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May 01, 2004

Still novel

When - freshly arrived in the metropolis - I began working in London in a temporary capacity for a management consultancy, there would be days when my time would lie fallow and I would browse the net. This was a time before you could assume anyone else had an email address and when the sheer newness of the internet felt to many like a guilty secret.

As later on in a different job I read Doonesbury to keep the mind ticking over, in this one I feasted for several otherwise tedious days on Geoff Ryman's 253.

253 takes the form of a novel (and is still available on Amazon) in which one page is given over to each of 252 passengers and the driver of a Bakerloo line train as it hurtles towards disaster. Each character is linked in one way to another on the train and a complex network of pain, happiness, frustration and passion is played out in which ever order you wish.

The site is almost old-fashioned in its pure html with few graphics, harking back to a previous age online. At the time (six years ago) some people took 253 and other online fictional experiments to herald the end of the paperback book, which clearly seems premature today. Still, recently there have been lively discussions about fictional blogs spiced-up by with the 'is it/isn't it' debate about Belle de Jour.

The web hasn't killed the book, but I'm certain there is plenty more scope for books to embrace the web than we've seen hitherto. If you feel like being inspired, you could much worse than heading to 253.

May 1, 2004 in Books, Literature, Recollections | Permalink


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