‘Blockland’ book review: Part gonzo, part Bitcoin-thriller, 100% recommended

The first hint that Blockland – 21 Stories of Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency is perhaps not quite the same as the average book on the subject of crypto is splashed bold, right across its cover.

Eschewing the usual staid design cues, it instead features Trevor Jones’ artwork, “The Ecstasy (Bitcoin Angel).” The religious iconography of the image is striking, to say the least.

And it is carried through to the language of several of the chapters (or stories), conveying both the almost mythical nature of Bitcoin’s origin story and the devout faith of the many different flavours of crypto-believer.

So could Blockland be Bitcoin’s first sacred text?


A life less ordinary

Before we get to that, I must confess that I could have easily taken an instant dislike to this book.

In the foreword, the author, Elias Ahonen, describes a whistle-stop crypto-fuelled globe-spanning trip of almost biblical excess, which brought back to mind the truly abominable The Little Book of Crypto by Cal Evans.

But while Evans’ similarly incredible travel anecdotes seemed designed purely to express how much cooler than the reader he considers himself, Ahonen has us feel like we’re drinking shots onstage at a huge Shanghai rap concert right alongside him.

It captures the intensity and the insanity that can manifest itself in what is essentially still a prepubescent industry being showered with more money than it knows what to do with.

So perhaps Blockland is actually cryptocurrency’s first rock’n’roll biography?

Once upon a time

The book tells 21 (often dramatized) stories of “Blockland” — the cryptocurrency space to you and me — starting with the creation of the first “Golden City of Bit” and the settlers who initially chose to inhabit it.

It tells of the pioneers who then decided to strike out and establish new communities, and the many ordinary folk who were drawn to the Blockland’s expanding world.

The chapter themes range from the quasi-spiritual (Satoshi’s Testament, The Sects of Satoshism), to the pioneer spirit (The Prospectors, Computing Frontiers), and even the spirit of excess (Mining Madness, Tulip Hangover)

While all of the underlying stories are true, the use of metaphor and allegory really does bring home what a magical and unlikely path cryptocurrency has taken to get here.

A complete history of …

The fact that these seemingly disparate chapters pull together to tell a coherent (and pretty much complete) story of cryptocurrency’s journey to date is very much to Ahonen’s credit.

The author gives an even and unbiased view of the space in a manner that is both easily accessible and utterly charming. There is no papering-over of the darker elements of cryptocurrency, but the benevolent nature of the community also receives substantial page-time.

Ahonen’s previous book was the infinitely more straight-laced Encyclopedia of Physical Bitcoins and Crypto-Currencies, published in 2016, which led to him being described as “one of the first Bitcoin historians.”

While both books are technically reference works, Blockland feels more like a fictional thriller in its pace and style.

A right riveting read

So… part holy scripture, part gonzo journalism, and 100% roller-coaster ride, Blockland succeeds amazingly in both mythologizing and explaining the current state of the cryptocurrency industry.

This is the cryptocurrency book for people who are too cool to read cryptocurrency books. Buy it for yourself, then lend it to that friend you just know is a potential crypto-evangelist, if only they would take the time to learn about the subject.

Just make sure he or she returns it. It belongs on your bookshelf, after all.

The hardcover edition of Blockland: 21 Stories of Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency is available for pre-order from

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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