The Search tells the tale of Hobart Rapples and his quest for knowledge. Born in the isolation of the southern most city of the southern isle of New Zealand, Hobart wants for friends, companionship, and general life direction. Things come to a head on the death of Hobart’s mother, an unusual woman said to have played in the background of Hobart’s life in the manner of a discordant pianist. The untimely termination of Hobart’s unhealthy maternal relationship leaves our unlikely hero finally able to pursue his own interests.
Hobart begins to read, exploring his late father’s collection of conspiracy literature. He delves deep, until reaching the only natural conclusion: Hobart must go to Australia in search of their mythical Bigfoot: the Yowie. Much as agent Fox Mulder posited decades before, the truth is out there…and it’s Yowie shaped.
Hobart begins his quest with all the enthusiasm, and lack of expertise, we grow to expect of him. It is upon a rusted, decades-old child’s bike that Hobart is to begin his quest. Off he peddles to the Australian outback in pursuit of that most rarefied of creatures, the Yowie. The journey won’t be a smooth one, Hobart’s tolerant and passive nature is easy prey for the more rurally minded of Australia’s inhabitants, but neither the seediness of the Swank Hotel, nor the brutality of the Hypoallergenic Dog Fighting League can stand in his way.
Matt Gore has a distinctive writing style, which narrates Hobart’s quest as though written by the explorer’s own hand. This mirrors the work of the great Victorian adventure writers Ryder Haggard and Arthur Conan-Doyle. Consciously re-creating a King Solomon’s Mines style rip-roaring adventure for the modern day, though this is delivered decidedly tongue in cheek. The tone of the work resembles that of Monty Python and specifically that of Michael Palin and Terry Jones, it has considerable commonality with their post-python series Ripping Yarns. As with their work, Gore takes the Victorian idiom and twists it to narrate his own surrealist vision.
Though The Search’s idiom is comedically retro, Gore touches on some themes which are relevant and specific to our times. Hobart encounters redneck Australians disillusioned at their perceived disenfranchisement by a globalised middle class. The book also has environmental commentary and explores themes of alienation, but while it touches on these subjects The Search never lingers. Any move toward politicising is always swiftly, and mercifully, undercut with a joke, above all leaving this is as a work of comedy.
The Search is a breezy and pleasurable read. Hobart’s character is fully and enjoyably explored, but I was certainly left feeling there was room for a sequel. The themes and supporting characters could definitely tolerate further exploration. I’m sold on Hobart’s eccentric quest. I highly recommend The Search.