Russell Hoban Homework Clip

Once again, the hat has sided with democracy and the most popular book on our thread has emerged as this month’s choice. Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker received many nominations on last week’s thread. And some effusive praise. Various posters called it “astonishing”, “visceral”, “breathless”, “unforgettable” and “a masterpiece”.

Reading group: which post-apocalyptic novel should we read this month?

YorkshireCat said “it does the fractured/mutated English thing more effectively and poetically than any other novel I’ve read. It does the misinterpreted surviving text as culture myth more cleverly and more deeply than anybody else has.” RowenaM called it “an amazing novel”, and added: “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it.” “That book blew my adolescent head off,” said austint, while Megalomax did find someone who was perhaps more equivocal: “I was gripped from the first paragraph. One of my friends struggled through it to the end, moaning continually … and then immediately started reading it all over again.”

Finally, as is becoming almost traditional, we have to make space for an encomium from palfreyman:

It is a splendidly realised world that genuinely allows the full richness of it to be shown – it is not just about the mechanics of survival like some sort of hard sci-fi novel (although it covers those mechanics well). It has a splendid twist in the tail (no spoilers until at least week two of course). It has a protagonist who recognises his ordinariness and yet tries to live up to the responsibility placed on him, growing up through the course of the book – effectively from one of the boys in Golding’s Lord of the Flies until, by the end (a mere half a season or so later), he is effectively the naval officer who [arrives] to rescue the boys …

After such praise, I have to admit it was a considerable relief when Riddley Walker came out of the hat. I’m also glad that I will no longer be getting those looks of confusion and sympathy that come my way when I explain to people that I’ve yet to read it. I hope you’ll join me as we read through the novel over the coming month. As further inducement, here is the weird and wonderful first sentence:

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.

What to make of that? We’ll find out over the next few weeks …

Finally, here’s another inducement to read it: Thanks to Bloomsbury we have five copies of the novel to give to the first five people in the UK to post “I want a copy please”, along with a nice, constructive suggestion in the comments section below. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first to comment, email Phill Langhorne with your address ( – we can’t track you down ourselves. Be nice to him, too.

Prose by albin hoban attentive.

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