Terry Miles debut novel Rabbits, is based on his podcast of the same name. Having not listened to the podcast, it is impossible to compare the two media but Miles himself says that one is not a reproduction of the other. Rabbits is full of – and possibly for – gamers, puzzlers, conspiracy theorists, believers in the multiverse and obsessives.
The narrator of Rabbits is K. K is an expert on a game called Rabbits, a game that has been through ten iterations since 1959. Rabbits the game is a phenomenon that has players obsessively finding and putting together obscure clues and connections that get them to further clues until they “win” (although no one really knows what winning looks like). Readers who have seen the TV show Dispatches from Elsewhere or played an Escape Room may have some idea of what this game is. Although the former is more benign and the latter is much more contained. Rabbits, the game, takes place all over the world, although it is unclear in the narrative how the game actually works any where else other than Seattle, where it is set, since all of the major clues and locations (and players) seem to be in that city.
When the book opens, K is approached by millionaire and possible former Rabbits winner Alan Scarpio. Scarpio tells him that there is something “wrong” with the game and if the eleventh iteration starts the world is likely to end. This seems to come to pass as players start disappearing or dying. And so K goes on his quest: play the game to fix the game. He, of course, has his companions (some of whom don’t make it), most notably Chloe who’s band once had a hit single called Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a fact which effectively lampshades her role in the story. K either has a mental illness or some power to see the wrongness that the game is causing to his reality and slowly, as he proceeds, his power seems to grow and truths about his childhood come to light. All in all, a fairly classic “hero’s journey”.
With its millionaire-inspired quest, gangs of competitive players and old-school video game aesthetic, the closest analogy to Rabbits recently would be the book Ready Player One. Although this sells it a little short. What Rabbits does share with that book is a seemingly endless love for all things 80s and 90s. For some reason many of the clues in Rabbits are buried deep in the play of 1980s video games or books, or come on a cassette tape or super 8 reel or vinyl record. And while, sure, there are mobile phones and QR codes and talk of the ‘dark web’ and quantum computing, it seems that there is nothing that can’t be solved by a dip back into some piece of 1980s media or culture. But there is slightly more to Rabbits – if nothing else the game itself seems more interesting and there are some very confused musings on the nature of reality.
But reader’s patience will depend on their capacity to stay with the plot which is essentially: solve obscure puzzle, gain revelation, suffer (or benefit from) the consequences, be warned off continuing, repeat. All of which builds up to a fairly off-the-wall ending. Rabbits can be fun, made more so by the small but odd reality shifts. But as with the game of Rabbits itself, you have to be willing to lose yourself in its world to obtain its full effect.
For more of Robert’s reviews, visit his blog Pile By the Bed
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- Widow’s Island (L. A. Larkin) – book review
Robert Goodman is a book reviewer, former Ned Kelly Awards judge and institutionalised public servant based in Sydney. This and over 450 more book reviews can be found on his website Pile By the Bed.