INNOVATION: BOOK REVIEW
Forget non-fiction, William Hern’s fast-paced thriller is the best explanation yet of how an economy based on cryptocurrency actually works, says Will Dove The literary world is bursting at the seams with non-fiction texts that claim to unravel one of modern finance’s greatest enigmas: the cryptocurrency.
It seems that every expert, renowned or self-proclaimed, is currently striving to produce the ultimate Bitcoin handbook – a concise guide to a mind-bogglingly intricate subject, that will supposedly grant us mortals a slightly better understanding of just how blockchain is going to revolutionise our lives. Proof of their efforts can be found in the business section of airport bookshops nationwide. While William Hern’s new novel may not be perfect, it does provide a refreshing perspective on cryptocurrencies by rejecting the popular non-fiction format of the vast majority of Bitcoin studies. Hern has instead decided to address the topic of cryptocurrency technology within a fast-paced story, a thriller set in an utterly believable near future. The mythical title, Chronos, is perhaps an indication of just how momentous Hern believes blockchain developments could prove to be and his novel certainly succeeds in portraying a world that has been totally transformed by digital wallets, for better or worse. The story follows the character of Tom Jenkins, a British bank programmer, who sets off on a journey to find an old university friend, Max Whitting, who’s recently gone missing. The pair met while studying computer science in England, but lost touch years ago when Max took a job in the USA. Now, Tom is putting his life on hold in order to travel to San Francisco to help Max’s pregnant wife Faiza find her husband. However, it soon becomes apparent that Max’s disappearance is no accident and Tom is convinced that it has something to do with a clandestine security project that his friend has been working on regarding the ubiquitous Cube cryptocurrency. Hern uses pseudonyms for various real-world technologies throughout the novel, although there’s rarely any doubt of what he’s referring to. For example, Tom
The novel’s greatest strength lies not in its prophecies of incoming developments, but in its artful explanations of current technologies wears a digital assistant on his wrist in the form of a voice-activated band called Iris (even this old reviewer could reverse the letters of Iris to spell a certain Apple aid). Despite the slightly clichéd effect of these pseudonyms, Hern succeeds in presenting an impressive vision of the future of consumer technology within the novel and I often found myself nodding approvingly at the sheer credibility of a lot of his predictions. However, the novel’s greatest strength lies not in its prophecies of incoming developments, but in its artful explanations of current technologies, most notably Bitcoin. Hern explicitly states in the back of the book that the Cube cryptocurrency is based on Bitcoin and the similarities between the two are indeed unmistakable, from their elusive developers (Mehmet Yilmaz for Cube, Satoshi Nakamoto for Bitcoin), to their innovative shared ledger
systems. Under the pretence of explaining the operation of Cube to the reader, Hern’s novel in fact delivers a basic, yet suitably comprehensive description of Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency concept as a whole. Chronos can be viewed as a significant achievement in financial literature, as Hern has succeeded in bucking the trend of the hefty, uninviting non-fiction text as a means of relaying information on contemporary technological developments. Despite all odds, the author has produced a text that is as approachable as it is informative and one that surpasses the majority of its non-fiction counterparts in terms of educating its readership on the subject of Bitcoin. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Hern delivers an engaging plot that is chock-full of twists and turns and sure to prove popular among the most discerning of bibliophiles, digital wallet holders or not.
Chronos is released under a Creative Commons Licence, which makes it freely available to read and share in multiple digital formats via www.chronosthenovel.com. Hardback copies with additional, exclusive content, are also available to order, priced at £25. Go to www.williamhern.com. Great for: Mystery-loving technophiles intent on losing their Bitcoin virginity. Best read: As an e-book, dictated by a military grade smartphone during a transatlantic night flight. Good read rating: ★★★ ★ Winter 2016