Set in a post-apocalyptic England, RIDDLEY WALKER tells the tale of one twelve year old boy and his journey through the ruins of civilisation. After the death of his father in an accident, Riddley must become a man. But his inquiring mind and strange ways set him apart from his people, and when he discovers a relic of the old time, he sets in motion a chain of events that may well lead to the end of the world (again).
Written in a remarkable and rewarding language, RIDDLEY WALKER is a tour-de-force of imagination, history and psychology. Challenging and rewarding, this is a book that repays rereading again and again. There's a reason why the reviews were so good, and why so many authors cite it as an inspiration. It is, quite frankly, a masterpiece.
About the Author
Russell Hoban (1925 - 2011)
Russell Hoban's parents were immigrants from the Ukraine. His father was the advertising manager of a newspaper, as well as the director of a Philadelphia drama guild. Russell served in the US infantry during the Second World War. After the war he taught art in New York and Connecticut. His first novel was published in 1958 and he has now produced more than 50 books for adults and children. In 1969, he moved to London where he lived for over forty years until his death in December 2011.
Read an Excerpt
By Russell Hoban
Indiana University PressCopyright © 1998 Russell Hoban
All rights reserved.
On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, 'Your tern now my tern later.' The other spears gone in then and he wer dead and the steam coming up off him in the rain and we all yelt, 'Offert!'
The woal thing fealt jus that littl bit stupid. Us running that boar thru that las littl scrump of woodling with the forms all roun. Cows mooing sheap baaing cocks crowing and us foraging our las boar in a thin grey girzel on the day I come a man.
The Bernt Arse pack ben follering jus out of bow shot. When the shout gone up ther ears all prickt up. Ther leader he wer a big black and red spottit dog he come forit a littl like he ben going to make a speach or some thing til 1 or 2 bloaks uppit bow then he slumpt back agen and kep his farness follering us back. I took noatis of that leader tho. He wernt close a nuff for me to see his eyes but I thot his eye ben on me.
Coming back with the boar on a poal we come a long by the rivver it wer hevvyer woodit in there. Thru the girzel you cud see blue smoak hanging in be twean the black trees and the stumps pink and red where they ben loppt off. Aulder trees in there and chard coal berners in amongst them working ther harts. You cud see 1 of them in there with his red jumper what they all ways wear. Making chard coal for the iron reddy at Widders Dump. Every 1 made the Bad Luck go a way syn when we past him. Theres a story callit Hart of the Wood this is it:
Hart of the Wood
There is the Hart of the Wud in the Eusa Story that wer a stag every 1 knows that. There is the hart of the wood meaning the veryes deap of it thats a nother thing. There is the hart of the wood where they bern the chard coal thats a nother thing agen innit. Thats a nother thing. Berning the chard coal in the hart of the wood. Thats what they call the stack of wood you see. The stack of wood in the shape they do it for chard coal berning. Why do they call it the hart tho? Thats what this here story tels of.
Every 1 knows about Bad Time and what come after. Bad Time 1st and bad times after. Not many come thru it a live.
There come a man and a woman and a chyld out of a berning town they sheltert in the woodlings and foraging the bes they cud. Starveling wer what they wer doing. Dint have no weapons nor dint know how to make a snare nor nothing. Snow on the groun and a grey sky overing and the black trees rubbing ther branches in the wind. Crows calling 1 to a nother waiting for the 3 of them to drop. The man the woman and the chyld digging thru the snow they wer eating maws and dead leaves which they vomitit them up agen. Freazing col they wer nor dint have nothing to make a fire with to get warm. Starveling they wer and near come to the end of ther strenth.
The chyld said, 'O Im so col Im afeart Im going to dy. If only we had a littl fire to get warm at.'
The man dint have no way of making a fire he dint have no flint and steal nor nothing. Wood all roun them only there wernt no way he knowit of getting warm from it.
The 3 of them ready for Aunty they wer ready to total and done when there come thru the woodlings a clevver looking bloak and singing a littl song to his self:
My roadings ben so hungry
Ive groan so very thin
Ive got a littl cook pot
But nothing to put in
The man and the woman said to the clevver looking bloak, 'Do you know how to make fire?'
The clevver looking bloak said, 'O yes if I know any thing I know that right a nuff. Fires my middl name you myt say.'
The man and the woman said, 'Wud you make a littl fire then weare freazing of the col.'
The clevver looking bloak said, 'That for you and what for me?'
The man and the woman said, 'What do we have for whatfers?' They lookit 1 to the other and boath at the chyld.
The clevver looking bloak said, 'Iwl tel you what Iwl do Iwl share you my fire and my cook pot if youwl share me what to put in the pot.' He wer looking at the chyld.
The man and the woman thot: 2 out of 3 a live is bettern 3 dead. They said, 'Done.'
They kilt the chyld and drunk its blood and cut up the meat for cooking.
The clevver looking bloak said, 'Iwl show you how to make fire plus Iwl give you flint and steal and makings nor you dont have to share me nothing of the meat only the hart.'
Which he made the fire then and give them flint and steal and makings then he cookt the hart of the chyld and et it.
The clevver looking bloak said, 'Clevverness is gone now but littl by littl itwl come back. The iron wil come back agen 1 day and when the iron comes back they wil bern chard coal in the hart of the wood. And when they bern the chard coal ther stack wil be the shape of the hart of the chyld.' Off he gone then singing:
Seed of the littl
Seed of the wyld
Seed of the berning is
Hart of the chyld
The man and the woman then eating ther chyld it wer black nite all roun them they made ther fire bigger and bigger trying to keap the black from moving in on them. They fel a sleap by ther fire and the fire biggering on it et them up they bernt to death. They ben the old 1s or you myt say the auld 1s and be come chard coal. Thats why theywl tel you the aulder tree is bes for charring coal. Some times youwl hear of a aulder kincher he carrys off childer.
Out goes the candl
Out goes the lite
Out goes my story
And so Good Nite
Coming pas that aulder wood that girzly morning I fealt my stummick go col. Like the aulder kincher ben putting eye on me. No 1 never had nothing much to do with the chard coal berners only the dyers on the forms. 1ce a year the chard coal berners they come in to the forms for ther new red clof but in be twean they kep to the woodlings.
It wer Ful of the Moon that nite. The rain littlt off the sky cleart and the moon come out. We put the boars head on the poal up on top of the gate house. His tusks glimmert and you cud see a dryd up trickl from the corners of his eyes like 1 las tear from each. Old Lorna Elswint our tel woman up there getting the tel of the head. Littl kids down be low playing Fools Circel 9wys. Singing:
Horny Boy rung Widders Bel
Stoal his Fathers Ham as wel
Bernt his Arse and Forkt a Stoan
Done It Over broak a boan
Out of Good Shoar vackt his wayt
Scratcht Sams Itch for No. 8
Gone to senter nex to see
Cambry coming 3 times 3
Sharna pax and get the poal
When the Ardship of Cambry comes out of the hoal
Littl 2way Digman being the Ardship going roun the circel til it come chopping time. He bustit out after the 3rd chop. I use to be good at that I all ways rathert be the Ardship nor 1 of the circel I liket the busting out part.
I gone up to the platform I took Lorna a nice tender line of the boar. She wer sitting up there in her doss bag she ben smoaking she wer hy. I give her the meat and I said, 'Lorna wil you tel for me?'
She said, 'Riddley Riddley theres mor to life nor asking and telling. Whynt you be the Big Boar and Iwl be the Moon Sow.'
When the Moon Sow
When the Moon Sow comes to season
Ay! She wants a big 1
Wants the Big Boar hevvy on her
Ay yee! Big Boar what makes the groun shake
Wyld of the Woodling with the wite tusk
Ay yee! That wyld big 1 for the Moon Sow
She sung that in my ear then we freshent the Luck up there on top of the gate house. She wer the oldes in our crowd but her voyce wernt old. It made the res of her seam yung for a littl. It wer a col nite but we wer warm in that doss bag. Lissening to the dogs howling aftrwds and the wind wuthering and wearying and nattering in the oak leaves. Looking at the moon all col and wite and oansome. Lorna said to me, 'You know Riddley theres some thing in us it dont have no name.'
I said, 'What thing is that?'
She said, 'Its some kynd of thing it aint us but yet its in us. Its looking out thru our eye hoals. May be you dont take no noatis of it only some times. Say you get woak up suddn in the middl of the nite. 1 minim youre a sleap and the nex youre on your feet with a spear in your han. Wel it wernt you put that spear in your han it wer that other thing whats looking out thru your eye hoals. It aint you nor it dont even know your name. Its in us lorn and loan and sheltering how it can.'
I said, 'If its in every 1 of us theres moren 1 of it theres got to be a manying theres got to be a millying and mor.'
Lorna said, 'Wel there is a millying and mor.'
I said, 'Wel if theres such a manying of it whys it lorn then whys it loan?'
She said, 'Becaws the manying and the millying its all 1 thing it dont have nothing to gether with. You look at lykens on a stoan its all them tiny manyings of it and may be each part of it myt think its sepert only we can see its all 1 thing. Thats how it is with what we are its all 1 girt big thing and divvyt up amongst the many. Its all 1 girt thing bigger nor the worl and lorn and loan and oansome. Tremmering it is and feart. It puts us on like we put on our cloes. Some times we dont fit. Some times it cant fynd the arm hoals and it tears us a part. I dont think I took all that much noatis of it when I ben yung. Now Im old I noatis it mor. It dont realy like to put me on no mor. Every morning I can feal how its tiret of me and readying to throw me a way. Iwl tel you some thing Riddley and keap this in memberment. What ever it is we dont come naturel to it.'
I said, 'Lorna I dont know what you mean.'
She said, 'We aint a naturel part of it. We dint begin when it begun we dint beginwhere it begun. It ben here befor us nor I dont know what we are to it. May be weare jus only sickness and a feaver to it or boyls on the arse of it I dont know. Now lissen what Im going to tel you Riddley. It thinks us but it dont think like us. It dont think the way we think. Plus like I said befor its afeart.'
I said, 'Whats it afeart of?'
She said, 'Its afeart of being beartht.'
I said, 'How can that be? You said it ben here befor us. If it ben here all this time it musve ben beartht some time.'
She said, 'No it aint ben beartht it never does get beartht its all ways in the woom of things its all ways on the road.'
I said, 'All this what you jus ben telling be that a tel for me?'
She larft then she said, 'Riddley there aint nothing what aint a tel for you. The wind in the nite the dus on the road even the leases stoan you kick a long in front of you. Even the shadder of that leases stoan roaling on or stanning stil its all telling.'
Wel I cant say for cern no mor if I had any of them things in my mynd befor she tol me but ever since then it seams like they all ways ben there. Seams like I ben all ways thinking on that thing in us what thinks us but it dont think like us. Our woal life is a idear we dint think of nor we dont know what it is. What a way to live.
Thats why I finely come to writing all this down. Thinking on what the idear of us myt be. Thinking on that thing whats in us lorn and loan and oansome.CHAPTER 2
Walker is my name and I am the same. Riddley Walker. Walking my riddels where ever theyve took me and walking them now on this paper the same.
I dont think it makes no diffrents where you start the telling of a thing. You never know where it begun realy. No moren you know where you begun your oan self. You myt know the place and day and time of day when you ben beartht. You myt even know the place and day and time when you ben got. That dont mean nothing tho. You stil dont know where you begun.
Ive all ready wrote down about my naming day. It wernt no moren 3 days after that my dad got kilt in the digging at Widders Dump and I wer the loan of my name.
Dad and me we jus come off forage rota and back on jobbing that day. The hoal we ben working we ben on it 24 days. Which Ive never liket 12 its a judgd men number innit and this ben 2 of them. Wed pernear cleart out down to the chalk and hevvy mucking it ben. Nothing lef in the hoal only sortit thru muck and the smel of it and some girt big rottin iron thing some kynd of machine it wer you cudnt tel what it wer.
Til then any thing big we all ways bustit up in the hoal. Winch a girt big buster rock up on the crane and drop it down on what ever we wer busting. Finish up with han hammers then theywd drag the peaces to the reddy for the melting. This time tho the 1stman tol us word come down they dint want this thing bustit up we wer to get it out in tack. So we ben sturgling with the girt big thing nor the woal 20 of us cudnt shif it we cudnt even lif it jus that littl bit to get the sling unner neath of it. Up to our knees in muck we wer. Even with the drain wed dug the hoal wer mucky from the rains. And col. It wer only jus the 2nd mooning of the year and winter long in going.
We got hevvy poals and leavering it up jus a nuff to get a roap roun 1 end of it we had in mynd to shif that girt thing jus a littl with the crane so we cud get it parper slung then winch it out of there. It wer a 16 man treadl crane with 2 weals 4 men inside 4 men outside each weal. Userly I wuntve ben on the crane we all ways put our hevvyes on them weals. All we had tho wer 20 in all and we neadit some mussl on the leaver poals so I wer up there on the lef han weal with our hardes hevvy Fister Crunchman we wer the front 2 on that weal. Durster Potter and Jobber Easting behynt us. Straiter Empy our Big Man he wer down in the hoal with Dad and 2 others. Us on the out side of the weals looking tords the hoal and them on the in side looking a way from it.
We took up the slack then Straiter Empy give the syn and Chalker Marchman the Widders Dump 1stman chanting us on:
Gone ter morrer here to day
Pick it up and walk a way
Dont you know greaf and woe
Pick it up its time to go
Greaf and woe dont you know
Pick it up its time to go
Roun we gone with the roap winching in and the A frame taking the strain. Straiter Empy and Skyway Moaters leavering the girt thing wylst we wincht and Dad and Leaster Digman working the sling unner.
London Town is drownt this day
Hear me say walk a way
Sling your bundel tern and go
Parments in the mud you know
Greaf and woe dont you know
Pick it up its time to go
Weals creaking stoppers knocking 32 legs going. The roap gone iron hard and the girt big thing coming up out of the muck all black and rottin unner the grey sky. A crow going over and it had the right of us.
Dad and me looking up at the crow. I knowit that crow wer going to say some thing unner that grey sky. I knowit that crow wer going to tel.
The crow yelt, 'Fall! Fall! Fall!' I dont know if I wer falling befor he said that or not. The treadls wer wet and slippy but I had a good grip on the railing any how I thot I did. But there I wer with my feet gone out from unner me and nothing in my han. Falling I wer I knockt Durster Potter and Jobber Easting luce and they grabbit me they dint have nothing else to hol on to. Fister Crunchman cawt my arm only the railing he had holt of with his other han come a way in his han and off he gone with the res of us. I cud see in my mynd how funny it musve lookit I wer near larfing with it only I seen that weal going backards and I heard some thing tear luce it wer the stoppers 2 on each weal all 4 gone whanging off. Boath weals screachit and the 4 bloaks on the out side of the other weal shot off tords the hoal like stoans out of a sling. Wel it wer the load took charge and SPLOOSH! Down it come that girt big thing it made a jynt splosh and black muck going up slow and hy in to the air. That girt old black machine fel back in to the muck with my dad unner neath of it. It all happent so fas the crow wer stil in site he larft then. 'Haw! Haw! Haw!' and off he flappit.
We pickt our selfs up then all but 1 of us. The roap wer stil fas to the girt big thing. We all got on that roap then we dint use the weal winch only the A frame and the pullys. Chalker Marchman chanting us on the strait pul:
Heard it and the news of 10
Sling your bundel haul agen
Haul agen and hump your load
Every bodys on the road
We shiffit the thing and got Dad out from unner. Parbly it kilt him soons it come down on him he dint have no time to drown in the muck. He wer all smasht up you cudnt tel whose face it ben it mytve ben any bodys.
I begun to clym all over that thing then. That girt big black thing. I wer looking to see if it had a name stampt in or raisd up in the iron of it like them things do some times. It had a shel of old muck stoan hard unner the new muck tho nor I cudnt fynd no name.
Every 1 wer saying, 'What is it Riddley whatre you doing?'
I said, 'My dad ben kilt by some thing I dont even know the name of aint that a larf.' I begun larfing then I cudnt stop.
They let me have my larfing out but I wer stil wanting some thing some kynd of las word some kynd of onwith. If I wernt going to get it from Dad at leas I wantit some thing for onwith even if it wernt nothing only the name of that girt black thing what smasht him flat so you cudnt even tel whose face it ben. I said that to Fister Crunchman.
He said, 'You look at your dads face Riddley thats what Widders Dump done to him theres your onwith.'
Excerpted from Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Copyright © 1998 Russell Hoban. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
More a study of language and themes than an actual plot. Interesting rather than entertaining.
I can't praise Riddley Walker enough.It's utterly unique, like nothing you've ever read, and probably the most absorbing book I've ever read. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future hundreds of years in the future in and around Kent. The human race has devolved to an Iron Age style existence due to nuclear war in the 20th century. It tells the story of the eponymous Riddley, as he tries to piece together what happened around Doomsday, and explores efforts to rekindle an ancient weapon, the '1 Big 1'.It has an incredible style, and is incredibly rich thematically and linguistically. It's written in a degenerate, devolved English a bit like Finnegan's Wake. It lends itself to reading out loud (or in silence, in that phonetic 'voice in your head' manner.)So rich, haunting and beautiful that I would recommend it to any intelligent adult. Not a casual, light read - but a glorious read if you are up for the challenge.
This is undoubtedly a really good book. It really hurt my brain to read the broken, childlike, future version of english though. In the beginning I had to re-read almost every paragraph just to understand what was going on. All in all a challenge, but some of the scenes are fantasticly disturbing and will be with me forever.
Six out of ten.
Set in a remote post-nuclear England, where humanity has regressed to a stone-age like primivity. The most striking thing about the book is the use of language which was especially created to show what may happen to speech where much education has been forgotten.
Quite hard to read (may need a couple of attempts) with the bizarre language but the use of semi-familiar imagery allows you to put together an idea of what happened in the world to lead to this end. The story of the book itself is less clear.
Similar to Jealousy - not a long book, but a massively challenging one to read, due to its Chaucerian post-apocalyptic language. Again, like Jealousy, persevering is worthwhile as, unlike in, say, The Road, we are fed plenty of treats and hints about what has happened (and arguably could happen) to the world, which is fabulously drawn. However, the actual plot and characters aren't particularly interesting or exciting, and Hoban's style makes it a real slog.
I found the book hard to get into because of the language which effectively stopped me empathising with the characters for the first ten or so chapters. but it was ultimately rewarding. I did allow myself a wry smile when Lynn abandoned the book at chapter nine because of a failure to emotionaly enagage but for the peer pressure I would have done likewise. Never have I come so close so many times to throwing a book against the wall.
Our story is set in a time where we find people living in iron age style communities. After thousands of years of human development following a catastrophic nuclear war which has effectively sent the race back in time, this development has progressed from the darkest days of nuclear darkness, a time of foraging, through to hunter gatherers. Now the history of this race is mangled, handed down through oral histories which flex according to the morality of the time. The people in Holborn's book still bear remembrance to the mistakes made in the past, wary of moving forward, yet in awe of the people of the past with their boats in the air. It is impossible to give a review for this book without discussing the language in which it is written. Riddley Walker forces you to slow down by being written in a form of English conceived of as being a future version, one developed and changed through years of oral history tradition. Written records are sparse and held by the few, leaving the community in the dark, both in terms of the ability to wield the technology and in the literal sense, nights filled with the fear of life outside the encampments, where people only travel in groups.In this circumstance we find Riddley Walker, who tells us his tale, writing it down from memory as best he can, linking in the mythology of his people which gives us glimmers of information about what happened long ago. His path is a strange one, one that he follows with almost as little information as the reader has. We feel his fear and his uncertainty, which is heightened once again by having to negotiate our way around a strange language of which we have little comprehension. It is important not to rush this book, take your time and allow yourself to slowly understand the language as you slowly understand the plot and the motives of the various people involved.Not being your average dystopian tale, this book is about community and tells us the importance of myth not just in terms of explaining the past, but the potential present and future also.
It's all about connexions isn't it? Riddley's assigned role in life was to be a connexion man, watching the shows putt on by the travelling Eusa men and making the connexions. Interpreting the allegorical stories coming from the government at the Ram and explaining them to the people of How Fents in his reveals.But I don't think he would ever have been content with that. For as Goodparley says about Riddley 'hes a mover hes a happener'. Throughout the book, he roams through Inland, making connexions wherever he finds something blipful. And Goodparley's connexion of Riddley's life so far with the Fools Circel 9wys rhyme, just confirms to him that there are connexions in everything, from the discovery of the old, blackened Punch puppet which starts him on his wanderings and his meetings with Grantser and Lissener to his visions of talking dogs walking on their hind-legs. And all roads lead Riddley to the senter, to Cambry, where in the crypt of the old cathedral, he finds 'the stoan in the hart of the wud' and the 'wud in the hart of the stoan' in the tree-like stone pillars and vaulting, and comes face to face with the age-old archetypes of the mother goddess and the green man.It takes a lot of thought to follow the language through, with so many of the corrupted words having more to them than meets the eye, such as yesterday becoming westerday, the day that vanished into the west with the sunset. And when you finally make a breakthrough, such as realising that the secret of the 1 Littl 1 that the chard coal berners had preserved down the years, was actually the recipe for gunpowder, it's quite a thrill.
Immerses you in a believable, very human world. Hoban adeptly invents a future English - Riddley Walker's words have a rough poetry to them.
Any paperback whose cover is made up of the rapturous praise given by critics to the hardback has to be very good to live up to the hype. Riddley Walker is very good.The author, Russell Hoban, was known mainly for his fiction for children before Riddley Walker emerged, and it¿s not surprising that his protagonist is twelve years old. He lives in a society which has been reduced to a hunter-gatherer existence by nuclear holocaust, and his story is bound up with the rediscovery of some of the pre-holocaust society¿s technology.Nothing new there, right? A standard SF scenario, and the plot and ideas are not in themselves remarkable. What lifts this book far above the ordinary is the way in which it is told. Riddley Walker and his fellow characters speak a broken-down, mutated form of English, and as young Riddley is the narrator, the entire book is told in such language. An example:Follering the black leader we gone down some steps in to a tunnel and you cud hear the sea stronger. We come out in to the open nite and the littl girzel on our faces agen the sea wer beating loud on the stoans it wer hy water right a nuff. Where we come out then it wer some where a long the snug I think it wer jus inshoar of the lite house stump.Once I¿d got used enough to this language to translate `reqwyrt¿ into `required¿, I found that it made sense: a broken-down language in a broken-down world. Just as the language contains the traces of past glories - `flaming nebyul eye¿, for example - so Riddley and his friends and enemies live in a world haunted by relics of the past, often misunderstood. Punch and Judy are in there somewhere, and the Ardship of Cambry, and E qwations, and the early Christian martyr St. Eustace. Technology and religion both have a part to play, but this is not a case of religion repressing science and technology - the relationship is more complex than that.If you find Riddley Walker difficult at first, as I did, hang in there until you get the hang of the dialect. Your effort will be well rewarded.(Originally reviewed for Warp magazine, New Zealand)
The most monumentally impressive post-apocalyptic dystopia since "A Canticle for Leibowitz". If nuclear meltdown really took us "back to the Stone Age", humankind would probably never get out of it again, but simply peter out in petty warfare and cultural stagnation while feral dogs evolve into the next sapient species. Hoban's tale is set in an isolated fragment of Kent surrounded by badlands, and centres on an attempt to regain the technology of the distant past (and specifically the manufacture of gunpowder), which in more than two millennia has become impenetrably shrouded in garbled myths and esoteric jargon. Its semi-literate first-person narrator uses a form of eroded English which adds immeasurably to the feel of the book (though given the length of time supposedly elapsed, English would actually have become unrecognizable) and surpasses the linguistic efforts of George Orwell and Malcolm Bradbury. That the "Ardship of Cambry", ritually sacrificed like the ancient kings, might survive as the the last remnant of the Anglo-American technocratic elite, and that Punch and Judy might become the liturgy of the future seem superb strokes of satiric imagination. "Dyou mean to tel me them befor us by the time they done 1997 years they had boats in the air and all them things and here we are weve done 2347 years and mor and stil slogging in the mud?"Read, admire, and confront the possibility of despair.MB 21-iv-2010
A fantastic book written entirely in a degraded english. The book is set in the future after a nuclear winter which decimated civilisation. People exist as fairly isolated communities although there are still some local "authorities" whom it is wiser not to cross. Science and technology have been widely lost but not forgotten and are held in awe, by those who can remember or find the "secrets". The language takes a while to get to grips with, best read without distractions in a few sittings.
A truly extraordinary and brilliant book. It is not easy to read because of the language it is written in, (it helps to read it aloud). It is set somewhere in southern England far into the future, when modern life as we would recognise it has vanished after what was presumably some nuclear apocalypse. The narrator is Riddley Walker, a twelve year old boy describes life in what is a peasant society living a medeiaval existance. All previous knowledge has been lost, even the events which changed the world have become a faint folk memory. The book is haunting, unsettling and terrible, but there are instances of humour and the natural spirit of mankind bubbling up all the time. Re-reading the book recently I was struck by the fact that it was written in 1980 - many years before text-messaging (SMS) had been invented, yet much of the language Russel Hoban has invented is incredibly like text speak. I think that might make the book more accessible to young people of this generation who are used to this type of language.
I came across Russell Hoban completely randomly, when I bought a copy of The Mouse and His Child as a gift for my son. We both loved it, and eventually I tried to read Hoban's other books. I got The Medusa Frequency from the library and really didn't like it at all, so I was a bit worried. Fortunately Riddley Walker is just as good as all the reviews I'd read. Set in a post-apocalyptic England, the book is written by Riddley himself, in an English far enough removed from ours to slow my reading speed down to a normal pace. He recounts his adventures over a few days after his naming day, when he becomes officially a man at age 12. Stories from an older England (the stag in the wood), 11th century saints, and the splitting of the atom have all been passed down orally and are mixed up in Riddley's mythology. Highly recommended.
An all-time favorite. Is humanity doomed to recreate its awfullest mistakes? Hoban asks -- but does not answer -- this question, as he spins a tale of self-discovery, of mystery, and of invented myth, with brilliant use of language. Riddley is a Canterbury pilgrim in a somewhat-distant future that deceptively resembles our Medieval past, and his journey is both ominous and hopeful, as he unravels his past, and with it, our future. Along the way Hoban explores how a society measures the moral cost of technology.(John)
Stunning. Unreal. An education in itself. Stick with the language and you'll begin to understand it.
The entire book is written in future slang which requires you to interpret every word. This makes it impossible to enjoy