Thriller set in the mountains of NORWAY
Financial thriller set in Geneva
29th March 2018
The Fear Index by Robert Harris, financial thriller set in Geneva.
The Fear Index is not a new book – it was published in 2012. But I much admire Robert Harris as a writer, and so took it with me last week to Geneva, where the book is firmly set. I walked past, and admired, a splendid 5-star hotel called the Beau Rivage in the afternoon – imagine then reading The Fear Index in the evening, and learning about a critical business lunch that was hosted at the hotel. The essence of TripFiction!
Alex Hoffmann is a fund manager extraordinaire. His clients are the super-rich, and he makes them even richer. He used to work at CERN in Geneva, where he developed AI (artificial intelligence) systems to analyse the findings of the Large Hadron Collider project. Only he didn’t call it AI, he called it AMR (Autonomous Machine Reasoning). The systems were designed to ‘learn’ and improve as they went along. They could work many times faster than humans with much greater accuracy. Millions of calculations in a micro second… Alex took his learning from CERN and transported it to a new start up investment company – Hoffmann Investment Technologies. The idea was to build a system and algorithms that would predict market movement in shares and execute ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ orders based on what it had determined was happening. The system would learn and, over time, the algorithms would get more powerful and more successful. To help him in his project Alex hired not conventional financial dealers, but some of the brightest PhDs on the planet. Over the next eight years, the company goes from strength to strength… with many billions of dollars under management. Until something begins to go wrong…
Alex is assaulted in his own extremely secure house by someone who has access to the entry codes. And his life begins to fall apart. Is he imagining things, or is the really losing his mind? Strange things continue to happen. Who could be out to ‘get him’?
Although almost six years old, The Fear Index is very much a book for our times. Computerised trading has become even more common place than it was then on the stock exchanges of the world. ‘Buy’ and ‘Sell’ instructions are made by computers in micro seconds and carried out by computers in micro seconds. What could possibly go wrong…go wrong…go wrong? The only time anomaly I noted was the odd reference to Al Qaeda rather than ISIS!
The Fear Index is a very thought provoking and very exciting read. I recommend it – whether, or not, you are heading for Geneva.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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This is a great thriller and even more timely now than when it was published.