This was pretty disappointing, honestly.
I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but this just didn't deliver. The whole narrative was just so inconsistent. Though there is an actual plot in here (I think), most of the book is just a series of loosely related tangents. Some of them were quite interesting; others, not so much.
The story alternates between two phases of the protagonist's life: the present, when Alice is a toy designer for the huge, ubiquitous corporation PopCo, and her past as a misfit pre-teen living with her grandparents after her father abandoned her. I actually enjoyed the flashback scenes most -- the author makes a lot of interesting observations on middle school social structure, the fickleness of friends at that age, the fleetingness of trends. I loved the interactions between young Alice and her grandfather, and I thought the sub-plot where he cracks the Stevenson/Heath manuscript was probably the most engaging part. The present-day plot is a lot weaker and more meandering. There's a permeating thread of "Fuck the system, down with The Man" that carries through the whole book, a sentiment that resonates with me, but the preachy, overly-idealistic tone really turned me off. That kind of ranting just isn't something I look for in a novel. I was never tempted to completely abandon PopCo
, but when I set it down it was easy to not pick it back up again right away. I finished a few other books in the time it took me to read this one, and it's not even very long.
I did appreciate all the references to science fiction novels, especially the works of William Gibson. However, it also completely spoiled the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo for me, which sucks because I was planning to read it one day. On the other hand, all the allusions to Woman on the Edge of Time made me want to pick that one up sooner.
I'd still like to read more of Thomas's other work. I've heard The End of Mr. Y is better, so I'm sure I'll try it eventually.