253

253

by Geoff Ryman
     
 

Tremendously popular on the Internet, 253 is one of the year's most imaginative, unclassifiable books.

What it is: 

A London tube train, with all seats occupied, carries 252 passengers. The driver makes 253. Each one has a secret history, thoughts about themselves and the world. And each one's story takes one page (comprised of exactly 253 words) in

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Overview

Tremendously popular on the Internet, 253 is one of the year's most imaginative, unclassifiable books.

What it is: 

A London tube train, with all seats occupied, carries 252 passengers. The driver makes 253. Each one has a secret history, thoughts about themselves and the world. And each one's story takes one page (comprised of exactly 253 words) in this novel.

Meet Estelle, who has fallen madly in love with Saddam Hussein; James, who anesthetizes sick gorillas for a living; and Who? a character who doesn't know where, or what, on earth he is.

Perhaps you'll see a bit of yourself in some or all of them.

This seven-and-a-half minute ride between Embankment and Elephant & Castle is highly original. And enjoyable. And unpredictable.

And full of marvels.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since a fully occupied London subway car would have 253 seated passengers (including the driver), Ryman's diverting experimental fiction contains 253 character sketches of 253 words each. Taking place on a Bakerloo-line train heading south toward the Elephant and Castle station, this interconnected series of vignettes fills a seven and a half minute journey with amazing richness. Ryman, whose novel Was deconstructed The Wizard of Oz, displays a Chekhovian touch with mundane reality, coincidences both absurd and poignant and life's inexhaustible surprises. Among the cast of Londoners, tourists, exiles, immigrants and other passengers is Margaret Thatcher (not that one); an ice-cream manufacturer self-styled "Bertie Jeeves"; a mass murderer's former co-worker and a near-victim of his; Henri Matisse's heir; somebody named Geoff Ryman on his day off; a band of actor-buskers called "Mind the Gap"; and a pigeon. 253 was originally a hypertext posted on the Web, but it makes the transition to print without losing fascinating structural appeal (readers will have to provide the links between the characters for themselves). In case this scenario seems unsuspenseful, it's only fair to reveal that the driver has fallen asleep at the wheel and that the mysterious last passenger provides a miraculous coda. In this low-tech paper-based format, 253 makes for ideal commuter reading and possibly the best subway ride readers will take. (Sept.) FYI: For those who would like to visit the original 253, its Web address is www.ryman-novel.com.
Library Journal
Ryman's print version of a novel originally published in cyberspace often seems like an adult version of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series. The 252 passengers and the driver of a London subway train are hurtling toward a crash in 7.5 minutes. Ryman (Was, Knopf, 1992) devotes a page of text, exactly 253 words long, to each individual, covering appearance, biography, thoughts, and actions. In the web version, the reader makes hypertext jumps to connect passengers. A husband and wife are both on the train in separate cars. Many persons work at the same firms. As in real life, coincidental relationships abound. On the web, it's possible in three or four jumps to arrive at the crash without reading most of the text. The linear essence of print, however, makes it likely that readers will complete the entire novel. Narrative gimmick aside, Ryman's ability to sketch a whole person instantly and create a community of interrelationships eventually involves the reader in his wild ride. For collections of experimental fiction.--Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Norman Spinrad
...[M]ay not even be a novel....[Ryman] manages to not only fulfill the rigid parameters of [a] maniacal formal straightjacket but make the results both dramatically gripping and entertaining...
Asimov's Science Fiction
Kirkus Reviews
An inventive parody of information retrieval, by the ever-amazing author of, among others, Was (1992), a revisionist modern version of The Wizard of Oz. Experimentalist Ryman here out-hops Julio Cort�zar's 1966 novel Hopscotch (whose dozens of chapters could be read in any order). This time, he offers 253 character sketches of passengers aboard a tube train going from London's Embankment station and passing under the Thames to Elephant & Castleþa trip that takes seven-and-a-half-minutes. Apparently first created and published on the Internet, the present "print remix" mocks and mimics both computers and writersþ handbooks, featuring several amusingly parodic ads (þBECOME A WRITER IN YOUR SPARE TIME!þ) and PERSONALS ("Swings both ways male or female makes no difference to this post office counter worker þ). The book opens with a description of itselfþþTHIS IS AN EZI-ACCESS NOVELþþand it is indeed reader-friendly, offering no tediously interminable descriptions, no complicated assembly instructions, and no batteries, though the self-description is followed by blurbs for Rymanþs earlier works, then by explanations (þWhy the Title?þ), as well as by þhelpful and informative footnotesþ and the culminating ad þAt last! The book that thinks for itself! How often have you been embarrassed when serious fiction is discussed at the office?þIn short, the book is about itself and its own creation, ending with a Reader Satisfaction Survey and an offer to include your own versions of Ryman's mode of character-sketching in his sequel (send to Ryman's website, no payment tendered). Thereþs no plot tospeak of, only a sense of utterly serious description balanced with witty bromides that build to a vaguely exciting climax not to be revealed here, although you may read any of the 253 sketches (each 253 words long) in any order you please. Thank Thornton Wilder's The Bridge at San Luis Rey and Joyce's Ulysses for this kind of playful survey novel. Ryman is no Joyce, but he has his own eye and soul to offer. Surplus originality! MAY LAST THIRTY YEARS! TRY IT!

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312182953
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/15/1998
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.18(h) x 1.05(d)

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