35166841Early one Monday morning, much like today, journalist Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He thanks her.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoins in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoins are changing the face of the global economy – but someone or something seems to be controlling the game for their own, nefarious purposes.

As Alex begins to pick apart the tangled threads that are holding the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. With the world economy teetering on the brink of collapse, it seems there’s only one person who might have the answers she seeks.Someone who hides behind the mysterious name ‘Lucky Ghost.’

But who is Lucky Ghost… and can they really be trusted?

And what do they want?

LUCKY GHOST 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.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Publisher UC paperback proof 400 Hodder & Stoughton Thriller Cyberpunk July 27th, 2017 (ebook)

My gratitude to Hodder & Stoughton and Matthew for providing me a free paperback copy of the book! 

Lucky Ghost, #2 in the Martingale Cycle, was as much thrilling as it was hitting the right buttons for me. Before I move on to my thoughts about the book I would like to share with you two things.

ONE– Lucky Ghost is on blog tour from today [27.07.17] which is also publication day [yippee!], so please check out the stops you see on the blog tour poster ⇓⇓⇓ to find out more and please do come back to me here on the 1st of August because I have a Guest Post from Matthew Blakstad that I would like to share with you. I may have to entice you though, so here’s a quote from the upcoming guest post:

And how did they learn so much about the motivations of tens of millions of Americans? By scraping up Facebook data. Simple as that.

Blog Tour Poster

TWO– If you’re wondering about book #1 of the series, the book is called Sockpuppet and it has a lot of ‘pigs’ in it. Not literal pigs of course. You can see my review here.


I was reading an early, uncorrected proof and as such I am not in a position to share quotes from the book, however, with the permission from Matthew, I felt like something needed to be noted and mentioned during my review so I have peppered snippets from the Acknowledgements by Author section of the book to provide a bit of background to the plot.

Review time!

It all starts with a new, innovative and modern idea. As always, the idea is something that is normally based on for the good of the people. Nice one, Dani Farr! Add to this idea a nation-worth of people who want to escape reality, mix it with digital currency and all of a sudden, sinister agendas start to emerge.

Dani Farr (jeap, the same firecracker techy coder from Sockpuppet) has yet again graced the people with one of her creations. This time it’s the Strange. A virtual environment where human emotions are traded for Emoticoin, the digital currency.

The system of emotional metrics behind Emoticoin is very loosely adapted from the theoretical work of Robert Plutchik and others. Plutchik’s ‘The Nature of Emotions’ (American Scientist 89, 2001) is a good place to start.

Real life for some of us is hard, whatever the reason. Anxiety, annoying neighbour, irritating pet, nagging wife, work sucks, etc. The Strange allows you to escape reality… put on your mesh, and with the embedded tattoo on your very body your emotions feed into the virtuality. Can you spell DOOM yet? Then, you can choose an Encounter (kind of like a video game) and live out your ‘life’ with other people who have entered the Strange. In exchange for any kind of activity you will be rewarded emotions like LOVE, REMORSE, RAGE, etc. You can keep track of your emotions by the virtually hovering heart icon that hovers in your vision which indicates your emotional state with various colors. Sounds cool, right?

Except when it’s not cool… you see, where any kind of currency is involved, as I said earlier, the corporations will latch onto it like flies to… you get it! And the sinister plot in Lucky Ghost really evolves around the profiteers finding a way in (because megamind Dani Farr created it, much for her own pleasure at first but it blew into a huge thing) for personal gain at the cost of people’s emotions. I’m talking GRAND scale here! It’s not just about jumping around in the virtual world for people, slapping others or whatever, that gives gains to the profiteers. People and their emotions, livelihoods and even sanity and lives will be risked, threatened and taken by making them do things they don’t realize they’re doing. Now, that is scary! Not so cool, anymore, hey, when the line in between reality and virtuality fades, and your innermost self is laid bare within cooled, security surrounded servers in some warehouse and is nothing more than profitable data to some ambitious businessmen.

If you’ve read Sockpuppet, you’ll know by now that Blakstad doesn’t do simple plots. He weaves together people from all walks of life, puts in the game the big corporations and the government. The character set in Lucky Ghost was again diverse.

To name a few:

Alex Kubelick- An educated ex-vlogger and all around truth seeker of a female who ends up in the middle of everything. She’s married to her partner Harmony and together they battle the anxiety and Strange-addiction that Alex seems to have developed after the crash of her vlog.

Jacko– some call him the leader of hackers, crackers and information age freedom rebels; others don’t know if he even exists! The Godfather of Data, Jacko is seen as the leader in.. on? … Seatopia, a landmark from the war time in the North sea now turned into a data/server farm with good connection.

All sorts of suited up and booted up corporation execs- Mr Ox, Mr Honey Badger, Sean Perce… A lot of macho testosterone wedging boots in between doors to have one up over the next businessman. It’s truly quite amusing and scary…

And then there’s Thimblerig… otherwise known as Abul Ala. A young man living in England after fleeing Syria. Good with tech and out for a good cause, but with a troubled past that casts a shadow over his life in England, as well. The thing with personal demons is (even if those demons aren’t your fault)- they follow you wherever you go! Sadly…

Lucky Ghost was written between January 2016 and February 2017, and that volatile period has had a profound impact on the finished book. Though I am in no way qualified to comment in depth on the Syrian Civil War, behind Abul Ala’s backstory lies a wealth of material I read and watched in an effort to better understand that escalating disaster, but which never made it into the final manuscript.

In the most exciting and innovative manner, Blakstad pulls out all the stops and embeds so much of society’s current state into a book that mirrors the status quo modern day, connected life but also includes an element of futuristic possibilities. I am talking appearances of people’s holograms (‘ghosts’) in the room to have a discussion because good old smartphones are so ‘yesterday‘. There’s driverless taxis and cars and bikes that appear when you tell your mesh while connected to the Strange to come and pick you up from your location… Like uber Uber (sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

Anyway, the book starts off by throwing you right into the action within the Strange and you’ll hardly get a chance to take a breath from the suspense until the last page. The plot snowballs into epic proportions! Yes, there’s plenty of hacker/cracker action and maybe you don’t know what sysadmin means and there’s some ‘coder’ chat room talk but just enjoy it! You don’t have to be an IT specialist to get the idea. (As a side note I want to mention here that some reviewers have made an issue out of some language used in dialogue, especially in Sockpuppet, and just, please, the dialogues are keeping with the theme, so try not to be so anal about it and thanks! If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, but before you rip the book apart because of this reason, understand that you can hardly make coders/hackers interact with each other in Posh English.)

Lucky Ghost in it’s themes and delivery is brave, bold and dare I say, even, ominous! The whole of society and its good and bad in a single book casting a wide net over past, present and possibly even future. A look at humanity at its best and its worst. When you would have to fight for your life’s worth of work, how far would you go?

With plenty of chases, action, bullets being fired, the question is, who will survive? The ones who are out seeking the truth and keeping information free? Or the already rich who are after even more profit? Who would you say has the most to lose and a better motive to fight at the cost of lives?

Lucky Ghost is also a story about money: what it is, whether we can live without it; and how it can be manipulated by those who understand its weird dynamics. […] If the ideas in this book have captured your interest I’d recommend Felix Martin’s clear and challenging book ‘Money’. which first exploded my naive preconceptions on this subject.

If the financial system puzzles you, as it has me, I would also throw my own recommendation into this pot, and that is ‘Money Mafia‘ by Paul Hellyer. Sure, this particular book will probably tiptoe the line of conspiracy (hahaha, tiptoe.. more like walk right on it!) with certain elements that some people can’t stand at all, but mostly, if anything, it will make you consider- what if? 

Anyway, you have probably guessed at this stage that Blakstad has found a solid fan in me. The Martingale Cycle is a wonderfully thrilling series and remember, you don’t have to have a bromance (or the female equivalent of same) with the IT Lords to be able to enjoy these racy novels. You will find relatable characters with real life issues in both Sockpuppet and Lucky Ghost, the difference is- you may develop paranoid tendencies about your virtual trail!

That’s it from me now… Make sure to come back on August 1st for the promised guest post… dun-dun-duuunnn! 

Lucky Ghost on Goodreads | Amazon UK | USA