The future’s bright… Utopian in fact… No, really it is… Everything has an upside, even global warming, welcome to a future where Burgundy grapes are grown on the south facing slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors, and English summers are no longer a slightly less wet weekend in July…. The problems we expect of the world of tomorrow are just waiting for the solutions we have almost thought of today. So just because a book is set thirty years in the future is no reason for it all to be gloom and doom on a global scale… We just need to embrace technology and let it lead us into a bright new era of electric self-driven cars and fridges that tell you-you’re almost out of milk, then order some more that will get delivered via a drone in twenty minutes. A future where even investment bankers are basically good people trying to do whats best for the world…
Okay, so I was raised on a diet of dystopian sci-fi and grim visions of the future, everything from Mad Max to Bladerunner, Neuromancer to V for Vendetta. I expect a horrendous polluted world, where corporations rule openly or through politicians corrupted ever further to the religious right in a fight for control. And that’s before it all comes crashing down once the resources we have so blatantly squandered for the last couple of centuries run dry, and it’s all biker gangs and feral children. If of course the A.I’s we created don’t supplant humanity. So adjusting my perspective to embrace a somewhat more utopian vision of the near future is a little weird.
But why should the future be dark and grim, why not a brighter one. After all, all evidence would suggest that on the whole things get better over time. My son was not being sent up chimneys at the age of five to help put a crust on the table. My daughter went to university and a career rather than domestic servitude. While they may be extreme examples, remember its still less than one hundred years since women got the vote. We have only had universal health care in the UK for just over sixty years, colour TV for less than fifty, freedom in Eastern Europe for less than thirty, mobile phones for less than twenty, and ten years ago no one had really heard of BitCoins… and the idea that currency does not have to be inextricably linked to national boundaries… The world, on the whole, becomes freer and better for more people as the decades go by, so why should the future not be bright…
Enter K.R. Baucherel’s novel BitCoin Hurricane, a thriller set in this bright and somewhat utopian near future, but all is perhaps not a bright and shiny as it could be. For, while new technologies made have improved a lot of things, basic human nature remains the same as ever, and reliance on technology will always leave ways for that technology to be exploited by those of nefarious morals. Cybercrime is the way forward for criminals after all, and there will always be criminals. And if you have criminals, you need those who stand between them and us. Cybercrime needs cybersecurity agents to fight it, and as the criminals get smarter, so those ethical hackers need to get smarter too. This at least is not so much something of the future but where we are today.
Bitcoin is much in the news right now. The value of the virtual currency has been soaring ever higher, sparking speculation that this is a Bitcoin bubble, and as with all things economic the real question for currency speculators is when the Bitcoin bubble will burst. Having studied economics at degree level, one thing I can tell you with certainty is the Bitcoin bubble bursting will make some shady people very rich, almost certainly at the expense of a lot of other people. This is because while there are many differences between the digital currency and the traditional national currencies we’re all used to, the morality centres of some currency speculators remain the same. Bitcoins are currency and as such criminals are going to try and steal them, be they the North Korean hackers suspected of a recent heist, or the kinds of criminals who wear suits and operate in the grey areas of currency manipulation of the kind that crashed the pound against the dollar in the late eighties making those behind it fortunes at the expense of the Britsh economy…
All of which, including my own somewhat shaded view of currency speculators, does mean that the scene is set for a Bitcoin thriller around the idea of someone attempting to manipulate the markets and make a Bitcoin killing… Of course, an idea is just an idea, and thrillers are tricky beasts to get right. It’s also handy if you are planning to write one if you really understand how Bitcoin economics work. Just as having a good grasp on other emerging technologies is helpful if you’re going to set it in the kind of near future where digital economics have become more than just an emerging fringe. Luckily K.R. Baucherel ticks all those boxes as a writer on non-fiction on emergent technologies and digital currencies in particular. But most importantly of course if you’re going to write a thriller, you need to be able to write fiction…there is a difference between being an expert on a subject. Writing in-depth technical non-fiction on complex subjects and doing so in such a way you explain them to those without your grasp with great clarity, and writing fiction. Fiction takes a certain flair, a little sleight of hand, and ultimately telling a lie well enough for your readers to buy into it. Because at the end of the day you’re always asking your reader to suspend their disbelief, and no matter how well you know your subject matter if you can’t pull off that trick your wasting your time. But more than that you need to take the reader into your confidence, while keeping them on there toes.
This is true for any form of fiction, but perhaps more so with a thriller, as a thriller by its very nature needs to keep the reader in the dark and on edge but do so without losing them along the way. What I want most from a thriller is to be surprised, to be thrown the odd curveball that keeps me guessing and to never be entirely sure what is going on, while being certain that the writer knows exactly where they are taking me. Indeed it’s almost a given that a thriller will manipulate the reader on one level or another. If it’s not throwing you curveballs, it’s not doing its job.
BitCoin Hurricane did just that. Indeed, Baucherel caught me completely off guard and laid bare a somewhat gross assumption on my part. Did so with some style as well as it was the same assumption being made by another character in the novel and it was not till about a third of the way in when that character realised the mistake they were making that I realised my own foolish assumption. It is a simple enough curveball to throw a reader, but it was somewhat masterly pulled off, so cleverly pulled off that I actually made a second assumption just before that particular reveal and was impressed how well the writer had worked it in, only to realise it was a false one on my part. If I had not been hooked before then, (and I was), I was well and truly hooked now, because I am a sucker for having my assumptions thrown back at me…
Throw in a plethora of references of geekdom even I had to look up at one point… (Sleeper Service… not read Excession for a while, so could not figure out where I knew that ships name from…) The strangely utopian nature of the writer’s world actually getting past my doom-laden grim Yorkshire pessimism. The way the technology in the novel is both weird and wonderful in places, and yet a logical extension of emerging technologies today, both fully realised and feeling real. With a plot that is paced to draw you along and never slows to a plod yet never races ahead of itself. What you have is a surprisingly good thriller ( and no, I have no idea why I say surprisingly, I just did not expect it to be as good as it is, it’s a happy surprise).
Bitcoin Hurricane is the first of a series of novels set around the cybersecurity world of the main character who’s online pseudonym is SimCavalier
So, the future’s bright… Utopian in fact… and if it isn’t, it will at least have more K.R.Baucherel novels to come, which on the whole is definitely a good thing…
There’s a link here that will even get you a free preview, so enjoy…
So, anyway, all that said, I’m off to play Fallout 4 and run around a grim future of raiders, mutants, murder, mayhem and irradiated zombies, before I head to bed and read 1984 again. Because there is only so much bright positive utopian future my grim facade can cope with at any one time…..
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