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|Read Book õ PopCo ⚡ PopCo tells a story of twenty nine year old Alice Butler, a quirky, fiercely intelligent loner with an affinity for secret codes and mathematics She works for the huge toy company named PopCo, where she creates snooping kids kits KidSpy, KidTec and KidCracker At the company conference Alice and her colleagues are brought into developing the ultimate product for the teenage girls This is a love it or hate it book Because of the significant social issues contained in this story, such as the mistreatment of animals, corporate misdeeds, and guerilla marketing, this will appealto socially conscious individuals and those whose principles stand in opposition to the current CEO type establishment But, even then, counterculture types may still not like it if they don t want to see these issues advanced in a novel That said, I applaud Scarlett Thomas for weaving these co This is a love it or hate it book Because of the significant social issues contained in this story, such as the mistreatment of animals, corporate misdeeds, and guerilla marketing, this will appealto socially conscious individuals and those whose principles stand in opposition to the current CEO type establishment But, even then, counterculture types may still not like it if they don t want to see these issues advanced in a novel That said, I applaud Scarlett Thomas for weaving these controversies in without sermonizing and laying on dull exposition Thomas is clearly brainy and imaginative She is subversive without being cynical, intellectual without condescending.Two storylines alternate throughout the novel, and eventually merge into a complex whole As a child, Alice Butler was raised primarily by her grandparents, as her mother died when she was very young and her father took off to find a buried treasure Alice s grandfather is a formidable cryptanalyst, cracking codes and ciphers and teaching Alice the essentials of prime numbers, poly alphabetic ciphers, Vigenere enciphering, and other forms of codes and ciphers The reader is exposed to some fundamental lessons that are thrilling and mind boggling The author infuses this in the story so naturally that it feels organically part of the storyline.Alice s grandmother has been working on the Riemann Hypothesis for many years but has not solved it Alice s upbringing has made her hyperaware of the layers of complexity that exist in her surroundings, and she is a lover of paradoxes She is often alienated from her peers, and develops a tough shell due to the immaturity and abuse she endures from her classmates as well as some teachers I have never read a book that illuminates adolescent behaviors so well such as taunting, striving for popularity, the desire to fit in Not even Margaret Atwood, known for her stark portrayals of teenage predatory behaviors, has illustrated the harrowing anxieties, shame and adversity so baldly and authentically.As an adult, Alice works for the corporate toy company, PopCo, the third largest toy company in the world The story opens as Alice is on her way to a thought camp retreat Her job is coming up with marketing strategies aimed at teenage girls Her team is designated to design a new product, with specific potential to become a craze Essentially, create a desire where none exists and persuade teenage girls that they have to have it The ideation seminars at the thought camp instruct PopCo employees to create identity manias, a veritable fever that infects girls and coaxes them to covet a trend and crave a product.In lesser hands, this could easily become an elongated slogan or a sententious rant However, Thomas is a gifted writer with a blazing, generous spirit She is out of the box and brimming with provocative, piercing ideas that are fleshed out and powerful This imaginative novel is unclassifiable and yet compelling The author has a keen sense of adventure, keeping the reader in suspense Alice s narrative voice has a vital, dynamic sensibility that is suffused with compassion and wisdom beyond her years The prose is eloquent and her characters fully developed Thomas is an enormous, brilliant think tank of a writer I did enjoy this book I thought I should make that clear now, because I mostly want to rant about it.Thomas used homoeopathy as a plot device in The End of Mister Y Okay, that s fine, you get one magical freebie However, when it showed up here in PopCo, I realisedOhyou really believe this, don t you There are also severe problems with Thomas representations of veganism and activism At one point, a character destroys a PopCo product in a toy store, as a passive aggressive way of punish I did enjoy this book I thought I should make that clear now, because I mostly want to rant about it.Thomas used homoeopathy as a plot device in The End of Mister Y Okay, that s fine, you get one magical freebie However, when it showed up here in PopCo, I realisedOhyou really believe this, don t you There are also severe problems with Thomas representations of veganism and activism At one point, a character destroys a PopCo product in a toy store, as a passive aggressive way of punishing the company Thomas didn t seem to realise that PopCo would not lose money on the item the toy store would The character s edgy, daring, stick it to the man vandalism was simply the act of a ignorant, selfish, immature something or other The same when a vegan character recommended destroying eggs Why would a vegan destroy eggs It just means that the store will need to buyIt harms animals, and does absolutely nothing to the companies they are protesting against It contradicts the character s own stated morals, and, as a real life vegan, annoyed me Quite a lot.In short, things like this make Thomas characters come across as ignorant, childish, hypocrites, which severely ruined my enjoyment of the book The story is fine, it s interesting, it s absorbing, and I liked the codes I just wanted to smack the stupid out of a lot of the characters My earlier review of this book was unduly vicious I ve revised it slightly below and taken Popco off the utter dreck shelf Unfortunately, for this book at least, she still gets stuck with the intellectual con artist label.Scarlett Thomas is the author of The End of Mr Y , an impressive book which was highly original and quite entertaining So I had high hopes for Popco Unfortunately, this time it seems that Ms Thomas may have bitten offthan she could chew The discipline that was My earlier review of this book was unduly vicious I ve revised it slightly below and taken Popco off the utter dreck shelf Unfortunately, for this book at least, she still gets stuck with the intellectual con artist label.Scarlett Thomas is the author of The End of Mr Y , an impressive book which was highly original and quite entertaining So I had high hopes for Popco Unfortunately, this time it seems that Ms Thomas may have bitten offthan she could chew The discipline that was evident throughout the tightly constructed The end of Mr Y is sorely missing here one senses early on that things are spiralling out of the author s control.This is an ambitious, but also a profoundly irritating, book The author clearly has a point to make, but does so in a fashion that manages to be both preachy and clumsy There s a lot of faux erudition, the parading of little tidbits of knowledge for no particular reason But the author fails the basic requirements of the writer s trade she doesn t tell a credible story, and her habit of breaking off the narrative to include assorted heavy handed, poorly thought out, mini lectures on everything from prime factorization to networking is disruptive and pointless These various digressions do not move the plot forward, and ultimately lead nowhere the account of how the final code is cracked is presented at such a sketchy level of detail that the reader simply has to take it as a given so why all the little lessons in codebreaking along the way Ultimately, the book just collapses under the weight of the various digressions, whose relevance is never really made clear.Better accounts of some of the topics dragged into this book can be found in Simon Singh s The Code Book Naomi Klein s No Logo Malcolm Gladwell s The Tipping Point Asuccessful synthesis of some of the ideas, incorporated in a skillfully told story is in Neal Stevenson s Cryptonomicon.But give this book a miss Hopefully Ms Thomas will regain her earlier form next time out This is the third book I ve read by Scarlett Thomas, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite modern authors I was introduced to her books by The End of Mr Y very, very good and recently read her latest novel Our Tragic Universe absolutely brilliant PopCo came before both, originally published in 2004 and repackaged after the success of Mr Y I have to confess that I knew of the author before her most recent books, and I think I d even looked at an earlier version of PopCo and rejecte This is the third book I ve read by Scarlett Thomas, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite modern authors I was introduced to her books by The End of Mr Y very, very good and recently read her latest novel Our Tragic Universe absolutely brilliant PopCo came before both, originally published in 2004 and repackaged after the success of Mr Y I have to confess that I knew of the author before her most recent books, and I think I d even looked at an earlier version of PopCo and rejected it the very late 90s style, brightly coloured covers of Thomas s previous works led me to believe they were either chick lit in the ladette mould or some kind of slightlygrown up YA novels my local library s copy of PopCo has a cover featuring a woman s heavily made up eyes and lips god only knows why, as this has nothing whatsoever to do with the content I quite literally judged her books by their covers, and am beginning to realise this was a huge mistake I m now trying to make up for it I m attempting to get hold of the earlier ones as we speak but in any case, PopCo turned out to be excellent.Having read three of Thomas s novels, I ve started to notice patterns in the stories they tell They all have flawed and kind of neurotic, but really likeable and believable, female protagonists they re all full of big ideas this one has lots of stuff about complex mathematics and code breaking presented in an accessible way they all have a central mystery, but they re really about muchthan that, about people, relationships and life itself PopCo is ostensibly about Alice Butler and the mysterious coded messages she receives while on a company retreat, with flashbacks to her somewhat troubled childhood, but there s a lotto it than that It s a record of Alice s thoughts about her career, relationships sex and friendships particularly the the titular toy corporation which she works for , the ethical implications of marketing products to children, and the dilemma of choosing between the boss she fantasises about and the new colleague who desires her Even the young Alice, in flashbacks, ruminates on the difficulties of fitting in providing several laugh out loud moments as she strives not to be labelled a gyppo , slag or weirdo by her new, cooler friends and the mysteries contained within her own family This all cleverly links back in with the adult Alice s attempts to develop a new must have toy for teenage girls and the moral battles she has with herself as a result.If there s anything wrong with this book, it s that Alice s over analysing and questioning of everything can be a little too much at times This didn t bother me much as I really liked and in many ways related to the character, but I can see it being off putting for some other readers There are also points when the flashbacks, many of which involve Alice learning about maths and cryptography from her grandparents, just seem like a device to simplify these details by approaching them from a child s perspective a lot of them still didn t make sense to me, to be honest, but you don t need to fully understand all the concepts discussed to get what actually happens in the story My final complaint is that I really wanted to see Alice with Georges, not Ben But the relationships Thomas s characters have are nothing if not realistic, and it s fitting that Alice should end up in a believable, imperfect relationship rather than the fantasy option.It s funny that Mr Y was the book that introduced me to Thomas, as it s turned out to be my least favourite of the three I ve read so far Her novels always seem to make me have the same reactions I wish I was best friends with her characters, I envy the conversations they have with one another, and I wonder where how I can meet people like these, if they even exist PopCo is a fantastic, ambitious, thought provoking book the conclusion certainly got me thinking about the concept of corporate sabotage from the inside, for a start and well worth a read