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.
The difference is that in Miller's novel humans were not essentially changed by disaster, whereas here, as we learn gradually, they have been, and that their beliefs in 'telling' and 'trantses' have some basis in reality. Some of the populace, including Riddley and a captive race of 'Eusa' people exhibit the ability to read each others' thoughts and also commune with packs of wild dogs who have themselves evolved and are an important part of the Folklore of the indigenous population.
It's a unique book, and one I suspect which needs to be read again. Refreshingly, it manages to avoid all the clichés of SF of its time and succeeds in creating a timeless and fabulous - though familiar - world peopled with grotesque yet believable characters.
It could so easily have become a morality tale, set as it is in the continuing aftermath of a Nuclear disaster, but its main message for me was to point out how wide might be the divide between the text of our own religious documentation and the historical truth, which can only be a good thing.