By Zé Burns
“My name is One. That’s it, just One. It’s my name, it’s also my number. I’m a cat. I’m currency. I’m money. I am Catcoin.”– Opening paragraph
It’s Bitcoin … with cats. But it’s also far more. Frank J. Edler’s novella is the story of a cat named One. Our fluffy white protagonist lives on the streets of Rome, subsisting on the dishes of wine left in back alleys. He is an alcoholic, though he’d never call himself that, a trait that seems oddly natural for a cat (I’m surprised there aren’t more feline alcoholics). A drugged bowl of wine finds him in the company of the mysterious Catoshi Nakamoto (a play on the name Satoshi, the mysterious inventor(s) of Bitcoin).
In the apartment of this strange man, One becomes more than a cat, he becomes a Catcoin, the first of a cryptocurrency that will change the world. But when Catoshi is short on money for pizza, One finds himself with a new owner, beginning his odyssey across the globe.
You love One like you love any cat: he may have his faults and a wicked personality, but you adore him nonetheless. While the humans are motivated by greed, One is motivated solely by wine. It is truly impressive how Edler inhabits the mind of an alcoholic cat. The results are hilariously accurate.
Catcoin follows a story not much different than the history of Bitcoin itself, yet Edler breathes new life into it with intriguing characters and ridiculous cat humor. As someone with little knowledge of cryptocurrency, I found it an educational experience, while I imagine those versed in it would relish the nuances. Catcoin is certainly well researched. Several times, however, the amount of information overwhelmed me to the point that it took me out of the story.
The book sparkles with humor—perhaps not “cackle-out-loud” humor, but the pervasive type that keeps a smile on your face for the duration of the book. I loved how Edler inserts groanworthy cat puns anywhere he can, taking persons, places, etc. and “catifying” them: Meowgic: The Cathering, Mark Catpelés (Karpelés), Catnip Road (Silk Road). Meanwhile, the novella possesses the farcical lunacy that makes bizarro shine.
The author presents us with a possible future of a world run on cryptocurrency—albeit not as bizarre as the exact future he paints—showing us the power (in whatever exaggerated terms) it can have. In the afterword, Edler expresses a desire to write more Bitcoin-related fiction. After reading Catcoin, I sure hope he does.
Zé Burns is a Seattle-based author of horror and the surreal, an avid proponent of bizarro fiction, and a lover of all things weird. He is the editor-in-chief and owner of Babou 691. You can find him on Twitter at @ZeBurns or on his site: zeburns.com.