The Fur, Nathan Hobby

WP_20151111_002I follow Nathan’s blog A Biographer in Perth and thought I would check out his maiden novel of a few years ago now, The Fur. It must be in stock in a warehouse somewhere as my no. 1 favourite bookseller, Crow Books (Victoria Park, WA), had no trouble getting it in for me.

Interestingly it doesn’t have a copyright page but I see in WikipediaThe Fur … is a science fiction novel by author Nathan Hobby, published in 2004 after winning the 2002 T. A. G. Hungerford Award for unpublished new writers.” I would further categorise it as for Young Adults, probably 16 and over.

I assume Nathan is from ‘down south’, as the setting for the novel is first Collie, in the jarrah forested hills south of Perth, then the provincial city of Bunbury on the coast, and finally Murdoch Uni in Perth’s southern suburbs.

The ‘fur’ of the title is a fungus which grows on any surface, plant, animal or structure, and which has led to WA being quarantined from the rest of Australia. A quarantine enforced by a razor wire fence at the border, and by the occupying army of the ‘Wealth’ – the Commonwealth government. Only Perth’s posh western suburbs, Dalkeith, Peppy Grove, Mosman etc, are apparently immune, and they have their own enclave on the north shore of the Swan incorporating UWA.

Basically, all SF trappings aside, this is a novel of one awkward boy’s attempt to find meaning in life (and understanding in girls!). Its setting invites comparison, of course, with John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began (1993), but Marsden’s book/series has both a broader cast and a greater emphasis on action. Nathan’s main interest is to develop the character of his protagonist Michael from year 11 in Collie, through year 12 in Bunbury and first year uni at Murdoch.

In Collie, Michael lives with his mother, father – the local preacher, and younger brother. The atmosphere is brooding, the great jarrahs loom over the town, many of the shops and houses have been abandoned and looted and the black fur grows everywhere, on tree trunks, buildings and even on the paths and the grass. Michael, like awkward boys everywhere, is keen on the wrong girls, the good looking, confident girls who go out with football players. When skinny, intelligent Rebecca joins his class and attempts to engage him, he pushes her away. Only when he moves to Bunbury does he begin to value her friendship but there too there is a blonde to dazzle him.

He and Rebecca agree to work towards escaping to the East, to Melbourne (Perth people focus on Melbourne far more than they do on Sydney. Weird). At uni they spend more time together, go on rallies and so on, but Michael’s theology studies get in the way. And his awkwardness. And the novel ends with Rebecca gone, presumably in Melbourne and Michael walking home to Bunbury for xmas.

Michael reads a lot, the bible, Philip K Dick, Catcher in the Rye and we are encouraged to draw parallels with John Fowles’, The Collector which I haven’t read but which apparently involves an awkward man kidnapping a woman and unsuccessfully persuading her to fall in love with him. I did get the reference to Friends! Michael is introduced to Emily, a party girl, “‘Oh, hi!’ she said, How you doing?’”. He almost takes the hint, but they are interrupted.

My oldest grandchildren are still a bit young but I have a niece whose children are the right age and I think I will try it out on them.


Nathan Hobby, The Fur, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 2004

8 thoughts on “The Fur, Nathan Hobby

  1. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing my book! Eleven years on, readers of The Fur have slowed to a trickle, and so I’m very chuffed to read your post. Your reading of the novel aligns quite closely with my vision for it.
    The YA categorization was a marketing decision by the publisher; I was reluctant, as I felt I’d written an “adult” novel, but it certainly helped sales – a lot of high-school libraries picked it up.
    Funnily enough, I’ve never watched Friends – but maybe it’s an echo of the show, people talking like that at the time.
    Part of the thing about The Collector (a novel which meant much to me in year 12) is that everyone focuses on the kidnapping / thriller aspect of it, when what was remarkable about it to me was the existential journey of Clegg’s captive, Miranda. I was very inspired by her thoughts on living an authentic life.


  2. I, on the other hand, watch reruns of Friends whenever I’m home. The Collector sounds interesting (another for the TBR), my own year 12 Expression, I didn’t do Lit, focused on awkward boys, I especially remember Boyd’s A Difficult Young Man.


  3. Good for you Bill … I hadn’t realised Nathan had published a novel. I’m intrigued by your different Year 12 passions. Mine was Voss. Not quite coming of age! But a passionate book that I just adored. And to some degree it is about authenticity isn’t it … Voss and Laura see themselves as soul mates who can commune with each other’s true selves.


  4. The most ‘difficult’ book we had in (1968) matric Eng Exp was Samuel Butler, The Way of all Flesh. But we also had Pride & Prejudice, and on reflection I think the theme was fathers rather than boys, but I was an awkward boy so I guess I just remembered it that way.


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