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3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  864 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
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.
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 15th 1998 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,922)
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Paul Bryant
Sep 21, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This was tedious postmodern whatever who cares "experimental" crap of the worst sort.

Although I would like to make it clear that I think the author was, is, and always will be a really nice person.

This book was so grindingly obvious in all its techniques and the "shock ending" was telegraphed so far in advance a person in a deep coma would have sussed it by page three if their loved one had started reading it to them. Actually, it would have cured the person in the deep coma, because they would
Sep 23, 2014 Manny rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like non-linear narratives
On 02:53 on the 25th of March, it so happened that there were exactly 253 people in the world reading Geoff Ryman's novel. For 253 seconds, each of them [Get on with it - Ed]. Oh yes. Here are some of their stories.


Keith, a graceless, limp-haired student, lives in Seattle, WA. He is writing a dissertation on 253. His girlfriend, Miranda, had suggested the idea to him a few weeks ago, and he gratefully accepted.

Now Miranda has just left him, and he's stuck. The dissertation is due
Este libro me llamó la atención por su argumento y estructura, que me parecieron de lo más original: un tren en Londres, 7 vagones, 36 personas por vagón, que conforman 253 personajes (36 pasajeros por vagón, más el conductor). Cada personaje tiene su propia página, en la que se detallan tres apartados: ‘Apariencia’, ‘Datos personales’ y ‘Lo que hace o piensa’. Además, cada página contiene exactamente 253 palabras, sin contar encabezamientos (pero esto se pierde en la traducción). Y para rematar ...more
William Mansky
Jan 16, 2012 William Mansky rated it it was amazing
The first and biggest thing you need to know about this book is that you shouldn't buy it, or borrow it, or look for it at your local library. You should read it online at This was the original format in which it was published, and it really isn't the same without the hyperlinks.

The second thing you should know is what you're getting into. The majority of the novel consists of 253 character descriptions, each one 253 words long. If this sounds terribly precious, well, it is, but
Apr 12, 2009 Mykle rated it it was amazing
This is 253 one-page descriptions, each 253 words long, of 253 London Underground passengers riding between three stops. Which sounds like some kind of workshop exercise taken to mad extremes. I was given this book by my friend Charlie years ago but posponed reading it because it seemed too show-offy and empty of an idea. I was wrong. 253 is great writing, but also something more: a vibrant portrait of mid-ninties London humanity. By the time it's over, all 253 stories have added up to a touchin ...more
Neil Powell
Jun 04, 2010 Neil Powell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An infuriating read. The general premise is intriguing, as I have often wondered what people are thinking about on public transport. However the book is mess because of several key failings:

1. Although each page of 253 characters makes for a relatively quick read in theory, in practice (for me anyway), trying to remember how the characters from different carriages link together meant that I was constantly tracking back and forth through the pages trying to jog my memory. Very irritating and made
Sally Whitehead
I first encountered this book back in the late 90s not long after it was published. One of my then 6th form A-Level Literature students lent me their copy after raving about it, but I had to return it before I'd really started it (*Note to Self* Never borrow books)

Over the years it has popped into my head on several occasions and I was always intrigued by the premis and concept behind it. So, when I saw it in a local oxfam bookshop it was an impulsive "must buy" and an easy "must finally properl
Jan 22, 2014 Zulu rated it it was ok
Shelves: diss-fiction
So I'm reading a bunch of interactive fiction these days, and 253 was recommended to me as an early example of hypertext.

The conceit is relatively clever, and some of the character descriptions are good--I enjoyed the pigeon, the fanfic writer, and the snuggler--but overall I don't get any sense that these individual moments are leading up to anything. The event of the train crash was pretty boring, despite being foreshadowed. There were so many characters that I couldn't remember any of them we
A possible cult classic in the making – only time will tell on that though. I was given this as a birthday present from a friend and was dubious at first as there really isn’t a basic plot or much to keep the attention span going, but once I started reading it I realised I was very much mistaken. This book taps in perfectly into my voyeuristic nature.

Ryman gives us a snapshot of each passenger on a seven and a half minute journey on a tube train. Each character is described by their outward appe
Mar 04, 2012 Remo rated it liked it
Shelves: novela, 2007

253 no es una novela al uso. El planteamiento es simple: en la introducción, leemos que “Un tren de metro consta únicamente de siete vagones. ¿Por qué? El número parece raro. Ocho sería más redondo, más cómodo. Tal vez sea un siete para la buena suerte.

Cada uno de los vagones consta de 36 asientos, lo cual significa que la ocupación ideal de un tren que no estuviera atestado ni perturbadoramente vacío sería de 252 pasajeros, más el conductor. Esto daría un total de 253 personas.”

En una sola pági

Aug 09, 2009 Bruce rated it really liked it
This is a book-ization of what was originally a web hypertext novel. It makes great toilet or before bed or when you just have a moment reading, as it consists of 253 one page descriptions of passengers on a london underground train in the mid nineties.

That's a lot of characters. For the most part they are interesting, and an overarching narrative slowly appears. Not that the narrative is that strong, but it does add a bit.

This book does lose something compared to the hypertext, as many characte
Jul 08, 2016 Thekelburrows rated it really liked it
This book is essentially 253 linked pieces of flash fiction detailing the 253 interweaving lives of 253 people riding on a train in London one morning in 1995. I wasn't sure whether or not I would survive this particular gimmick, but about 1/4 of the way in I started to hit my groove in the story and, ultimately, I found the experience of reading this unusual novel (?) compelling and emotionally satisfying.
Simon Taylor
Jul 10, 2015 Simon Taylor rated it it was ok
Ryman takes one of the most fascinating aspects of life and dedicates a whole book to it in 253. It is set in a London Underground train, which consists of seven carriages each with 36 seats. That’s a total of 252 passengers, plus the driver.

Ryman hones in on the fact that 253 lives have, very temporarily, intersected. Each person is both the main character in their own life, and a supporting actor in the lives of 252 others. For seven minutes, all of their journeys have aligned. It’s an incredi
Jo Brace
Jun 07, 2015 Jo Brace rated it it was ok
I understand the concept. Let the period of time be the 'story' not the characters. The period of time which passes on this book is only 7 and a half minutes. Not really much time for anything, let alone story/character development. This may be why, having only finished the book yesterday, I can't remember much about any individual character. Well, I remember Who? but as a character, doesn't really count.

I think you need to have excellent short term memory to read this book. You have to flick b
May 17, 2015 Aimee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The best I can say about this novel is that it's experimental. And that's actually what made me pick the book up, when I spied it in a charity shop window. The blurb intrigued me; promising something completely different, which it did deliver. I can honestly say that I'd never read a book like this before; and that's coming from someone who, at the age of 25, has read 350+ books! But I also hope I never read a book like this again; it was so tedious, dull and boring. It took me over two weeks to ...more
Jul 23, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it
I picked this book up from a book exchange while traveling in Costa Rica 10 years ago. It was a great book to read while traveling because it was easy to pick up and put down.

I understand the arguments that it's contrived, but I think about this book and how experimental it was quite often. When traveling--on planes or just the subway--my thoughts wander to this book while I make up stories about the people around me.

I passed this book onto a guy I met while traveling in Costa Rica. We still see
Milli Wheeler
Oct 26, 2014 Milli Wheeler rated it it was amazing
Geoff Ryman's 253: The Print Remix was a unique page turner with a simple, yet intriguing plot (or lack there of). The novel seemed to comment on life's disorderly and unpredictable characteristics, using the train in the novel as a sort of metaphor for life. Each of Ryman's 253 characters were interesting in their own way and discovering connections between some of them was especially enjoyable. Overall, 253 is a great window into what it would be like if we really could get a snapshot of the p ...more
Tom Emlyn
Jul 06, 2016 Tom Emlyn rated it liked it
This is an interesting novel from the early days of the internet, though it doesn't lose anything in print.
The character portraits are pretty amazing because not one of them feels repetitive, predictable, formulaic or lacking in detail - over 253 characters this is quite an imaginative feat.
The story takes on a feeling of the mundane within the epic as the story progresses.
it does feel quite 90s but that doesn't mean it's aged badly.
I'm interested to read Rymans's novel the Child Garden which I
This tightly structured, interactive fiction (1) zooms in a cross-section of Londoners riding a tube train to Waterloo station, a journey of 7 1/2 minutes. With deadpan wit and a zany kind of meticulous detail, GR manages, between the lines and en passent (2) to deliver a devastating social critique.(3)His bleak vision is softened somewhat by his love of humanity (he could be faking this) and his sound belief in instant karma. Even the adverts contribute to the fun.

footnotes: 1) 253 is a fascina
Jul 29, 2010 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
A train on the Bakerloo line in the London Underground leaves Embankment Station, stopping first at Waterloo Station and then at Lambeth North Station on its way to its terminus at Elephant and Castle Station. The train has 7 cars and there are 36 people in each car: including the driver, there is a total of 253 persons on the train.

253, or Tube Theatre is divided into seven “chapters,” one for each car in the train; each chapter is divided into thirty-six sections, one for each of the passenge
Dec 18, 2010 Kirsty rated it liked it
Shelves: botns
This was certainly an interesting concept. 253 people on a tube train, including the driver. Each person has a page in the book. 253 words about each person, including what they look like, what they do for a living and what they're thinking. The whole book takes place over a journey of less than 10 minutes. It's basically a series of short-stories, interlinked by various things - some people on the tube are thinking about others that they don't know are in other carriages, some are colleagues, s ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Paul by: BOTNS
This novel appealed strongly to my sense of curiosity and voyeurism. If you’ve ever ridden on public transportation and wondered what the other passengers were like, where they were going, what they were thinking, etc., this is the story for you. The number “253” is the exact number of passengers (plus driver) on an English Tube train. The author describes each passenger using exactly 253 words. Ryman breaks each description into “outward appearance”, “inside information” (a brief description of ...more
Jul 05, 2008 crazy-book-lady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who looks around a crowded subway car and tries to guess the stories of the other passengers
Shelves: canadian
Finished this a couple of days ago. This book is a good example of why I love Bookcrossing. I had never heard of this book, or author, before picking it up at a Bookcrossing social. It was wonderful, and so different than anything else I have read!

I am one of those people who occasionally looks around in a subway car, or stadium, or traffic jam, and ponders the fact that all these people, who are sharing a moment, are in the middle of their own stories...everyone has a different past...people w
Apr 01, 2013 Rand rated it really liked it
Mind the gap.

(view spoiler)
Jun 04, 2007 Trin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, canadian-lit
I can't even begin to speak coherently about this book. It's an experimental novel: 253 portraits of 253 passengers on a London tube train that's about to crash. Ryman gives the reader brief insights into these ordinary people's lives, some of which are interconnected, some of which are funny, tragic, etc. Ryman himself is a passenger; so's a pigeon. And some of the people live, and some of them die. Part of the interest, one would think, would be to see who falls into which category when you re ...more
This book was recommended by the podcast Books on the Nightstand and my thoughtful roommate picked it up for me whilst studying abroad in Ireland. I was so very excited about this book, it sounded like something I'd never read before. And I'm wondering if that is why I still can't wrap my head around it! The premise is interesting indeed. Each page is devoted to 1 of the 253 passengers on the train, traveling to a London Tube stop. It allowed the Nosy Nellie in me to hear the inner-most thoughts ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Graceann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
On the seven and a half minute ride between Embankment and Elephant and Castle, 252 passengers, plus the driver, emerge from their own little worlds.

This book is a gift for anyone who has ever sat across from another passenger on public transport, and wondered what their story was. Geoff Ryman gives each of the folks compelling stories that intertwine in surprising and sometimes amusing ways with those of others on the Tube.

I was impressed with there being 253 distinct stories that are separat
Jo Everett
Jul 24, 2015 Jo Everett rated it it was ok
I read the online version of Ryman's experimental novel for my phd thesis exploring the future of the novel. Now, I feel bad only giving it two stars, and if I could I would actually award it 2.5, half marks. The thing is is that whilst I like that Ryman has thought outside the box to present an original novel embracing our technological age, I found it difficult to read and couldn't get into the narrative at all. Maybe it's a generation thing and being just a smidgen too early to have truly emb ...more
Nicola Brathwaite
Jul 11, 2014 Nicola Brathwaite rated it really liked it
Read this many years ago when living half a world away from the Underground. It was innovative at the time as an early internet based novel in the days when the internet itself was novel. Very structured with the 253 seats 253 words 253 stories ... And a book that stuck with me even before the 7/7 bombings, and more so since. Regularly think back to it as I wonder about the lives of my fellow passengers.
Apr 09, 2016 Ulli rated it liked it
formatting was obviously very interesting. requires more than one pass through. a lot of interesting stuff going on, but even as someone who likes non-linear or unusual structuring, loose ends, and ambiguity I found this to be rather much. this 'book' seems to require a lot of attention to understand throughly; its unclear if its worth it though.
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Geoffrey Charles Ryman (born 1951) is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and slipstream fiction. He was born in Canada, and has lived most of his life in England.

His science fiction and fantasy works include The Warrior Who Carried Life (1985), the novella The Unconquered Country (1986) (winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the World Fantasy Award), and The Child Garden (1989) (winner
More about Geoff Ryman...

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