Robert Harris - The Fear Index (4 stars)

An unexpectedly thrilling mix of science, computers and global economics

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Robert Harris - The Fear Index

(Hutchinson)

With its ominous title and opening ‘Frankenstein’ quote, it’s no great surprise to find that The Fear Index is a freaky read. And if you’re a fan of being spooked, then Robert Harris’ eighth novel is a must, as he guides us through a frenzied 24 hours in Geneva for genius scientist Dr Alex Hoffmann. ‘Fear is driving this world’, we’re told, as this meticulously constructed offering taps into a closely guarded digital network of algorithms and the sinister business of secret billionaires; the resulting greed and paranoia of crazed money-making leaves a trail of irrevocable destruction as events spiral out of control.

Harris keeps the reader gripped from beginning to end with smart, pacey storytelling and cleverly plotted twists. And as we race, in freefall, towards a devastating climax – the words of Mary Shelley, Charles Darwin, Bill Gates and Richard Dawkins all aptly evoked – you feel completely at the mercy of this monster of a tale. Complex science, computers and global economics don’t traditionally make for riveting fiction, but here they work intoxicatingly well.

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