Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “PopCo” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,526 Ratings  ·  524 Reviews
Are you happy?

Alice Butler has been receiving some pretty odd messages—all anonymous, all written in simple code, all eerily vague but pointed enough to show that the sender has been watching her closely.

Are the messages from someone at PopCo—the slightly sinister, profit-hungry toy company that has herded Alice and its other top creatives out to a secluded Thought Camp? A
Paperback, 512 pages
Published October 3rd 2005 by Mariner Books (first published December 31st 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about PopCo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about PopCo

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 realised; 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
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 off more than she could chew. The discipline that was
Nov 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Anita Dalton
PopCo by Scarlett Thomas is one of those books that is a revelation. Every now and then, I come across a book wherein I know the author’s ideas and beliefs line up so well with mine that it is very nearly eerie. PopCo encapsulated so many of my own thoughts that I likely annoyed everyone around me as I recommended this book to one and all, even going so far as to purchase several copies at a book clearance store so I could give copies away.

PopCo is hard to categorize. While the heroine, a certai
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2011, 2012, 2017
This book is about a girl, a necklace and some buried treasure.

But it is also about a worldwide toy company, cryptoanalysis and the creation of ideas. It's about the factorisation of prime numbers, the mass production of milk and the obsessions of teenage girls. It's about rubbish parents and loving grandparents. It's about the Voynich manuscript, paradoxes, crossword puzzles, corporate bullshit, cricket, World War 2, games of logic, Gödel's Theorem of Incompleteness, virtual worlds, miso soup,
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: britlit
PopCo kind of wants to be Cryptonomicon, but shorter and with less discussion of math, types of economies, and anything else more complex than marketing. It makes me want never to work at any company larger or more corporate than a shoebox. That's kind of the point of the book; it ends up literally saying so. The end was really annoying, due to aforementioned flat moralization plus a boring/not particularly believable solution to the main mystery. The rest of the story was all right, though not ...more
Eli Brooke
Mar 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
I read this after reading Thomas' more recent novel "The End of Mr. Y", which I adored. I actually think that PopCo works better as a cohesive whole, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, though it didn't have quite the same resonance with me in terms of having a specific set of ideas I was excited to read about as Mr. Y did. I definitely reccomend this one to others, though. It's got a very strong anti-commericalist, anti-herd-mentality, anti-fashion-in-all-aspects-of-life bent, and that's very good. P ...more
Apr 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sheer bloody-mindedness, and disliking not finishing a book, made me trundle through this 400+ page steaming pile of egregious nonsense. It sounds promising, the concept is interesting, I have a vague interest in codes and there is always a slight creepiness to children's toymaking. How wrong I was.

Let's start with the main character. This woman is an uber hipster - can't possibly do anything that anyone anywhere might see as 'cool', but to the point where it actually stops her doing things. The
Disclaimer: questo libro fa emergere la cretina che c'è in me, per qualche strana ragione; la recensione sarà dunque viziata da ciò. Il che è solo un modo elegante per dire che sarò lievemente (e simpaticamente) polemica, e visto che la polemica ce l'ho nel sangue, sarò anche prolissa. Mi scuso.

Prendete una puntata tipo della Signora in giallo. Va bene anche qualsiasi telefilm del genere, ma io sono una fan di Jessica, Jessica über alles! Nella mia mente una puntata tipo della signora in giallo
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: geeky chicks, mathletes, hippies, anti-corporation, etc
I loved this book. It got a little heavy handed at times, toward the end especially, but it sort of had to and it was still just fun and exciting and all around a great read. Someone said it was chicklit for geeky chicks. I don't see the chicklit part, but it was definitely geeky and totally awesome for it. It's packed full of weird cryptanalyst stuff and lectures on math and history (an entire chapter is dedicated to the life story of some presumably made up dude from the 1600's), but it's all ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is a pretty terrible book, somewhere between the DaVinci Code and a Babysitter's Club Camp Mohawk Super Special. It's not entirely unreadable and in 571 pages has maybe 4 to 5 good lines. Plot lines never line up together, gratuitous dialogue which is only meant to give exposition, and an unhealthy obsession with the amount of fantastic food the heroine can get are wearying. I only finished the book because I've been trying to finish every book I start this year.

The writing is almost unforg
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 appeal more to 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 ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, matematica, 2012
Wow! Ok, sì, non è un capolavoro di alta letteratura, e sicuramente le 5 stelle sono più emotive che oggettive, però c'è da dire che mi ha tenuto incollata dall'inizio alla fine (con un breve momento di allentamento verso la metà, ma che si riprende col finale), contiene praticamente tutte (no beh...quasi, và) le cose che più mi piacciono: c'è matematica, ci sono paradossi, numeri, giochi di pensiero laterale e logica, strategie di marketing e giochi psicologici sul gruppo e affini...insomma, è ...more
Aimee C.
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, I picked this book up because the cover looked cool. I'm not above it. And the book turned out to be *dope*! It's nice to see a female protagonist who is really smart, kind of geeky, and a bit of a loner, but who still manages to do things that most people do, like smoke cigarettes, get laid, and be, you know, not socially retarded. Theme-wise, 'PopCo' reminded me a bit of 'Fight Club,' if 'Fight Club' was geared towards British librarians. That sounds really pejorative, but it may, in ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: england
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly V
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people with enquiring minds who have at least a little patience
Recommended to Kelly by: Gwen
This was really an awesome and exciting book. I couldn't really name what kind of book this is, as it interweaves so many topics (and well) that it's unbelievable. Foundational themes include cryptanalysis and marketing, but the author also touches on several other interesting areas, including 17th-century pirates, artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, virtual worlds, gaming, mathematics in general, and British schoolgirl life in the 80s. I loved the nod that Bletchley Park got, as I wor ...more
Harry McKinley
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
PopCo is simply the best kind of book; Absorbing, thought provoking and ultimately enriching.

Charting the almost fantastical experiences of Alice, a social opt-out in the last vestiges of youth, as she plunders the inner depths of her own conscience and character to find her place in the world, it is a story so rich with spirit that one can't help but be totally drawn in.

The plot is straightforward but always engaging as Thomas weaves the narrative in a non-linear way, dishing out just enough ti
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd already read "The End of Mr Y" by Scarlett Thomas, and quite enjoyed it. When I picked up "PopCo" I left it on my shelves for a while, but once I started it my family didn't see much of me. In fact, if I'd thought I'd get away with it, I would have called in sick to keep reading. It probably helps that in many ways I really related to the main character - like Alice, I was raised by academics and was too geeky to fit in well with the popular girls at school. When the novel opens Alice has be ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is probably something I would never normally pick up. I found it at a garage sale and got fascinated by the blue pages and since it was only 1 pund I decided to buy it. almost regretting it when I found out how weird it looked on my bookshelves.

Well Popco surprised me in a good way. It's much different from what I usually read ( a lot of YA) and the math often became too complicated for me considering the fact that English is not my first language and I've never done math in English be
Feb 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Update: I'm finally done with this book, and gladly so. It offered the biggest let down I've experienced while reading. First 250 pages, pretty damn good. Last 250 pages, absolutely awful.

I kept going because I was hopeful the ending would at least be properly satisfying. It was not. Don't get sucked in. It's not worth it.
While reading: I am 75% through with PopCo and am struggling with the desire to finish it. Here's my issue: I was really, really into this book up until about 250 pages in.
Well I didn't finish it, but I got through 60%, so I will count it as read. So there.

A strange thing. I like this bit on pp 243-244:
'What do you do when you're not, well, doing PopCo?'
'Ah you want to know my hobbies,' I say. ... 'I like crosswords,' I offer.
'What's in your DVD collection?'
'DVD collection?'
'You can tell a lot about someone from their DVD collection. It used to be books, of course. And maybe videos. You'd go round someone's house and decide whether to have sex with them on the ba
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
sto barando perchè non l'ho proprio finito... la soluzione me la leggo stasera..insomma lei ha aspettato tutti quegli anni io potrò aspettare qualche ora *-*
decisamente il migliore dei tre che ho letto, senza alcun dubbio... e poi tutte queste cose di crittoanalisi sono troppo interessanti anche se la mia mente limitata a volte doveva fermarsi a rileggere per capire.. e poi rileggere ancora.. insomma non pretendiamo troppo da me *-* mia sorella sarà una matematica prima o poi.. già lo è ora anch
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
PopCo was the novel Scarlett Thomas wrote before The End Of Mr Y, though it's now being re-marketed after the success of the former. I found it as compelling as Mr Y but not as satisfying, particularly the ending.

It's the story of Alice, a twenty-something working for a global manufacturer of kid's toys. At a Thought Camp for creatives in Dartmoor, intended to help the company devise a new hugely successful product to be aimed at teenage girls, Alice wakes up to the immorality of the organisatio
Having greatly enjoyed Ms. Thomas' "The End of Mr. Y", I picked this up with high (probably too high for my own good) expectations.

After a "painful" month (which should, by itself, say something), trying to stick with it, I finally read the long-awaited conclusion a few minutes ago -and, frankly, feel it was hardly worth the hassle :(

Despite the fact that the characters were interesting (if with loads of unexplored potential) and the criticism of today's society thought provoking (if a bit prea
Dan S
On the good side, there are several interesting plot strands to this - Alice's childhood, the Francis Stevenson story, the map. On the other hand, these are all subplots - the main plot meanders around until the last fifty pages, where pretty much everything we've already read in that part of the book is turned on it's head. And these last fifty pages are, sadly, a disappointment.

Alice, the main character, annoyed me from the start - too self consciously anti-trends. By all means don't follow fa
Mary McCoy
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it
The first time I read this, I thought it was just about the best thing I'd ever read. However, after a second time through, I find a lot of the stuff set in the present to be annoyingly didactic, especially when the protagonist goes off on a tear about homeopathy, veganism, or corporate evil.

However, the backstory, which involves pirates, cryptanalysis, thought exercises, goonishly cool math, mean girls, and the best grandparents in the world makes it still, a worthwhile and satisfying read.

Beth Harper
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What DIDN'T I learn from this book?!! It was amazing. And what I found so good about it was by the end I really couldn't tell if this was infact a true story or not... very cleverly written.

I love Scarlett Thomas's style. It's not very easy to write in the present tense let alone really well! And I love how she writes about EVERYTHING.

The Vigenère square was the best thing I learned from the book though and I'm well on my way to becomming a super sleuth because of it! If only my friends would l
Jun 08, 2007 rated it liked it
I don't tend to read two books by the same author in a row (Harry Potter is a collossal exception) because I get bored with the style. However, PopCo was different enough from Mr. Y. and it had a CROSSWORD PUZZLE in the back. Unfortunately, it's a British crossword, and I stink at those. Way too cryptic! But if you like wordgames and buried treasure, OR if you're skeptical of the motives of the toy industry, you'll find this one enjoyable.
Steve Morris
Oct 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, literary
I've had it with Scarlett Thomas. Been let down too many times. This could have been a great story, but the author forget to develop the plot, and instead decided to lecture readers about the evils of meat eating, medicine, fashion, toys, games, products in general, marketing, money, and companies. But drugs are OK, drugs are cool. And so is homoeopathy. Homoeopathy is so much better than medicine, which is evil.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Sep 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: smart girls
I guess this is a book for brainy girls who like puzzles. I loved this book, with all the background information about codes and prime numbers, and all the marketing information, too. I had recently read The Tipping Point, and it led nicely into all the discussion of setting trends. Fun!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Little Hands Clapping
  • Trance
  • In Memoriam to Identity
  • The Bird Catcher
  • The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done: A Novel
  • I Am Not Sidney Poitier
  • The Sopranos
  • The Faber Book of Utopias
  • The Testament of Yves Gundron
  • Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright
  • Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
  • The Raw Shark Texts
  • Mulligan Stew
  • The Willowdale Handcar
  • Woman's World
  • The Summer We All Ran Away
  • Gantz /21
  • Begin Again: Collected Poems
Scarlett Thomas has taught English Literature at the University of Kent since 2004, and has previously taught at Dartmouth Community College, South East Essex College and the University of East London. She reviews books for the Literary Review, the Independent on Sunday, and Scotland on Sunday. She has written seven novels, including The End of Mr. Y and PopCo.

In 2001 she was named by The Independ
More about Scarlett Thomas...

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Routine kills creative thought.” 52 likes
“Sometimes you have to trust grownups, perhaps more so when they are not there to actually supervise you.” 9 likes
More quotes…