The Fear Index Paperback – 24 May 2012
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"The Fear Index could scarcely be more of the moment" (The Times)
"Harris is a master of pace and entertainment, and The Fear Index is a thoroughly enjoyable book . . . Read the book." (Observer)
"The Fear Index is an escapist thriller to rank with the best of them, and as a guide to what hedge funds actually do, it is surprisingly clear and instructive." (Economist)
"There are moments when this book feels so up to date it could have been written next week... spookily exciting." (Express)
"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" (Lionel Barber Financial Times)
The gripping new race-against-time financial thriller, from the award-winning master of the literary thriller genre: Robert Harris. Shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller of the year at the 2012 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It took a little while for this thriller to pull me in. The tension takes some time to build. I didn't particularly care for any of the characters, none of whom (with the possible exception of Hoffman) felt very believable. However it's deftly written and even as I started to work out parts of the plot and where the story might be going, other elements kept me guessing. It's a strange change of pace for Harris, reading more like a Michael Crichton novel than a Robert Harris one. It has the scientific edge that I associate with Crichton's books, it's highly topical and grounded in recent events. It's also very readable - I tore through it in a day. So where's the problem? It's more shallow than I expect Harris's writing to be. The plot doesn't have a massive twist, some some small kinks. I simply didn't care about any of the characters. I read it happily enough, but I don't think it will stay with me.
Where the book let me down was in the somewhat stereotypical characters and lack of their development, the hedge fund investors are all self-involved geeks and the policeman predictable. The Darwin analogy, although interesting, seemed to fizzle out and not reach its full potential, much like the novel.
Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and I enjoyed reading it, but it could have been so much more!
Standard & Poor's 500 Index (the S&P 500) is second only to the Dow Jones as a mirror of events in the US stock Market. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (known as VIX) is a measure of the volatility of the market in tradeable options over stocks in the S&P 500 companies. Because volatility in the options market is seen as an indicator of imminent volatility in the more general stock market, the VIX is nicknamed 'The Fear Index', high volatility being associated with high risk. In fact, high volatility can also precede a sharply rising market, but speculators are instinctive pessimists in the first instance. Modern hedge funds deal in options and other similar tradeable products rather than in actual stocks and bonds. They are aggressively managed, reacting rapidly to market movements in order to seek profits even in a falling market. That's all you need to know about the stock market in order to follow the plot of the book.
As in a number of Harris' books (I confess I have a couple yet to read), the author grafts a fictional narrative on to a body of historical fact - in this case, the workings of the stock markets and in particular the crash which began on the New York Exchange in the early afternoon of 6 May 2010 and reverberated around the world. The action takes place in Geneva, beginning on the evening of 5 May and covering, in broad terms, the next day-and-a-half.Read more ›
"The Fear Index" is the story of a Frankenstein algorithm (signaled rather ham-fistedly by an epigraph from Mary Shelley), a "confined digital organism" which goes well beyond its original purpose of trading the financial markets based on its prediction of changes in the VIX or volatility index (which is in reality traded on the CBOE). The program begins to control events in the physical world and provoke extreme behavior in the central character, ex-CERN physicist and billionaire hedgehog, Alex Hoffman.
Much of the book is a mild satire on the world of hedge fund nerds ("a United Nations conference on Asperger's Syndrome.") and their "undernourished" women set in Geneva. It is all very amusing but this ground has already been tread by Sebastian Faulks in "A Week In December." There is mystery thrown in triggered by a home -a sixty million dollar home - invasion and various odd incidents investigated by Inspector Leclerc, who is not entirely without justification, labeled by one of the characters as "Inspector Clouseau." All this is written with Harris' customary skill but is a bit too over-the-top to match the convincing conspiratorial menace of "The Ghost."
Most of the chapter headings are taken form Darwin on the nature of fear, but this is a high potential theme that is not satisfactorily developed. Interesting questions about the evolution of post human intelligence are lightly touched on. Questions of the morality of money are skirted. But in the end, Harris satisfies himself with producing a highly filmable - enter Paul Greengrass -light entertainment. Great fun, but that's all.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to double check that this was the same Robert Harris who wrote the Rome novels and I'm disapointed that it proved to be so. Read morePublished 23 days ago by BrianT
Certainly not one of the best from this fine writer. A lot of padding "..as the doctor took his blood pressure, the stethoscope felt cold against his wrist ..." really? Read morePublished 2 months ago by S. Evans
Bought as present for husband - one of his favorite authors. Did not disappoint.Published 3 months ago by wood833
Robert Harris is always good and this book was no exception, just brilliant.,Published 3 months ago by Douglas Belassie
I picked this up as I had so enjoyed Enigma and Fatherland. This seems to be such a radical departure from his earlier works stylistically and in terms of period that it took me... Read morePublished 4 months ago by David Lee
okay, if you know Geneva and the finance business.