I don't tend to write about endings, at least not at length (not even Sense of an Endings. There's only so many words I can devote to hatred). Endings never satisfy me; denouements are a necessary evil to closing a relationship with a book/show/film that I've loved. It almost seems churlish to complain about an ending; everyone knows the hardest part for a writer is the saggy middle.
I'll make an exception for Popco. The ending, quite frankly, sucked. Scarlett Thomas's sudden wallow in cod freshmanphilosophy might have been less disappointing if the rest of the novel wasn't so damned perfect.
In Popco, Thomas takes disparate topics like advertising, advanced mathematics, cryptography, treasure-hunting, adolescent angst, toy-production and lust and somehow makes it work. The novel's funny, warm and incredibly inventive in its twists and turns. There's a children's adventure novel, a bildungsroman and a lost adult story all in one, and the swerves almost feel natural.
We follow Alice Butler from her creative agency retreat back to her childhood, spent helping her beloved grandparents decipher an encrypted treasure map (Thomas's tale of the fictional pirate took me straight back to the joys of my childhood). Her grandparents, like most of the characters that Alice sides with, are resolutely anti-authoritarian (her grandfather suffered great humiliation at the hands of one Alan Turing).
The anti-authoritarian streak of the novel is subtle and established, and we come to love Alice despite her eccentricities and social ineptitudes, cause goddamnit, she solves puzzles!
So the last 10% (thank you Kindle) of the novel throws out all the subtlety and elegance of what came before, substituting in leftist propaganda so juvenile that even early-90's Ethan Hawke would roll his eyes. There's an amorphous organization devoted to bringing down capitalism from the inside! They'll break down the walls of the corporatocracy with nothing more than plastic sporks! Marketing is evil!
What's even worse is how these platitudes are expressed. The emissary from the shadowy organization Ayn Rands all over the place, with a 20-page monologue about how righteous their cause is. A is A and B is B and this shit be cheesy.
You should still read it though. How many novels promise 90% perfection?
And look at that gorgeous cover: