Book Review: Lucky Ghost 👻 (The Martingale Cycle #2), by Matthew Blakstad

Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date:  27th July 2017 [Kindle & HB]

Source:  Goodreads giveaway

In The Martingale Cycle the spectre of the past, present and future fictionally predicts the rise of a new brand of economic and social manipulation that is lurking right around the corner. While I don’t object to cyber pioneering I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with its potential consequences either…

This next instalment (Book 2) sees a generation of technology where ‘feelings’ become a commodity that can be traded online. The philosophy may not allow us to quite sell our souls yet, but Lucky Ghost comes pretty close. 

The author has imaginatively offered the population’s changeable mood a safe haven, a place where users can take a time out to heal or feel empowered while earning virtual monetary rewards in a simulated place called “The Strange”.

This initiative of interactive emotional roleplay for “Strangers” was coded by Dani Farr, the original creator of the Parley App (an advanced form of Twitter) in Sockpuppet. As her previous venture proved that even the most fortified system may have an Achilles heel, you’d think any idea for a new online platform would scream “expect the unexpected”. [Cue evil laughter]

Farr’s brainchild encourages the virtual to seamlessly overlap with reality. Psychologically speaking it’s difficult to determine whether the adverse side effects of this game makes it worth playing – forget how enticing taking an emotional holiday may sound for a moment and consider how extortion, greed, and human fatality can be a bit of a downer when you’re just trying to give yourself a break.

Lucky Ghost is way more visionary than its predecessor, Sockpuppet, yet its thought-provoking prophesy remains both powerful and effective. Tablets are upgraded to hands-free ‘Crablets’ that hug your limbs, delivery drones provide a solution to the increasing demands of online ordering, and extreme retro cosplay is a deathly serious business. Events are as varied as its cast with a vlogging newshound, a teenage hacker with an animatronic pet, and the elusive counsel of a curious online identity taking one step closer toward the inevitable abyss.

What was that? A tad fanciful, you say? Well no, not really. Take a moment to consider the possibilities that are already within our reach: the evolution of the internet – a search tool to locate your nearest takeaway now presides over our security, finances, knowledge and communication. All aspects of our life can be converted to a data exchange on demand, but at what cost?  Sinister stuff – and not an Amityville post code in sight…

Rating:   4/5

(I’m hugely grateful to have won an early copy of this title via a Goodreads giveaway – a copy of this review was posted there on 27th June 2017. My thanks to the publishers for selecting my name as one of the Lucky [Ghost] Winners.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The extraordinary new novel from the incredible author of SOCKPUPPET. Perfect for fans of BLACK MIRROR.

Early one morning, blogger Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He smiles.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoin, in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoin is changing the face of the economy – but someone or something is controlling it for their own, dangerous ends.

As Alex picks apart the tangled threads that hold the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. It seems only one person has the answers she seeks. Someone who hides behind the name ‘Lucky Ghost’.

But Lucky Ghost will only talk to a young hacker called Thimblerig – the online troll who’s been harassing Alex for months.

Will Lucky Ghost lead Alex and Thimblerig to the answers they seek – or to their deaths?

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Matthew writes pacy, character-driven fiction that explores the impact of technology on how we live and who we are. His first novel, Sockpuppet, is out in May 2016. Sockpuppet is book one of the Martingale Cycle, a series of interconnected novels exploring the life of computing pioneer and political radical Elyse Martingale – and her strange afterlife in the 21st century. Matthew’s first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas on the BBC and ITV, in films and at theatres including London’s Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications. He now works in the public sector, helping people understand and manage money. 

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Book Review: Sockpuppet 🐷 (The Martingale Cycle), by Matthew Blakstad

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 19th May 2016 [Paperback Jan 2017]

Source: My own purchased copy [Kindle]

Sockpuppet introduces us to the computing icon, Elyse Martingale, and a digital world where her ideas attract a cult following that will shock the unsettling theme of online integrity to life, until it crackles with startling realism.

We often adopt a questionable nonchalance to how our online presence is stockpiled leaving behind a imprint of our life as we volunteer a little more of ourselves with every browsing session, online conversation or purchase, however private we think it is.

Here, hostility erupts between the government’s launch of a program called DigiCitz (Digital Citizen) which promotes the ideology that a secure online record of every person can exist, and those working to expose the flaws of its so-called unhackable system in order to protect the public by exposing its vulnerabilities with maximum impact.

The attack starts with virtual mudslinging at the minister responsible for the DigiCitz implementation. It originated on server running a social networking program called “Parley”, which hosts artificial personalities coded to auto-interact with real-life users with responses influenced by sourcing data via the internet.

This interaction is known as “proffering” and one particular “proffer” planted the seed of doubt that the system was not infallible. The problem being is this information came from sic_girl, a handle of one of the artificial personalities and no one can trace where “she” retrieved the cringingly confidential information which has been made very, very public.

There’s so much ingenuity to this story, it’s actually scary: why are selected personal attacks being belched into the ether now? And exactly how have the “Giggly Pigglies” invaded everyone’s home page with their familiar little dance, and is it to amuse or distract?  

No doubt our reliance on technology makes it impossible for us to function without a presence on the internet in some capacity or other. But behind every wicked life-changing app is a Wizard of Oz who has the power to influence our lives with their creations.

If I’d thought I would be alienated by the obscure talk of hackers’ encryption and the snorefest of parliamentary humdrum, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The terminology is easily relatable, told through both credible and relevant narration, and its tension is snap-worthy – I consumed this addictive book in one deliriously awesome sitting, it was that good.

Rating:  5/5

(Courtesy of Amazon)

Twitter. Facebook. Whatsapp. Google Maps. Every day you share everything about yourself – where you go, what you eat, what you buy, what you think – online. Sometimes you do it on purpose. Usually you do it without even realizing it. At the end of the day, everything from your shoe-size to your credit limit is out there. Your greatest joys, your darkest moments. Your deepest secrets.

If someone wants to know everything about you, all they have to do is look.

But what happens when someone starts spilling state secrets? For politician Bethany Leherer and programmer Danielle Farr, that’s not just an interesting thought-experiment. An online celebrity called sic_girl has started telling the world too much about Bethany and Dani, from their jobs and lives to their most intimate secrets. There’s just one problem: sic_girl doesn’t exist. She’s an construct, a program used to test code. Now Dani and Bethany must race against the clock to find out who’s controlling sic_girl and why… before she destroys the privacy of everyone in the UK.

SOCKPUPPET is part of the Martingale cycle, a series of interconnected novels exploring the life of computing pioneer and political radical Elyse Martingale – and her strange afterlife in the 21st century.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Matthew writes pacy, character-driven fiction that explores the impact of technology on how we live and who we are. His first novel, Sockpuppet, is out in May 2016. Sockpuppet is book one of the Martingale Cycle, a series of interconnected novels exploring the life of computing pioneer and political radical Elyse Martingale – and her strange afterlife in the 21st century. Matthew’s first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas on the BBC and ITV, in films and at theatres including London’s Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications. He now works in the public sector, helping people understand and manage money. 

TWITTER   |   FACEBOOK   |   WEBSITE

Since reading this book I am delighted to hear I’ve won a copy of Lucky Ghost  by this same author in a recent Goodreads giveaway! A very, very, VERY happy reader here!