by Geoff Ryman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 14, 1998
An inventive parody of information retrieval, by the ever-amazing author of, among others, Was (1992), a revisionist modern version of The Wizard of Oz. Experimentalist Ryman here out-hops Julio Cortâ€¡zar's 1966 novel Hopscotch (whose dozens of chapters could be read in any order). This time, he offers 253 character sketches of passengers aboard a tube train going from London's Embankment station and passing under the Thames to Elephant & Castle--a trip that takes seven-and-a-half-minutes. Apparently first created and published on the Interact, the present ""print remix"" mocks and mimics both computers and writers' handbooks, featuring several amusingly parodic ads (""BECOME A WRITER IN YOUR SPARE TIME!"") and PERSONALS (""Swings both ways . . . male or female makes no difference to this post office counter worker . . .""). The book opens with a description of itself--""THIS IS AN EZI-ACCESS NOVEL""--and it is indeed reader-friendly, offering no tediously interminable descriptions, no complicated assembly instructions, and no batteries, though the self-description is followed by blurbs for Ryman's earlier works, then by explanations (""Why the Title?""), as well as by ""helpful and informative footnotes"" and the culminating ad ""At last! The book that thinks for itself! How often have you been embarrassed when serious fiction is discussed at the office?"" In short, the book is about itself and its own creation, ending with a Reader Satisfaction Survey and an offer to include your own versions of Ryman's mode of character-sketching in his sequel (send to Ryman's website, no payment tendered). There's no plot to speak of, only a sense of utterly serious description balanced with witty bromides that build to a vaguely exciting climax not to be revealed here, although you may read any of the 253 sketches (each 253 words long) in any order you please. Thank Thornton Wilder's The Bridge at San Luis Rey and Joyce's Ulysses for this kind of playful survey novel. Ryman is no Joyce, but he has his own eye and soul to offer. Surplus originality! MAY LAST THIRTY YEARS! TRY IT!
Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1998
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Griffin/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998
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