Monday, 14 March 2016

Book review - 253

Every once in a while, you encounter a book that's different from any other book you've read.

I found 253 on a friends reading list (Thanks Simon Ramsden-Fletcher) and took a look in to see what it was all about.  253 is unlike any other book I have read, and I've read more than a few, what makes it different is that in a book numbering 351 pages, there are 253 different characters with unique viewpoints.

You did read that right, more characters per page count than George R.R.Martin...

It doesn't read like a regular story, being a series of descriptions of the 252 passengers and the driver on an underground train as it travels towards it's destination.  Each description (barring titles) is 253 words long and covers who the person is, what they look like, what they're doing, and their motivations, hopes and dreams.  Many of these people are interconnected and the stories of each other start to weave together as you progress in the book, but for those used to the idea of a story that has a beginning, middle, and end, it may take more than a little getting used to.

The problem with the book is that if you want to get straight into the action, it's not for you, this book takes a lot of preparation in getting to know the characters before you get to the actions of the train itself, which takes up the last seven or eight pages of the book.  If you're willing to spend the time learning of all the characters, their hopes and dreams and where they hope life will take them, it's a good book and has all the characterisations that you could ever hope for.

And the ending of the book will have all the impact that the author intended for it...

I cannot speak anything of the ending, even the slightest hint would allow the astute amongst you to figure out what will happen there, and that would be a shame if you intend to take a look at it.  On that subject though, I can be of some assistance, 253 was originally published as an online novel of sorts, with hyperlinks to all the different parts of it so that you could read it and understand all the parts of it without having to flick back and forth through the pages to find the right reference.  This is how it was designed and envisioned, and it works far better than the book, which is a list of characters before the story arrives.

To that end, you can still find that novel at and I need to point out when you go there that the main page of that website has the ending on it, which is why the link is to the start of the novel and not to the front page of the website.

Overall it was an interesting read, but I don't think I'd look to read something similar again...