Manny's Reviews > 253

253 by Geoff Ryman
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's review
Sep 23, 2014

it was ok
bookshelves: parody-homage, the-goodreads-experience, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, pooh-dante
Recommended for: People who like non-linear narratives
Read from June 06 to 08, 2011

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 tomorrow. Keith is in the middle of a paragraph that starts like this:
A normal novel is structured along the temporal dimension; the author takes a small number of people, and follows their evolution through an extended period of time. Ryman, in contrast, asks why a novel cannot be structured along the dimension of space; he takes a small number of minutes, and traces the evolution of an extended set of people through that interval. The point, one realises at the end,
Keith is unable to finish the sentence: no words come to him. He wonders whether Miranda intentionally sold him an impossible topic, and is suddenly convinced she has done so. He begins to weep.

The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)

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Reading Progress

04/19/2011 page 5
1.0% "He says in his preface that the whole action of the novel takes place in about seven and a half minutes. Limited scope for character development, then..."
06/06/2011 page 110
29.0% "Two carriages down the train. It's a bit like Source Code, except that there isn't any story. At least not so far."
06/07/2011 page 158
41.0% "End of carriage 3. The plot, for want of a better word, unexpectedly seems to be coming together."
06/07/2011 page 210
55.0% "It does sort of grow on you. It's important to read it quickly, since otherwise you forget who everyone is."
09/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls It does smell faintly of gimmick. I'll settle for your tittersome review instead.

Manny MJ wrote: "It does smell faintly of gimmick. I'll settle for your tittersome review instead."

With the best will in the world, I can't deny the gimmickry charges. It's a fair cop. Thank you for "tittersome" :)

message 3: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant It's an idea which should have stayed in the pub where it was conceived. It took 253 seconds for me to chuck it at the wall. No - that's just not true.

Manny Paul wrote: "It's an idea which should have stayed in the pub where it was conceived. It took 253 seconds for me to chuck it at the wall. No - that's just not true."

Actually, the most annoying thing about this book is that the idea nearly works. There were several moments when I thought it was going to succeed, and the ending, much against expectation, is quite good.

But all in all, he doesn't pull it off. I think a better author might have managed it though.

message 5: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant Well, an author called George Perec wrote Life : A User's Manual which has a rigid grid system idea, too. I have it in the loft but whenever I look at it I think.. er, I'll let Manny read it first.

Manny Yes, I keep meaning to read that. I quite liked La Disparition...

message 7: by j (new) - rated it 3 stars

j do you know the back story, how it was originally published online as a big hypertext experiment, with all the relations between characters and references back and forth linked, so you can structure your reading however you want? like reading wikipedia before it existed...

it seems more purposeful when you consider that, but reading it online is also maddening.

Manny Ah... interesting! I knew it was originally a hypertext novel, and wondered if I should have read it in that form. Relieved to hear that it would have been equally frustrating, though I suppose in a slightly different way :)

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

To me, this was always the thematic sequel to J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition - another work of hypertext fiction with multiple entry points. Although Ballard's work actually existed a couple decades before HTML as we know it.

Manny I still haven't got around to reading The Atrocity Exhibition. Not sure that your comment has increased the likelihood of my doing so :)

message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant I have a lovely giant-size paperback of that in the loft - it's the very acme of 60s/70s SF experimentalism.... and completely daunting.

message 12: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls The Atrocity Exhibition is a structured novel, no? I think it was intended to be read as one. But you could read it in any order if that tickles your trout. Recommended, Manny.

message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I got excited there for a moment, when it appeared that you had opened a special "parody/homage review form", but I realised that I had probably misunderstood your comment.
I have just realised that my comment is exactly 253 characters long.
How's that!

Manny 253 characters long. That's just plain weird. What are the odds?

Did you maybe write your comment on a train?

message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye No, I typed it on a computer.

Manny I suppose if I'd thought a bit more I could have worked that out. Haven't had breakfast yet...

message 17: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I only said that because I couldn't think of anything funny to say.
It's wine o'clock over here.

Magdelanye even though I am loving this book, I think your review is right in the spirit of things and am am considering waiting until march 25 to finish. I may even respond to one of the ads.

Manny Thank you. And hey, you're right! You've really picked the right time of the year... you'll only have to wait a couple of weeks!

Magdelanye its a sign

Manny No question about it. If it's not a proof of the existence of God, it's definitely a proof of the existence of something.

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