You can’t beat a good “the world is a game” novel. Especially if you bolt on some crazy conspiracy theories and some retro technology. If you enjoyed Ready Player One or Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum then you’ll find lots to love here. Rabbits by Terry Miles falls somewhere between the two. It doesn’t require the cerebral gymnastics asked by the latter, but, mercifully, it isn’t a one-trick pony like Ernest Cline’s bestselling page-turner. Rabbits makes its own mark in what is a specialized genre. It does sometimes wander down some quiet lanes, but all in all, Terry Miles delivers an entertaining read—one that will capture your imagination and insist you read on to find out what on earth is happening.
Rabbits is a cult novel in the making. It references obscure pop culture and retro technology on just about every page. It is very reminiscent of Theodore Rozak’s Flicker, (which I thoroughly recommend tracking down a copy of, if you can). Both novels are filled with conspiracy, paranoia, and characters who find themselves questioning the fundamentals of their reality.
Rabbits was born out of the podcast of the same name. I’d not heard of it before being sent this novel to review, but having now read this story, I’ll almost certainly circle back to the show. “Rabbits” in both book and podcast is the colloquial name for a huge mysterious game that is played globally and largely in secret. There have been ten iterations of the game since the 1950s, and as the novel opens, we are waiting for season 11 to begin. There are rumors that the origins of the game descend into history and even prehistory.
“K” is the sort of character who hangs about in decaying arcade halls and has in-depth knowledge of aging arcade games and coding in obsolete languages. He is, in short, exactly the sort of person you would imagine would play Rabbits. As the novel opens, he is giving a talk on Rabbits. He stands, surrounded by ’80s machines, revealing bits of secret information to a group of credulous wannabes. Rabbits is played in the shadows. Even talking about Rabbits is rumored to be dangerous.
In fact, everything about Rabbits appears to be dangerous. K’s first exposure to it resulted in the death of a family friend. Now, playing the game is even more hazardous, with news of player deaths increasing with each passing day. When K is approached by an internet billionaire (and reputedly a previous Rabbits winner) he is asked to help save the game. When that billionaire then goes missing, K decides not only to try to find out what has happened to him, but also what is happening to the game he’d so dearly love to win.
The novel centers around Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, a place where the counter-culture fits perfectly. In essence, Rabbits boils down to a counter-culture thriller filled with conspiracy, games, and some nifty near-future tech. All in all, it’s a blast to read.
Rabbits is a meandering novel, filled with references and knowing winks to all manner of things. I noticed things like the novel’s lead character is called “K,” much like the protagonist in Kafka’s The Trial. The most referenced authority on Rabbits is called Hazel, almost certainly a reference to Watership Down. Who knows how many references I missed, but part of the fun of Rabbits is spotting them and also fondly remembering how rubbish computers were in the old days!
There is also a reference to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, another novel that bears some resemblance to the happenings in Rabbits. Whilst Miles’ book contains none of the typographical shenanigans of House of Leaves, I feel like they share the same spiritual place in the fiction canon (along with last year’s XX by Rian Hughes). They’re all books about secrets, codes, and hidden messages. They also all wander off all over the place.
Above all, Rabbits is a mystery. What has happened to billionaire Alan Shapiro? Why are Rabbits players going missing? This takes on a personal level for K when one of his friends dies in mysterious circumstances. As we near the end of the book reality is increasingly bent out of shape, but are we witnessing a series of psychotic breaks from K or something altogether more sinister and far-reaching?
This a harder read than Ready Player One, but, I think, if both novels were burgers, RP1 would be like eating a Big Mac when you were very hungry—consumed at pace, wonderful at the time, but ultimately forgettable. Rabbits, on the other hand, is a full-on gourmet experience, with multiple layers, textures, and culinary experiences all arranged inside the brioche covers of a book. Hmmm, I think my metaphors need some work, but you’ll be thinking about your Rabbit burger a long time after you’ve finished eating it.
If you enjoy novels with conspiracy theories, crazy real-world puzzle games, and pop culture references, you will surely love Rabbits. I feel like this probably covers 95% of GeekDad readers, so you should probably check out the book to find out more!
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other book reviews.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.
This post was last modified on June 10, 2021 10:54 am
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