Book #56

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

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. 

I had some really high expectations attached to this book, and believed Thomas was taking her place in my mind as one of my favourite modern authors. I have no idea what I’ve just read.

We follow Alice, a creative working for a toy company, as she traverses the obstacles of a corporate get together which is planned to last the weekend, but lasts much longer for Alice. Carefully selected by the board, she’s asked to participate in a special project and is obliged to stay on. As the story progresses, we delve in and out of Alice’s past, meeting her codebreaking grandfather, her mathematician grandmother, and her absent father.

Alice’s backstory is faintly interesting, her present day storyline even fainter. Thomas seems to enjoy inserting educational passages about various subjects - codebreaking, mathematics, marketing, networking, amongst others. Coming across the first few of these, I assumed they would have massive relevance to the plot; as I progressed with the story, however, I realised these could be skimmed or skipped completely. I learnt very little.

The finale fell flat for me purely because I had already developed my terrible desire to skim. I swept through as though the book were burning from the front cover, and I don’t think I missed too much. 

From the parts I actually did read, which I will assure you was much and plenty, I could probably analyse a lot of it quite deeply, although I would guess this would only give me further points of criticism. Luckily, I simply cannot be bothered as I’ve spent far too long with this book already.

Give it a miss unless you love maths and hate a book with a plot.