Book Review: Rabbits by Terry Miles
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Del Rey (June 8, 2021)
Length: 448 pages
Wow, this one was real head trip, and I mean that in the best way possible. Rabbits is the kind of story that worms its way into your mind, and you find yourself mulling over it even days after you finish. Sometimes I still go back and forth between a 3 or a 4 star rating, depending on my mood, but as I’m sitting here typing out my review, I’m feeling right in the middle. This was a good book! But I won’t lie, it was also strange as hell. It’s not going to be for everyone.
First a bit of background. In 2017, the author Terry Miles created a pseudo-documentary style podcast called Rabbits. I had not heard of it prior to reading this, but although it is set in the same world, not being familiar with the podcast will not hinder your understanding of the novel in any way. Nor would it help you, I suspect, though it may help prepare the reader for some of the story’s more idiosyncratic traits, such as its alternate reality gaming themes or heavy use of pop culture references. The book’s storyline focuses on “K”, a fan obsessed with the game Rabbits. Using the real world as a platform, players would seek out patterns and unlikely connections, following them down a particular path filled with more clues, ultimately ending in the fulfillment of the individual’s deepest desires. Once an iteration of the game has been won, another round will begin again.
Like many Rabbits players, K has become completely addicted and can’t stop trying to find a way into the game. An opportunity presents itself, however, when our protagonist is approached by reclusive billionaire Alan Scarpio, who had reportedly won the sixth iteration. But what Scarpio actually wants to share is a dire warning. He believes Rabbits is corrupted and must be fixed before the next round, the eleventh, is to begin, or else the world as we know it will cease to exist. Together with close friend Chloe, K seeks to find out more about Scarpio’s claims, but before they can get far in their research, the billionaire is reported missing. The eleventh iteration begins as K and Chloe fail to learn what Scarpio was talking about. Like it or not, they are playing now.
What happens next is something readers will have to find out for themselves if they choose to read this book. For one, I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything, and two, a lot of it simply gets too complicated and weird to describe. If you know about anything the nebulous nature and definition of ARGs, you might have some idea. In the real world, many media companies have employed them for marketing campaigns for movies, video games, etc. but in Rabbits, it is a secret underground hush-hush kind of situation, similar to Fight Club—outside the game’s ultra-exclusive circles, you don’t ever mention you’re playing or even acknowledge its existence. There is also a dangerous element, as rumor has it that the game has been around for decade, and many players have gone missing or lost their lives over the years trying to unravel its secrets.
As we soon find out, some folks are also better equipped play Rabbits, giving them an edge. Being well-versed in pop culture and a gaming geek helps. If you are tech savvy, that is another advantage. Then there’s K, who is especially good at spotting patterns of coincidences and clues. The story explores this aspect later in the book, though by this point, things get so convoluted it’s difficult to trust our protagonist’s point-of-view, especially as it becomes increasingly unreliable. Thing is, I wouldn’t say the plot itself is too difficult to keep track of, but problems do arise when as time goes on and everything becomes more complex with memory lapses, alternate realities and the Mandela effect thrown in. There’s a sense of “anything goes” at this point, and needless to say, it’s incredibly frustrating to find yourself constantly questioning what you’ve read or wondering what the whole point is.
So, should you read Rabbits? It is very difficult to say. If you followed the podcast, I would say, yes, of course. If you like books heavy on geek culture references, then maybe. If you’re intrigued by the premise, or perhaps you’re drawn to unique mind-bendingly weird books and are curious to see what the fuss is all about, I would give it a try. For the most part, I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit, at least until things kind of went off the rails towards the end. Like I said, it won’t be for everyone, but I can promise you one thing: it’ll never be boring.