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Riddley Walker

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Post apocalyptic fiction of the most blunt kind.

 

First thing's first: this whole book is written in pidgin English. "He dint say nothing I sust how it were with him some times when we were boath lissening hy 1 of us wud starve the other like when 1 boat put a nother in its wind shadder."

This will either enhance or reduce your enjoyment. I read the first page and immediately put the book down and decided... nope, not for me. It was frankly infuriating. After giving it a few minutes, however, I gave it another look and strangely found that it wasn't that bad. As I continued reading it even began to slowly feel quite normal (this helped by the generally short chapters). Later in the book, unfortunately, the chapters get much longer and it started bothering me again.

Anyway, the fact is, the gibberish style does add something. But sadly it also take something away. It creates a strong sense of the world and the people (especially Riddley, the writing style forcing you to slow down and reach his speed -- that of a twelve-year-old boy). But it also became annoying and distracting, often tiresome. Ultimately, however, I think I'd have to say that it was ultimately effective.

As for the plot, it deals with young Riddley just after his father dies. He lives in Kent 2000 years after a nuclear disaster and, like everyone else, understands the world through a series of stories about the past told by puppet show politicians (think Punch and Judy). These stories revolve around Eusa (bastardised version of St Eustace) and the shiny man (nuclear power) as well as the hidden meanings of other things from the past. He goes on an adventure to Fork Stone (Folkstone) and Cambry (Canterbury) and seeks knowledge about the past and the future (usually accompanied by feral dogs).

It's a very condensed landscape and story. There are some interesting themes about knowledge and power, about those who posses one very often being those who possess the other. Riddley is a sympathetic character and is wise enough to understand that those who dictate the narrative, can shape the future. It was a worthwhile read but ultimately the style was too distracting for my tastes. It reminded me of those kids in the film Mad Max 3 which is funny because, having googled it, I now realise they actually stole all their ideas from this very book.

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