Rabbits by Terry Miles

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Rabbits by Terry Miles

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A book that takes the ooh, isn't the number 23 just everywhere?! concept and blows it up to world-changing proportions. One of the most fun genre reads I suspect I'll read this year.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: June 2021
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-1529016932

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Welcome to the world of The Game. Or should that be the game, for while it ought to be capitalised to high heaven, it never leaves lower case throughout this book. It's also called Rabbits, although only as a slangy term for it – as far as anyone knows, it has no official title, no official source, no hard and fast structure, and to the average person no obvious entry point. A bit like the game of life then. Yes, this is the game of life for a certain tribe of people – the fan of the conspiracy, the computer game, the hack from the darkest of webs. People like our hero, K, named like that in the least Kafkaesque manner possible. K and his bezzies are trying to be historians of the game, and have studied amongst many things the most unique of high score boards, for the lists of who has successfully won the game are in the most peculiar places, and are still very short. However this time it's different. This time the game seems the most dangerous, nay lethal, the most broken it's ever been – morally and otherwise. Unfortunately for K, in trying to sort out what the game is doing, if it's even being played, and how his loved ones might be kept safe, he is only to find out that the line between observing and learning about the game, and playing it, is a very thin one indeed...

I loved this. It has all the hallmarks of taking the DNA from so many things - Inception, that there Michael Douglas movie of the same name, Ready Player One, and more. It's David Lynch remaking The Truman Show and The da Vinci Code as one film, but with more snuff movies and public suicides. The world here smells like House of Leaves, just without the eye-boggling on-page presentation. It turns out to be a sister product to a successful podcast, about which I'd not heard, which is the best news possible. For I could see the rush to option this for the cinema, and as the creator has already spun this off from another medium I happily hope the rush to Spielbergify it is absent.

So while this is a debut novel, this is clearly not the first thing this man has written. It's one of the most quotable books of the year, for one. It's written from the POV of someone who seems pretty much like his characters – ones who know the ins and outs of computers a little too well for it to be healthy, ones who recognise almost every games console ever made from sixty paces, and ones who happily hang around in arcades of vintage games cabinets, feeding quarters to Gauntlet throughout the night.

It's also written by someone who likes putting esoterica in the way of his games' players. This is a world where obscure album set-list misprints lead to clues about paintings lead to, well, a Siberian power plant or suchlike was mentioned once. I can see, therefore, that some people will be frustrated by the fact this does not put those hurdles in the way of the reader – we're very much removed from the game, and are observing things around K. Another thing the book is noticeably not doing is critiquing the people who find such tenuous links, who scoff at coincidence, who over-anally analyse the world to their utter detriment. This author has certainly not got it in for these obsessives – no, he's got the game to do that for him.

I guess you could also say the characters are a little thinly drawn, too (and K's built upon too many flashbacks to darkness in his childhood), but the buzz from the book for me was from the way the game is presented with such conviction – that there IS something or someone inputting all these countless symbols, clues, discrepancies, non sequiturs and impossibilities into our world for one single person to have a life-changing success with the game. Tried with any less conviction, the telling of such a fantasy would have been a failure, as hardly needs saying. This had the chutzpah to pull it all off. As a result it instantly became quite the classic of the genre – something really good for the general browse, as well as something for the obsessed re-reading and quoting by hip-band-T-shirt-wearing lovers of this kind of thing. So just realise, even if you do manage to finally put this down at 4:44am, you won't be alone in that.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Books like this aren't ten a penny, but The Other Emily by Dean Koontz is also wilfully twisting the thriller concept with other genre tropes.

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Buy Rabbits by Terry Miles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rabbits by Terry Miles at Amazon.com.

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