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I love receiving books as gifts - I've rarely been dissapointed by a book recommended to me by friends or family, and quite often I've been completely blown away by a book that's arrived on my lap out of the blue.  Popco is just such a book. 

The story follows Alice Butler, a toy designer for the gigantic toy corporation PopCo – where she creates kits for kids who like code-breaking and espionage. Summoned to a slightly creepy PopCo corporate facility in the middle of Dartmoor for the annual corporate shindig, Alice is one of a select group asked to stay on and become part of a crack team whose job is to focus on creating a new product.

Soon after Alice arrives, she starts to receive enciphered messages – and that leads to an exploration of her childhood through a series of flashbacks. The longer Alice spends at the PopCo retreat, the more her feelings of unease about its practices come in to focus – Thomas handles this very well, wanting us to arrive at the same conclusions as Alice at the same pace. When the contents of the mysterious coded messages turn out to have a connection not just to PopCo’s corporate tactics, but to the wider corporate world, Alice makes some interesting decisions about her future, and this provides the reader with plenty of food for thought.

PopCo is a great read, with Alice Butler a very engaging narrator – the surface story of popco and it's underhand marketing techniques is highly interesting  but the it's the flashbacks and family history that really make the book: code breaking, mathematics, the story of Blechley park, treasure maps, espionage - it's all here and makes for a very informative and entertining read.

PopCo, by Scarlett Thomas

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