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253 - Geoff Ryman
Member Name: linut
253 - Geoff Ryman
Date: 31/07/00, updated on 01/08/00 (32 review reads)
Advantages: clever & unique idea
Disadvantages: too many characters play havoc in your mind
This book really captivated me but it drove me absolutely nuts as well! It tells the story of the 253 passengers on board an underground train on one day. There is a section or page devoted to each passenger written in exactly 253 words (well, I didnt actually count the words but I'll take the authors word for it).
First of all, there is a description of their outward appearances which gives us the first impressions about these people . However what we dont often get is an insight into who they really are and what they are thinking at those precise moments. This is what 253 gives us. A chance to delve into the minds of these passengers. Some of them are thinking about serious issues such as world peace and changing careers, some end up making life changing decisions, some are just thinking about their cats. There are also characters who are really troubled, planning burglaries, murders and suicide.
What makes it more interesting is that some characters are actually connected together - by the same acquaintances, lost/past loves, the same workplace, destination, hobbies, same worries and ambitions etc. There are husbands buying the last minute birthday present and trying to avoid their wives who are also on the same train. There is a Big Issue salesmen, who has conned and made a number of ladies fall madly in love with him...and more. But this also makes things rather confusing. I ended up flipping back and forth each time to check which characters were related to which, as there are so many of them that I tend to only really remember the outstanding ones.
The author does try to make things simpler by listing all the passengers by which car they are travelling in and a summary of how passengers are related at the back of the book. There are also some fascinating (some rather draggy) footnotes provided to explain places, locations and some of the famous people of London (good for foreigners or first time visitors to England??)
There is an interesting twist in the middle of the book, which is fully explained at the end, once you've gone through all 253 passengers! I found that I just had to finish the book quickly and say goodbye to all those characters..they were causing mayhem in my head!
As a final note, I have to say that the concept of this book is really clever, unique and downright weird (but I like weird anyway!) It was originally published on the internet, which I think would be a bit easier to read if all connecting characters were linked together. The author, Geoff Ryman also seems very cheeky..in the opening to this book he introduces us to this book of his and even goes on to recommends his other more serious work of fiction (with not so many characters, a longer time span and an actual plot!) , if we dont find 253 captivating enough!!! He concludes the book with a questionnaire as to how we found the book with very funny multiple choice answers!!!
I'm now off to find those serious works of fiction the author was talking about...