Riddley Walker

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Riddley Walker
Riddley Walker cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorRussell Hoban
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreScience fiction, Dystopian fiction
PublisherJonathan Cape
Publication date
16 October 1980
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
LC ClassPS3558.O336

Riddley Walker (1980) is a science fiction novel by Russell Hoban, first published in 1980. It won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel in 1982, as well as an Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award in 1983. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1981.

It is Hoban's best-known adult novel and a drastic departure from his other work, although he continued to explore some of the same themes in other settings.


Hoban began work on the novel in 1974, inspired by the medieval wall painting of the legend of Saint Eustace at Canterbury Cathedral.

The novel is written in a stylistic, imaginary dialect based on and inspired by the dialect of Kent.[1]


Roughly two thousand years after a nuclear war has devastated civilization, Riddley, the young narrator, stumbles upon efforts to recreate a weapon of the ancient world.

The novel's characters live a harsh life in a small area which is presently the English county of Kent, and know little of the world outside of "Inland" (England). Their level of civilization is similar to England's prehistoric Iron Age, although they do not produce their own iron but salvage it from ancient machinery. Church and state have combined into one secretive institution, whose mythology, based on misinterpreted stories of the war and an old Catholic saint (Eustace), is enacted in puppet shows.

Critical reception[edit]

From the cover of the Folio Society edition by Quentin Blake

Peter Ruppert noted that Hoban's novel draws on "such well-known dystopias as A Clockwork Orange, Lord of the Flies, and A Canticle for Leibowitz", and "what is unique in Hoban's haunting vision of the future is his language" which is described as being similar to the Nadsat slang spoken in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.[2] The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated that, "The force and beauty and awfulness of Hoban's creation is shattering," and praised the author's use of a crude "Chaucerian English".[3] John Mullan of The Guardian also praised Hoban's decision to narrate the novel in a devolved form of English: "The struggle with Riddley's language is what makes reading the book so absorbing, so completely possessing."[1]

Library Journal wrote that the book holds "a unique and beloved place among the few after-Armageddon classics".[4] It was included in David Pringle's book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels. In 1994, American literary critic Harold Bloom included Riddley Walker in his list of works comprising the Western Canon.[5]


  • ————— (1982). Riddley Walker. New York: Washington Square Press. ISBN 9780671526948.
  • ————— (1998). Riddley Walker. Expanded Edition. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253212344. Afterword, Notes and Glossary by Russell Hoban.
  • ————— (2010). Riddley Walker. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press. (Limited edition.)
  • ————— (2021). Riddley Walker. Modern Classics. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780241485750.


Film and theater[edit]

  • Robert C. Cumbow wrote in Slant Magazine that the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome borrowed "whole ideas, themes and characterizations" from the novel.[6]
  • Hoban's own theatrical adaptation premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in February 1986. It was directed by Braham Murray and starred David Threlfall. Its U.S. premiere was at the Chocolate Bayou Theatre, in April 1987, directed by Greg Roach.[7]
  • In 1989, Russell Hoban gave permission for theatre students at Sir Percival Whitley/Calderdale College, Halifax, West Yorkshire, to transcribe the book into a theatrical script, which was then staged in a new production at The Square Chapel, Halifax.
  • In November 2007, the play was produced by Red Kettle in Waterford, Ireland, to positive reviews.[8]
  • In 2011, the play was also adapted for Trouble Puppet Theater Co. by artistic director Connor Hopkins at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, Texas. This production employed tabletop puppetry inspired by the Bunraku tradition and was supported by an original score by Justin Sherburn.[9]
  • In March 2015, a group of Aberystwyth drama students performed the play in Theatre y Castell over the course of two days. The production was directed by David Ian Rabey.

Popular music[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mullan, John (2010-11-13). "Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  2. ^ Ruppert, Peter (1999). "Riddley Walker". Utopian Studies. Penn State University Press. 10 (2): 254–255. ISSN 1045-991X. JSTOR 20718123.
  3. ^ Messic, Penelope (June 1982). "Penelope Messic reviews Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 38 (6): 49–50. ISSN 0096-3402.
  4. ^ Clark, Jeff (July 1981). "Hoban, Russell. Ridley Walker". Book Review. Library Journal. 106 (13): 1443. ISSN 0363-0277.
  5. ^ Teeter, Robert. "Bloom. Western Canon". sonic.net. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  6. ^ Cumbow, Robert C. (2010-06-19). "Summer of '85: We Don't Need Another Hero: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  7. ^ Awl, Dave. "Russell Hoban's RIDDLEY WALKER". THE HEAD OF ORPHEUS - A Russell Hoban Reference Page. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  8. ^ "Red Kettle Theatre Company, Waterford: Riddley Walker". red-kettle.com. November 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  9. ^ "Trouble Puppet Theater Co. Archives". troublepuppet.com. 2011-11-08. Archived from the original on 2014-09-11. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  10. ^ Prato, Greg. "From Beale Street to Oblivion - Clutch | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  11. ^ Allan, Mark. "King Swamp - King Swamp | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  12. ^ Bishop, Eli (ed.). "Related works". Riddley Walker Annotations. Retrieved 2017-12-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ackerley, Chris (2017). "Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker: The Eusa Story and Other Blipful Figgers". In Marshall, Simone Celine; Cusack, Carole M. (eds.). The Medieval Presence in the Modernist Aesthetic. Brill. pp. 169–190. doi:10.1163/9789004357020_012. ISBN 978-90-04-35702-0.
  • Cockrell, Amanda (Spring 2004). "On This Enchanted Ground: Reflections of a Cold War Childhood in Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker" and Walter M. Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz"". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. 15 (1): 20–36. JSTOR 43308682.
  • Dowling, David (1988). "Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker: Doing the Connections". Critique Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 29 (3): 179–187. doi:10.1080/00111619.1988.9937847.
  • Granofsky, Ronald (1986). "Holocaust as Symbol in Riddley Walker and The White Hotel". Modern Language Studies. 16 (3): 172–182. doi:10.2307/3194897. JSTOR 3194897.
  • Hannah, Matthew; Mayer, Sylvia (2021). "Scale and Speculative Futures in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker and Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312". In Hanke, Christine; Milburn, Colin; Hutta, Jan Simon; Cortiel, Jeanne (eds.). Practices of Speculation. Modeling, Embodiment, Figuration. Transcript Verlag. pp. 191–208. ISBN 9783837647518.
  • Lake, David J. (1984). "Making the Two One: Language and Mysticism in "Riddley Walker"". Extrapolation. 25 (2): 157–170.
  • Maclean, Marie (1988). "The Signifier as Token: The Textual Riddles of Russell Hoban". Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association. 70 (1): 211–219. doi:10.1179/aulla.1988.001.
  • Maynor, Natalie; Patteson, Richard F. (1984). "Language as Protagonist in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 26 (1): 18–25. doi:10.1080/00111619.1984.9933791.
  • Mullen, R. D. (November 2000). "Dialect, Grapholect, and Story: Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker" as Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies. 27 (3): 391–417. JSTOR 4241511.
  • Mustazza, Leonard (1989). "Myth and History in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker". Critique Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 31 (1): 17–26. doi:10.1080/00111619.1989.9934681.
  • Porter, Jeffrey (Winter 1990). ""Three Quarks for Muster Mark": Quantum Wordplay and Nuclear Discourse in Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker"". Contemporary Literature. 31 (4): 448–469. doi:10.2307/1208323.
  • Roache, John (2017). "In the Moment of Danger: Benjaminian History and Theology in Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker". symplokē. 25 (1–2): 355–374. doi:10.5250/symploke.25.1-2.0355.
  • Schwenger, P. (1991). "Circling Ground Zero". PMLA. 106 (2): 251–261. doi:10.2307/462661.
  • Schwetman, John W. (1985). "Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker and the Language of the Future". Extrapolation. 26 (3): 212–219. doi:10.3828/extr.1985.26.3.212.
  • Taylor, Nancy Dew (1989). "'…You Bes go Ballsy': Riddley Walker's Prescription for the Future". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 31 (1): 27–39. doi:10.1080/00111619.1989.9934682.
  • Warren, Martin L. (March 2007). "The St. Eustace Legend as Palimpsest in Hoban's "Riddley Walker"". Science Fiction Studies. 34 (1): 158–163. JSTOR 4241511.

External links[edit]