Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

A clever fun read of a novel by a young British writer. The novel is about a company that makes products for kids and teens and it's at times too obvious in its critique of the marketing and corporatization of toys (easy easy target) but it's clever in that the protagonist is a code-maker/cracker and so naturally there are lots of codes and fun stuff included. The novel also references pretty much every bit of science and psychology that the average college freshman gets exposed to--Milgram, Turing, etc.--cocktail party science that I confess I enjoy. And then there's the math ... I don't object to math, I'm fine with math (my department recently mocked me for referencing prime numbers and how they relate to workshop--they don't! we split into groups!), but this math was definitely beyond me... and the novel has a clever way of dumbing it down. Thomas puts most of the math into the exposition. And so it is being explained to the protagonist when she is a little girl. So it can be explained really really simply. This trick could have backfired but the characters are set up to be people who talk about math in dialogue and so it works out just fine.

And there are some nice surprises in the end that make this a novel especially well suited to teenagers who haven't yet lost their idealism.

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