Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker,
Setting and Background:
The Main Character
- Riddley Walker takes place in the year 2347.
- It is set “amongst the ruins of society some centuries after nuclear
- Nothing survived from before the “Bad Time”, including records and
- Society is attempting to “make sense of ruined machines, and
buildings whose function are forgotten along with the technology
that created them” .
- The mystery of what caused the “Bad Time” is yet to be discovered,
but the society is trying to discover the two big secrets from before the “Bad Time”:
Society is fixed on discovering the “two lost secrets from before Bad Time”.
- The-One-Big-One (= Nuclear Fission)
- The-One-Little-One (= Gunpowder)
After the death of his father, twelve-year-old Riddley Walker is given his father’s role of “connexion man”. As “connexion
man,” he is responsible for giving prophetic interpretations for traveling puppet shows. These shows not only serve as a religious ceremony, but also as a
government propaganda tool. After some unexpected turn of events Riddley is soon “running with the wild dogs who have inexplicably befriended him, heading down darkened roads into an explosive mixture of danger, intrigue, and forbidden
knowledge” . During this time of mystery, Walker is attempting to rediscover the lost secrets of the past.
- John W. Cambell Memorial Award, 1982.
- Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award, 1983.
For more information:
- Many critics claim this book is one of the best science fiction
novels of all times (it was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle
Award in 1981).
- Hoban created a dialect “spoken by the population of Inland
(England in a dark future)” for this book . Reviewer Eli Bishop stated that
“the spelling is phonetic, but in a peculiarly English way; many
words are broken up into phrases with different meanings,
and the puns are both beautiful and functional.
This is not at all a gimmick; I don't think the
book could have been written without it. But it's
easy to miss the point” .
- Reviewer Joel Isaacson states that “This book demands a lot from the reader. It
makes you work. Without a high level of competence in English and
some background in European civilization, you do not stand a chance
of understanding it. Even if you come to it well equipped, you may find
yourself wondering what is going on until about page forty” .
 Dave Awl's Riddley Walker page contains a detailed plot summary, reviews, quotations, and
links to other Riddley Walker sites. (www.ocelotfactory.com/hoban/riddley.html)
 Eli Bishop's review of the 1998
 Joel Isaacson, "Humanity
Three Thousand Years After the Bomb," The Kathmandu Post Review of Books
Vol. 3, No. 14 (November, 1998).
Prepared by: MA, Fall 2002