telegraph

There are moments when this book feels so up to date it could have been written next week . . . Not only is Harris a brilliant yarn spinner he also makes the mysteries of what hedge funds do and what short-selling means entirely understandable and spookily exciting.
- Express

Part techno-thriller, part psychological drama, The Fear Index is as gripping a tale as anything Robert Harris, described as Britain's most bankable author, has written. Quite different from anything he has done before, it crackles with energy and invention, and the author's obviously extensive research into the arcane world of state-of-the-art computing technology, algorithms, trading and hedge funds is dished up lightly and intelligibly.
- Irish Independent

Robert Harris's new thriller is both gripping and chilling . . . For someone with little knowledge of how the markets work, The Fear Index is illuminating but terrifying as our reliance on flickering numbers is revealed. Even hardened financial traders will find the idea of guineas kept under the mattress an attractive prospect by the end, but no-one should miss this terrifying book.
- Country Life

In Harris's latest thriller, the absurdly gripping The Fear Index . . . Harris's great skill is to inhabit fully and convincingly the worlds he writes about - whether Cicero's Rome, modern-day Russia or Swiss high finance - showing off his vast research yet never allowing the white-knuckle narrative to lose momentum.
- New Statesman

In Harris's latest thriller Dr Alex Hoffman creates an algorithm that anticipates emotional effects on stock markets, but his life takes a dark turn when his mansion is burgled. Prepare for goosebumps.
- Stylist

Robert Harris is our literary Alfred Hitchcock. Just as the portly man with the voyeuristic mind for murder went for years under the label of 'entertainer' before the brass plaque of 'genius' was screwed onto his pediment, so Robert Harris is a 'thriller writer', but in time his canon will be viewed as something far greater . . . What I so admire about Harris as a writer is the surface shine of his prose. It is muscular, utterly functional but still capable of poetry when necessary. George Orwell said that good writing was like a pane of glass through which the reader can see the action. With Harris, we get to see it in 3D.
- Scotsman

Set on election day 2010, Robert Harris's latest novel is a combination of ripping yarn, political and historical verisimilitude and diligent research into a hither-to closed world.
- Guardian

A fine dystopian parable, especially impressive for the fact that instead of giving up on what really goes on in most banks and hedge funds and making them a mere back drop for money-laundering and ancillary skulduggery, as many thriller-writers have done, his heart of darkness is the thing itself. The drama contains, as he notes in the acknowledgments, 'Gothic flights of fantasy' - the story reminiscent of everyone from Michael Crichton to Ian Fleming, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. Yet there is an uncomfortable core of reality there . . . Quite a few Financial Time readers will, I suspect, not only savour The Fear Index, but wince with recognition.
- Financial Times

Robert Harris's new novel The Fear Index races along as a thriller of high finance set during a single day: that of the Flash Crash. I have to obey spoiler-alert protocols at this point, because it is very hard to summarise what Harris so grippingly achieves through this material without letting some cats (Schrödinger's, perhaps?) out of the bag. So, if you prefer, look away now and read the book. You will do so very rapidly.
- Independent

Harris wears his considerable research lightly. The prose is as crisp as ever, while the plotting accelerates at Hadron Collider pace.
- Mirror

For many of us, share prices are strings of dry, indecipherable figures ticking across hi-tech screens. But when stock markets tank, how quickly we become infected with the moist primal of emotions: sick confusion, clammy dread, coldest fear. Expertly mining this deep unease, Robert Harris's thriller presents a fictional nightmare that feels like a wake-up call . . . The novel has a sophistication that lift's beyond banker-bashing. Harris takes aim at a corrupted system from a moral and intellectual height that practically induces vertigo.
- Sunday Telegraph

Imagine a computer that can hack into terrorist cells and air-traffic control, sniff out world disasters before they happen and cash in on the fear they generate. Marry this development by an American IT nerd to a smoothly British hedge-fund manager, and the result is untold riches . . . Robert Harris's first contemporary thriller since The Ghost, is an ingenious and vivid parable of our times.
- Reader's Digest

The brief flicker of ambivalence about the period is stage-setting for a tour de force exercise in regenerating a classic. Taking a scenario as up-to-the-minute as a news flash from the money markets, The Fear Index gives it the scary features of Mary Shelley's 1818 shocker Frankenstein . . . Like Frankenstein, his novel is a tale of the catastrophic consequences of galvanising inanimate matter into uncontrollable life . . . The Fear Index is both cutting edge and keenly conscious of its literary predecessors. Reworking classic texts is a large-scale literary industry these days. Harris's tongue-in-cheek flesh-creeper (whose most chilling moments are its reminders of our present financial woes) is a virtuoso specimen of it.
- Sunday Times

Harris is a master of pace an entertainment, and The Fear Index is a thoroughly enjoyable book . . . Read the book. If I die tomorrow, blame the computer.
- Observer

Like all Harris's books, this one is readily enjoyable as a suspense story . . . But what makes Harris's thrillers so much more rewarding than those of his rivals is that they all, whatever their ostensible subject, come out of his deep and expert interest in politics, broadly conceived - which is to say, in power, in how power is taken, held and lost; how some people are able to dominate others; how wealth and status, fear and greed, work . . .The Fear Index (which has a lot to say about the very rich - a group to which Harris himself now belongs but doesn't like) is ultimately a study in the total lack of morality of those who manipulate the markets . . . By focusing thus on a rogue algorithm and a pure scientist, Harris is not really fronting up the true authors of our current financial plight, perhaps. But, in its own carefully conceived terms, The Fear Index is certainly another winner.
- Evening Standard

This latest nail-biter from the author of The Ghost will keep fans of suspense up all night.
- Good Housekeeping

To crawl by bus through rush-hour traffic is not something that would normally appeal to a busy person. Unless, like me, that person was in possession of Robert Harris's new thriller The Fear Index. Then they would certainly relish the potential for escapism such a slow journey could provide and there was nowhere else I wanted to be then in that story, which delivers pure pleasure with every page.
- The Lady

About the Author

Robert Harris is one of Britain’s most famous writers of thriller novels and gripping historical fiction. He is the author of eight bestselling historical and contemporary thrillers: Archangel, Enigma, Fatherland, The Fear Index, The Ghost, Imperium, Lustrum and Pompeii, all of which were worldwide bestsellers.

Harris has been shortlisted for three notable literary awards: the Walter Scott prize for historical fiction, the Whitbread first novel award (now known as the Costa Book award) and the British Book Awards Popular Fiction Award. His most recent bestselling thriller, The Fear Index, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, for best thriller of the year, at the 2012 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.

Robert Harris has worked with international film director Roman Polanski to create the Golden Globe winning film The Ghost Writer, starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. Enigma was adapted into an award-winning film starring Kate Winslet and Tom Hollander.

His work has been translated into thirty-three languages. He was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He worked as a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, before becoming Political Editor of the Observer in 1987, and then a columnist on the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He lives near Hungerford in Berkshire with his wife and their four children.

Robert Harris

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