I was browsing in a local bookstore a few weeks ago when a book cover caught my eye. Or more specifically, it was the technicolor rabbit on the cover that got my attention. I picked up the book and read the inside flap, the back cover, and then flipped to a random page in the first third to read a couple of paragraphs. It seemed interesting (and had an endorsement by Cory Doctorow), so I bought it.
The book in question is titled, Rabbits, by Terry Miles. The author hosts a podcast with the same title. I probably should have familiarized myself with the podcast before reading the book, but there was no indication that was necessary. The reason I mention it is because I think it may have provided more context for the novel.
The basic premise is that there’s a game that originated in 1959, that is secretive and unknown to the general public. It’s filled with puzzles, patterns, and clues hidden in plain sight, and it has a similar mantra to Fight Club in that, if you know about it and are playing it, you don’t talk about it.
Winners are awarded something wonderful, but there are risks involved. In the current iteration of the game players are disappearing or dying, and there are rumors that something has gone wrong with the game as a whole. It’s all very mysterious and conspiratorial.
The story follows K (yes, just the letter) as he is swept into this game, along with his small circle of friends. They find and follow the clues, encounter other players who both help and hinder them, and slowly begin to unravel a deeper mystery.
Overall, I liked the story. It was a fun ride, not terribly deep, but still entertaining. The premise isn’t new, but I felt it was handled well for a modern audience. The characters use their phones and the internet to do research and the technology angle is realistic. They aren’t typing in a few lines of code to hack the NSA or anything ridiculous like that.
However, there were a couple of things that bothered me about the story. First, the puzzles and clues. For the most part, the characters don’t have any problem deciphering them and figuring out what to do next. Additionally, I felt that the narrative didn’t allow me, as a reader, to struggle over the puzzles, too. I was expecting to be, well, puzzled by them, to be thinking about them, trying to figure them out for myself. But they weren’t written that way.
Then there’s the ending. It was okay. Satisfying, but it felt like the Miles built up this big finale, then rushed to wrap it up so I wouldn’t think too much about it. Part of that may be due to the loose thread that didn’t get tied up. One minor character from early on, who ends up being crucial to the plot, seems to be forgotten in the end. So while the main story ends well, this side story is left hanging.
Overall, not a bad book. I picked up the hardback, but I probably should have waited for the paperback version. I’ll have to check out the author’s podcast at some point to see if that adds anything to the alternate universe he created.
If you enjoy conspiracies, mysteries, and a touch of sci-fi, then you’ll probably enjoy Rabbits.