Soonchild by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Alexis Deacon (Walker Books)
HC RRP 27.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Sixteen-Face John is a shaman that lives north of the Arctic Circle. His wife, No Problem is expecting a baby that she’s named Soonchild, because it should be born soon, but won’t be born until it hears the World Songs that welcome all newborns.
John has lost many of his abilities since he started drinking Coca-Cola, reading magazines with centrefolds in them, and watching television. He sets out on a quest with the help of a strong dose of Big Dream Brew, Ukpika, a benevolent owl spirit, lots of spirit ancestors. He treks through frozen lands and years and is faced with many challenges and awakenings, before he finds the World Songs and returns with them so his child can be born.
This stunning jacketed book is Russell Hoban’s last novel completed before his death in December 2011, and was released by Walker in April 2012. Alexis Deacon’s haunting and mesmerising pencil illustrations pay tribute to Hoban’s most outstanding work.
Soonchild is an expedition into a foreign place; a trek into the spirit world of Inuit mythology, and the buried places of the mind and spirit where one’s deepest thoughts lie. It is frequently humorous, then dark but distilled. It provokes an examination of self as it takes you to places of stillness and silence to reveal the uniqueness of each being.
Every reader will come away with a different opinion of this extraordinary piece of work. One thing that we might all agree on is that profound and thought-provoking philosophical messages weave through the text, that once read, will call you back again and again. I closed the cover agreeing with Patrick Ness’ quote, ‘Hoban is the best sort of genius.’