Out of the wreckage of the 2008 financial collapse a new creation rose like late capitalism’s Godzilla: bitcoin.

In his new book, Once a Bitcoin Miner: Scandal and Turmoil in the Cryptocurrency Wild West, author and reporter Ethan Lou tracks the energy guzzling, peer-to-peer monetary system from white paper to dark web.

It was down in the recesses of the internet amid the revolting, the illegal and the revoltingly illegal, that Lou first stumbled on the cryptocurrency. Where dealers are anonymous and deals irreversible, bitcoin was mandatory for antigovernment forces as well as the purported hitmen and fixers whose respective business models necessitated a lack of government/legal oversight.

As a member of a generation facing mounting debt and a weak job market, Lou initially seems to view bitcoin as a necessary evolution.

“This is the future of money,” Lou says early in the book. “It’s bound to go up.”

From spikes to plunges to disappearances, Lou documents bitcoin through crypto-personalities like Gerald Cotten, whose death led to millions being lost after he turned out to be the only person with the digital wallet passwords, as well as Virgil Griffith, who currently faces U.S. prison time for helping North Korea use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

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