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Riddley Walker

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  7,215 ratings  ·  835 reviews
In the far distant future, the country laid waste by nuclear holocaust, twelve-year-old Riddley Walker tells his story in a language as fractured as the world in which he lives. As Riddley steps outside the confines of his small world, he finds himself caught up in intrigue and a frantic quest for power, desperately trying to make sense of things.
Paperback, Expanded, 256 pages
Published September 22nd 1998 by Indiana University Press (first published 1980)
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Nancy In case you're still trying... the answer is yes. Try reading it aloud. Hearing it makes the meaning clearer.
In case you're still trying... the answer is yes. Try reading it aloud. Hearing it makes the meaning clearer.

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If ye lyke readen, if ye lyke a tchalinge, if yure tirt of all them comin of age books with predicable hinerd nerators, if yed as lief not be man pulated by the pubshing peoples as to what ye should be readin nex, then try this here buk. Ye mi not be able to buy it in shop as it was pubshed way back time back but meby your libryd hev it. An if ye do try it, yell relise dat peoples needs storys an if peoples lose all de storys, dey jus up an mek more storys, don dey?
_Riddley Walker_ is the book that put Russell Hoban on the map (inasmuch as he is on the map…he is criminally neglected as an author) and will likely be the one work for which he will be remembered (sadly he passed away in late 2011). So far I have read three other Hoban novels and while I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them I must admit that I think this one is his very best.

Many, upon reading the first page, will dismiss the book as “gimmicky” (I am growing to hate that term as applied to boo
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to B0nnie by: Terry

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 th
Clevverness Counts Agenst

Nowhere in the Book of Genesis is there mention of the creation of the numbers. This is a serious matter. If God didn’t create the numbers, they’ve existed as long as he has. Maybe they are God. Some people say that it was human beings who created the numbers. And that would make human beings God... well sort of.

It’s numbers that makes human beings so clever, you see. “Counting clevverness is what it wer. When they had all them things and marvelsome they cudnt sleap real
Set in a primitive future society and told in the imagined dialect of the time, involving malapropistic phoneticisms and accidental puns (and clearly an inspiration for one story of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas:, so not something you can read quickly - at least, not till you get used to it.

This is the story of a would-be story-teller, trying to make sense of the present in the light of (minimal) understanding of the past, tied in with versions of 20th century
Riddley Walker has clear precedents, such as the postmodern invented language of A Clockwork Orange and the post-apocalyptic search for lost knowledge that drives A Canticle for Leibowitz, but Hoban's novel remains a singularly original work. The language is the most striking thing about it, of course. A pidgin mishmash of broken, phonetically-spelled English and familiar words deconstructed and reconstructed, Riddley's language at first seems like an attention-grabbing gimmick, but it is anythi ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I am not necessarily adverse to an author expanding his creative vision into an exploration of communicative styles. Anthony Burgess’ brilliant A Clockwork Orange comes to mind. Frank Herbert’s Dune also developed a vocabulary to further develop his vision.

Stream of consciousness tales, though, tend to lose me. Norman Mailer’s Why Are We in Vietnam? was a hot mess of syntax that left me gasping on the rails of my deep-sea literary vessel, wanting the swells to die down some. William Burroughs N
Vit Babenco
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Riddley Walker isn’t just the strangest post-apocalyptic dystopia I‘ve ever read, it is also a fine linguistic puzzle…
A new post-nuclear era needs new myths and new myths are told in a modern iron age newfangled language…
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
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i did a lot of things wrong and painful with and to my daughter. seriously. that's not guilt, that's the reality. we are fine and ever finer.

and then there are the things i did inadvertently that made some kind of wild & tender balance - that built in a tool kit with which to cope with me and everything else that was ever gonna traumatize her for no good reason.

this book is one of those things. even kids you are fucking with love you and pay attention to what moves you. maybe they pay attention
Manuel Antão
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1999
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Sum Tyms Bytin Sum Tyms Bit: "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban

"People ask me how I got from St. Eustace to Riddley Walker and all I can say is that it's a matter of being friends with your head. Things come into the mind and wait to hook up with other things; there are places that can heighten your responses, and if you let your head go its own way it might, with luck, make interesting connections."

in "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban

Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an already-famous book, and the internet is full of reviews and dedicated websites, so there really is little more I feel needs to be said.

However, I think it is useful for any potential reader of this to get a sense of how easy it to read, how one grows rapidly used to the phonetics. Also, for me, much of the brilliance of this novel can be found in the construction of individual paragraphs, and in the genius of it on the micro level, rather than in any discussion of the Big Themes.

Riddley Walker is a clever little book: in the sheer level detail paid to the dialect - in its consistency, and the use of real-world methods of linguistic mutation (such as misdivision) - along with the novel's depiction of a post-apocalyptic society with a complex mythology that is unique and compelling.

What a pity that the experience of trudging though all the dialect - of painstakingly labouring to simply read and understand the words on the page - is so distinctly disagreeable that it thre
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Post-apocalypse fans
Shelves: sf-fantasy
There’s a point in Riddley Walker where Riddley writes, “You try to word the big things and they tern ther backs on you,” which is a bit how I feel trying to write about this book. There are so many “big things” going on in it that it’s difficult to decide what to raise in a short review. But I will try to articulate a few of the “big things” that struck me on this – my first – reading.

Riddley Walker shares a theme with Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. In that novel, our world too is de
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves language and life-changing novels
Shelves: favorites
Whenever I feel that the field of writing has become a bit stale, a bit repetitive, or a bit clichè. Whenever originality seems beyond the horizon, or when I start to suspect that writers care more about writing as a job rather than as an art... I Pick up my well-worn copy of Riddley Walker. Merely the act of scanning some of the pages in this book, infuses me with a new sense of vigor. A new sense of hope. Hope that it is possible for someone to write something so masterful and beautiful that ...more
Nov 22, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like post-apocalyptic worlds and a linguistic challenge
Whoa. I am not really sure what just happened here. This is the strangest book I have ever read.

I was drawn to read this when I learned that Riddley Walker had been an inspiration and influence for the Sloosha’s Crossin' chapter of Cloud Atlas, which was my favorite part of that wonderful book. The language is similarly a specially developed dialect, but where David Mitchell’s invented language is a little difficult until you find the rhythm, it became easier and, on my second reading of CA, I
"Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state--and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture--rebel, change agent, and artist."

Some may find the invented language that comprises this novel difficult, but I liked it. Having studied just enough linguistics to be dangerous, it has often been one of my pet peeves that fictional people
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
God, this book is fantastic.

Ever wonder what it must have been like to live in a world where all that you have is all that's around you, where the earth could hold any kind of horror at all and you'd believe it because all you know is what you see and what you whisper about at night around the fire? That's the kind of world Hoban's created for Riddley and his people. It's an utterly believable (mentally, that is-- there are some sciencefictiony things about the plot that are obviously not natura
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
This is already a sentimental favourite for me. I've only read it once, but I'm already imagining reading it again and again, adding to the notes in the margins as I go..... sigh. Book love.

The book's premise is that an apocalyptic nuclear event (taking place roughly now) has resulted in Britain being flooded, creating an island out of what is now County Kent, in Britain. The story takes place a couple of thousand years in the future, when little knowledge of mankind's history has survived, and
Stasa Fritz
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this for my current MFA work, so my review is more from a writer's craft perspective. Below is a cut and past from a response paper. The Japanese Kanji that I put in to illustrate some things will be (is) lost.

Despite the author’s protestations to the contrary, this is classic—nearly archetypical—quality science fiction. I have been reading science fiction and fantasy for approximately 42 years, at one time probably consuming thirty to forty books per year (albeit not all were quality!).
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and haunting book. Thousands of years after a nuclear disaster of some kind has has destroyed civilization, we see them trying to make sense of our world, through legends that have been passed down and through the material remains of our world (broken machines, roads, etc.). Since we are so obscure to them, they are equally obscure to us, and a lot of what happens and what their world is like is incomprehensible. Creating this mutual incomprehension is a tour de force on Hoban's part ...more
Apr 30, 2009 is currently reading it
Shelves: science-fiction
This has been recalled to the library so I'll have to finish it another time. It is very interesting but difficult to read because it is written in a made-up dialect of debased future English spoken by survivors of a nuclear disaster. Quite a change from the previous works I had read by this author -- my childhood favorites, picture books about a little badger named Frances and her family. ...more
This book is unlike anything I have read before or since - a post-apocalyptic vision of a primitive culture with half lost folk memories of earlier civilisation, written in a consistent imaginary language strongly rooted in modern English but evolved and degraded. The plot follows the eponymous Walker on a trek around Kent, exploring the nature of myth and religion. Unforgettable.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: codebreakers and fans of dystopian lit
This book is truly unlike any other I have read. It is really HARD to read, for one thing -- it's set in post-apocalyptic "Inland" (England) and is told in a language invented by Hoban. However, don't let this discourage you. I was dumb enough not to notice the glossary at the back that would have saved me a lot of time and confusion. Anyway, all kinds of mystical things happen to young Riddley as he goes on a quest to find (I forget what -- the owner of a severed hand found in a Punch puppet? t ...more
Nov 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenne by: Brian Wickhem
Shelves: sf, apocalypterature
Whoa. This is the kind of book where I wished I had a literature class to discuss it with. Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 251, anyone? I would so take that class.
It's so very cleverly written, with all its own nursery rhymes and legends working to piece together the story of an apocalypse...but I wished I'd been more invested in the characters. I guess I wanted some kind of reward for all the heavy lifting. It's not a friendly book, let's put it that way.

But I'm glad I read it. The writing's not just
Daniel Polansky
In a distant post-apocalypse, a savage child from a tribe of hunter gatherers struggles to find redemption for the human race. Absolutely brilliant. Although presented in a peculiar, alien vernacular, with words written phonetically and concepts from the present reimagined in a dreamlike but entirely plausible fashion, it still manages a profound depth of insight. Quite simply one of the best works of speculative fiction ever written—I can't fathom why it isn't more universally regarded, except ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Riddley Walker” is a post-apocalyptic tale of mankind’s desperate struggle to destroy the world all over again. The story is told by man-boy Riddley Walker. Riddley’s clan makes a living scavanging iron from the “time back way back” for a more powerful clan. When the story begins, Riddley has just witnessed his father getting crushed to death by an enormous chunk of iron his clan has been excavating. Riddley’s English is perfectly appropriate for his time, when all that remains of the “Puter Le ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you love language, word play, etymology, puzzles, etc., you'll live in this book while you're reading it, and maybe even while you're not.

The language of Riddley Walker is an invented one, but it rings true. In an illiterate, dirty, mostly agrarian post-apocalyptic society, written language (for the few who can even write) represents words the way they sound. Hence, someone who is enthusiastic is 'as cited.' The local bigwig is known as the 'Pry Mincer.'

Meanings have also changed, with words
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf, post-apocalyptic
A very odd book, in almost every way. Surprisingly, I didn't find the fractured English (changed grammar and spellings intended to demonstrate the way language might change over a thousand or more years) to be a serious impediment. If anything, it forced me to actually pay more attention to the whole story, and I will remember this book long after I've forgotten many an easier read.

Still, it's just a gimmick. When you get right down to it, nothing much happens. We have a world destroyed by nucl
Love of Hopeless Causes
Wins top slot on my list of books that would be better as an audiobook. Alas, no such beast. The story gets lost in Hoban's choice of phonetic writing--if only it were just that. He chooses to misspell things even when his choice wouldn't be the logical outcome of a less literate age.
It violates the notion of: just give us the spirit of the thing.

He made it difficult on purpose. That makes the book self-indulgent and gimmicky. The content is grim and depressing, but also interesting. An emotion
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
read this when it first came out and I was a young man. Bleedin' brilliant. The main thing here is the language, Hoban did an amazing job at creating a future 'spoiled' English where fragments of the earlier 20th Century culture & way of life surface. The plot is strong too, unusually for a Hoban book (I went on to read many others of his, although none have reached the heights of Riddley Walker.) If you haven't read it you're in for a treat. ...more
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Russell Conwell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works span many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, and children's books. He lived in London, England, from 1969 until his death. (Wikipedia) ...more

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“The worl is ful of things waiting to happen. Thats the meat and boan of it right there. You myt think you can jus go here and there doing nothing. Happening nothing. You cant tho you bleeding cant. You put your self on any road and some thing wil show its self to you. Wanting to happen. Waiting to happen. You myt say, 'I dont want to know.' But 1ce its showt its self to you you wil know wont you. You cant not know no mor. There it is and working in you. You myt try to put a farness be twean you and it only you cant becaws youre carrying it inside you. The waiting to happen aint out there where it ben no more its inside you.” 21 likes
“O yes youwl want to think on that you dont want your mouf to walk you where your feet dont want to go.” 13 likes
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