Popco

Paperback | September 5, 2005

byScarlett Thomas

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PopCo tells the story of Alice Butler-a subversively smart girl in our commercial-soaked world who grows from recluse orphan to burgeoning vigilante, buttressed by mystery, codes, math, and the sense her grandparents gave her that she could change the world. Alice-slight introvert, crossword compositor- works at PopCo, a globally successful and slightly sinister toy company. Lured by their CEO to a Thought Camp out on the moors, PopCo's creatives must invent the ultimate product for teenage girls. Meanwhile, Alice receives bizarre, encrypted messages she suspects relate to her grandfather's decoding of a centuries-old manuscript that many-including her long-disappeared father-believe leads to buried treasure. Its key, she's sure, is engraved on the necklace she's been wearing since she was ten. Using the skills she learned from her grandparents and teaching us aspects of cryptanalysis, Alice discovers the source of these creepy codes. Will this lead her to the mysterious treasure or another, even more carefully guarded secret?

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PopCo tells the story of Alice Butler-a subversively smart girl in our commercial-soaked world who grows from recluse orphan to burgeoning vigilante, buttressed by mystery, codes, math, and the sense her grandparents gave her that she could change the world. Alice-slight introvert, crossword compositor- works at PopCo, a globally succe...

SCARLETT THOMAS is the author of PopCo and The End of Mr.Y. She has been nominated for the Orange Prize and named Writer of the Year by Elle UK, one of the twenty best young writers by the Independent, and one of the Telegraph's20 best writers under 40.AUTHOR'S RESIDENCE Canterbury, Kent, England

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:512 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 1.1 inPublished:September 5, 2005Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:015603137X

ISBN - 13:9780156031370

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Paddington Station feels like it should be shut. Late at night, long after rush-hour, it has an echo and the occasional blast of cold, thin air that smells of diesel. This really is an ideal time to be in train stations, when hardly anyone else is travelling. It is almost half-past eleven at night and I am looking for my train, which is due to leave in about twenty minutes. The station feels like it is on beta-blockers. A pulse-yes-but slowed. A medicated slowness; a pleasant fug. This speed, if it were healthy, would belong to someone who trampolines every day, rather than to the owner of the more dangerous circulation you see clogging the station at five or six in the evening. For the first time in weeks I am wearing proper shoes, and I can actually hear my footsteps as I walk, a D Major scale playing on concrete. If you ever plan to hang around train stations in the middle of the night, you should always make sure you can hear your own footsteps, and, if you are at all musical, you should try to work out which notes you make as you walk, as it stops you from being lonely, not that I ever get lonely. Tonight I am wearing a long coat and a hat and I almost wish I was smoking an exotic cigarette in a holder because added to the coat, hat and suitcase, it would close the parentheses of this look, which I recognise from films and spy thrillers, but can't actually name, although I know people who could.I know people who would make all sorts of assumptions about the clothes I am wearing. They would assume I had chosen a "look." They'd see my shirt and jumper and want to say, "School uniform look today, Alice?" but then they'd see my tartan skirt, tights and sensible shoes and eventually conclude that I'm in what has been called in the past my "Bletchley Park" look. Having named my "look," these people would assume that everything was a deliberate part of it, that all my clothes and everything I have with me, from my purse to my suitcase to my knickers, had been chosen for a reason; to identify me, to give me my own code or stamp. Even if I wore-as I have done in the past-a truly random selection of old or weird clothes, this would simply be labelled my "Jumble Sale" or "Homeless" look. I hate this so much. They know I hate it, which is one of the reasons they do it, some logic dictating that when you act annoyed at something people do, it becomes funnier the more they do it.I work at a toy company called PopCo. Most people love working at PopCo. It's a young, cool company with no dress code, no rules and no set working hours, well, not for the Ideation and Design (ID) staff anyway. Our team, which used to be called Research and Design, but isn't any more, has its own little headquarters in a red-brick building in Battersea and people are just as likely to pull all-nighters making prototypes as they are to suddenly all decamp en masse to Prague for a week, trend-spotting and fact-finding. Ideas are everything, everywhere, everybody at PopCo. We

Editorial Reviews

Mathematical puzzles. Mind-bending codes. A secret manuscript. And a cake recipe, too. Thomas' latest (after 2004's Going Out) has a chronic case of attention deficit disorder. As the novel opens, Brit Alice Butler is en route to a retreat sponsored by her employer, PopCo, a cutting-edge--and slightly creepy--toy company. (Alice takes the midnight train to avoid colleagues--and human contact in general--an early indication that she is a little off-kilter.) It's no wonder Alice considers herself an outsider; her father disappeared when she was nine, leaving her in the care of her grandparents, two quirky cryptanalysts privy to the whereabouts of a centuries-old buried treasure. Meanwhile, at the company conference, Alice and her colleagues are charged with developing the ultimate product for the teen-girl market. Alice is soon distracted from the task by mysterious encoded messages slipped under her door. Will deciphering them shape her future, or perhaps shed light on the past? Although Thomas' premise is clever, her digressions into esoteric topics (Godel, anyone?) are likely to leave readers more exhausted than amused.