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Riddley Walker (Picador Books) Paperback – 8 Jan 1982

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (8 Jan 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330266454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330266451
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'The book has an evangelical effect on people ... Riddley is an absorbing character, Hoban's language has a fantastic, rough poetry and the post-apocalyptic world is chilling and convincing' (Rachel Seiffert, Observer)

'Russell Hoban has brought off an extraordinary feat of imagination and of style ... funny, terrible, haunting and unsettling, this book is a masterpiece' (Observer) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The stunning and unique novel which is hailed as a modern classic --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Rod Williams on 17 Mar 2004
Format: Paperback
This came to me highly recommended; praised by mainstream literary critics when it was first published and listed in David Pringle's 'Science Fiction: The Hundred Best Novels' (which, if you can get hold of a copy, is a superb overview of one hundred SF novels published between 1949 and 1984).
Riddley writes his own story - in his own language - of his life on the outskirts of Canterbury, far in the future and long after nuclear devastation.
It's a difficult, though rewarding read. Riddley writes in a variation of English which, though degenerate, has its own dark poetic beauty.
Hoban manages to effortlessly create myths based upon our contemporary lives, using words, place names and phrases which have become corrupted into synonyms such as 'gallack seas' (galaxies) and 'deacon termination' (decontamination).
A pagan religion and philosophy has evolved - centred around ceremonies of performance and revelation - which combines beliefs involving the Moon and animal spirits and is entwined with the conflated legends of 'St Eustace' and 'Eusa' (which we presume was the USA) who split the 'littl shynin man - the Addom' in two and brought darkness to the world.
As in Anthony Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange' with which this book is inevitably compared, the dialect is at first daunting, but one easily settles into the style and realises that this novel could not have been written any other way. It's rich and poetic and full of hidden references to the past which have to be teased out of the text.
One could have forgiven Hoban for writing a tale demonstrating (as Walter M Miller did so ably in his similar novel, 'A Canticle for Leibowitz') that humans never learn, and that we are doomed as a species to repeat our mistakes.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chris Widgery VINE VOICE on 22 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is extraordinary. And hugely influential. You know the very middle bit of Cloud Atlas? A direct line to Riddley Walker. And Will Self's The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future. And lots of others (you will recognise similarities to The Road)

Hoban's tale is set in the far future, where humans scratch out an existence, thousands of years after a nuclear apocalypse has destroyed humanity and civilisation. Knowledge has been lost, history has ended and what remains is a vague memory of better times. Of boats in the sky and pictures on the wind and great shining wheels.

Riddley lives in Kent and the book is his tale. Written in his hand, and in his language. And it's here where things get really difficult. Because the English Riddley talks, and writes in, is not the English that you and I know. It is an English that has been nearly forgotten and then remembered, but at the same time being re-evolved. The spelling is not what you know, and you have to work hard, often really hard, to understand it. You will, inevitably, have to read parts out to understand what they mean.

This put me off for about six months after someone bought me this book. But don't let it put you off. Because what the language does is drag you completely and utterly into Riddley's world. it slows you down and you read at the speed he thinks. Which is a lot slower than you or I. So it is a slow, hard read. But an indescribably rewarding one.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Tim Stevens on 4 Aug 2004
Format: Paperback
It is indeed rare for a book to evoke such passion in its readers, and it is those books so utterly idiosyncratic and unique that achieve this feat. Like one of the other reviewers I am now on my fourth copy, having given away all previous copies to friends, sometimes with a little too much fervour perhaps. Riddley Walker has a habit of turning its readers into evangelists for the cause, a statement that would no doubt horrify Russell Hoban, a modest voice throughout. The principal voice is that of Riddley Walker, who guides us selflessly through post-apocalyptic Kent and its strange denizens, inhabitants of a world much like ours. Human foibles abound in a land of strange machinery, arcane ritual, desperate survival and the archaeology of the future. It would almost be best if this book had never been written for, like Homer and Beowulf, this is a verbal narrative, an epic tale of humanity's failure and success, an oral history. This book is designed to be listened to, consumed through aural means, so that your eyes can remain transfixed by the storyteller's lucid dreaming. One can imagine the oral Riddley Walker getting the Seamus Heaney treatment, as it speaks to us from the past and the future with the voice of a poet, whilst its suggestions and its lessons are all too applicable to our present. And while you're at it, read all Hoban's other novels too...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By acordery@impltd.co.uk on 4 Nov 1999
Format: Paperback
Choosing my favourite Russell Hoban book would be a very difficult task. The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Kleinzeit, Pilgerman and The Medusa Frequency are all exceptional titles. However, I have to admire Ridley Walker for the piece of art it is.
I read Ridley Walker twice and have been meaning to re-read it ever since. It's that sort of book! It deserves a cult status such as Clockwork Orange. If only Kubrik had brought Hoban's book to life it would have sold millions...
Set in post-holocaust Kent, although not a run of the mill science-fantasy/fiction book, Hoban's futuristic world is a subjective impression of a new culture that is mysteriously influenced by the world we know today. For example, Punch and Judy are held in reverence and their puppet theatre becomes the temple. Without doubt, Ridley Walker is a different read. It's no surprise that it apparently took Russell Hoban 5 years to write this masterpiece; the whole book is in the vernacular with not just the odd word phoeneticised and whole sentences are turned around, dismembered and extended.
This is one of the few books I would recommend to everybody.
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