Originally published in the Canberra Weekly on 3 June 2021.
This review can also be found on the Canberra Weekly website.
Publisher: Macmillan (Trade Paperback – 8 June 2021)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 422 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Are you ready to check out one of the most unique and creatively complex debuts of 2021? Then buckle yourself in and get ready to play the Game, as new author Terry Miles presents his weirdly compelling science fiction thriller, Rabbits.
What happens in the game, stays in the game…
Rabbits is a secret, dangerous and sometimes fatal underground game. The rewards for winning are unclear, but there are rumours of money, CIA recruitment or even immortality. Or it might unlock the universe’s greatest secrets. But everyone knows that the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes – and the body count is rising. Since the game first started, ten iterations have taken place… and the eleventh round is about to begin.
K can’t get enough of the game and has been trying to find a way in for years. Then Alan Scarpio, reclusive billionaire and alleged Rabbits winner, shows up out of nowhere. And he charges K with a desperate mission. Something has gone badly wrong with the game and K needs to fix it – before Eleven starts – or the world will pay the price.
Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing.
Two weeks after that Eleven begins, so K blows the deadline.
And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.
Rabbits is a fascinating and complex novel that I was lucky enough to receive a copy of a few weeks ago. I have to admit that when I first received this novel I had no idea what I was in for as I was expecting something a little simpler, like a computer game giving out unique challenges. However, Rabbits was a much more insane and complicated science fiction story than I ever imagined, as the protagonist and his friends find themselves falling down a deep rabbit hole. The Game, also known as Rabbits, leads the protagonist into a world of shifting patterns, strange coincidences and slightly different alternate realities, as they attempt to get to the heart of the Game and the people trying to manipulate it.
In reviewing this book, I found that Rabbits is a rather hard novel to describe, especially as Miles has gone out of his way to make his narrative as unique and complex as possible. The entire story appears at times to be a mass of convoluted ideas that revolve around the somewhat ill-defined game which forms the centre of the entire book. As Rabbits progresses, the reader is subjected to a weird array of storylines, which mix strange patterns and coincidences, with journeys into alternate realities, overarching conspiracies and complex tale surrounding point-of-view character K. While the plot of Rabbits is a little confusing at times, there is a really intriguing and compelling story behind this book that becomes rather addictive the more you dive into, very much like the game it describes.
Miles sets up his novel beautifully, and the reader is quickly introduced to some of the key concepts of the Game and the personal history of K. This introduction proves to be a good grounding to the rest of the novel, and readers will quickly find themselves flying through the rest of the book, especially as they become invested in the protagonist’s quest to learn about the Game, as well as the great conspiracy that is being formed around it. Rabbits proves to be a very fast-paced book, and I found myself getting really attached to K and his friends, who are a fun group of conspiracy obsessed nerds. This entire story comes together with a fascinating and high-stakes conclusion, which does a good job wrapping up the entire narrative and providing the reader with some closure. An overall fun, if unpredictable story, readers who check this one out will be in for a very interesting time.
One of the most entertaining elements of this book is the constant stream of pop-culture references that Miles loads into his story. The plot of Rabbits is filled with mentions of all sorts of movies, games, novels and famous figures, many of which are associated in some way with the Game, either directly (such as having a code hidden within it) or indirectly (details about them are changed in a new reality). Video games, particularly old arcade games, are strongly featured within Rabbits, and Miles provides so many different references or depictions of classic games or technology that will no-doubt appeal to game aficionados. Other cultural items, such as the film Donnie Darko (which has its own breed of rabbit in it) and the actor Jeff Goldblum (who appears in a very disturbing video that may or may not have happened), are also worked into the story, and it was fascinating to see the various connections they potentially have to this wide-reaching game. I really enjoyed the way Miles worked in all these references, cultural items and figures into his story, and readers will have fun recognising everything the author includes.
Rabbits ended up being a very interesting and memorable debut from Terry Miles, and I am glad that I checked it out. I really enjoyed the complex and thrilling narrative that Rabbits which will appeal to a wide range of readers. That being said, Rabbits will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I can see some readers struggling with it. But I felt that Rabbits was worth making the effort to get through and I look forward to seeing what unique novels Miles comes up with in the future.
It has been a little while since I have done a Book Haul post, so I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the amazing books that I have received in the last couple of weeks. I have actually received quite an impressive haul recently, made up of a number of exciting and intriguing books, including a few novels that I have been looking forward to for some time. Each of the books below have a lot of potential and I am really keen to check them all out as soon as I can.
Let us start this post off with one of my anticipated reads of 2021, Protector by Conn Iggulden. Protector is the sequel to one of my favourite books from last year, The Gates of Athens, and will continue to follow the epic events of the Greek war against Persia. Set to feature some major battles and Athenian politics, this is going to be an awesome and compelling novel and I look forward to checking it out.
Next we have this intriguing science fiction debut, Rabbits by Terry Miles. Rabbits, which I have already read, is a weird and unique novel that sees a brilliant, yet troubled, protagonist attempt to play a legendary game with the fate of the universe in the balance. A fantastic, if unusual read, I am hoping to get a review up for it soon.
Another book that I have already read, The Ninth Metal is an exciting and interesting science fiction read that follows the chaotic events occurring around a small-town in America that was the site of a meteor strike, leaving a vast amount of a rare, alien metal. Featuring feuding companies, strange abilities and a fantastic goldrush mentality, this was a captivating and fun read.
I also received a copy of the latest thriller from Australian author Tim Ayliffe, The Enemy Within. This latest novel contains an intriguing narrative about neo-Nazis in Australia and a dangerous cover-up surrounding them. I very much enjoyed Ayliffe’s first novel from a few years ago, The Greater Good, and I was honoured to see that my review for it was featured in the inner-cover of The Enemy Within. I am looking forward to checking this novel out, although I may have to read the second novel, State of Fear, first.
Another great book that I have received is the fantastic sounding thriller, Falling by T. J. Newman. Falling contains a great story that sees a plane full of people at risk when their pilot’s family is kidnapped and threatened. This debut novel from Newman already has a lot of buzz around it and I am very keen to check this one out.
I am also very excited to check out another great debut, Small Acts of Defiance by Australian author Michelle Wright. Small Acts of Defiance is a compelling historical drama set in occupied Paris. I imagine this is going to be a pretty intense and impressive read and I am very excited to check it out.
The final novel I have received is the fun sounding thriller, The President’s Daughter by the remarkable team of Bill Clinton and James Paterson. The President’s Daughter is the follow-up to the pair’s first novel, The President is Missing, and looks set to be another exciting and fantastic adventure of a rogue president going off on his own to save the people he loves.
In addition to some of the books I have received from publishers, I also went out on a bit of a shopping spree the other day and grabbed several amazing novels and comics that I have been really excited for.
There was no way that I could avoid getting a copy of the latest Flavia Albia novel by Lindsey Davis, A Comedy of Terrors, especially after how much I enjoyed her 2020 release, The Grove of the Caesars. This latest novel sets professional informer and investigator Flavia Albia up against a new and dangerous foe during the middle of a massive festival. It sounds like a pretty awesome novel and I cannot wait to explore it’s brilliant mystery and fantastic humour.
Blackout is a novel that I have been hoping to read for a very long time. Written by one of my favourite authors, Simon Scarrow, Blackout is an excellent sounding murder mystery set in the midst of Nazi Germany during the war. While I do prefer some of Scarrow’s Roman historical fiction novels, such as last years exciting The Emperor’s Exile, Blackout sounds like an exceptional read and I am very keen to check it out.
Another novel that I have been hoping to read for a while is the amazing thriller Breakout by Paul Herron. Breakout has a fantastic sounding plot which forces a violent criminal and a forgotten prison guard to work together to survive the horrors of a flooding super-max prison with all the inmates let out. This novel has so much potential for fun, action and excitement, and I imagine I will get through it in a very short amount of time.
The final entry on this book haul post is the second volume of the fantastic Star Wars (2020) comic series, Operation Starlight. Operation Starlight continues to follow the adventures of Luke, Leia and Lando following the events of The Empire Strikes Back, and this latest volume forces them to face off with a dangerous foe. I deeply enjoyed the first volume of this series, The Destiny Path, and after reading this second volume, Star Wars (2020) is swiftly becoming one of my favourite Star Wars comic book series of all time.
Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post. As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in. Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
So, let’s get to it.
I just started reading this outstanding science fiction novel from bestselling author Andy Weir. Project Hail Mary is so far proving to be an excellent and powerful science fiction read that follows a scientist, alone aboard a space ship, as he attempts to save Earth. Epic, clever and deeply captivating, this is an awesome novel to check out.
The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence (Audiobook)
Mark Lawrence’s intriguing fantasy/science fiction series continues with this latest novel, The Girl and the Mountain. Serving as a sequel to The Girl and the Stars, which was an amazing 2020 release, this outstanding and distinctive novel continues to impress and I am really enjoying this cool series.
Inscape by Louise Carey (Trade Paperback)
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)
Rabbits by Terry Miles (Trade Paperback)
The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy (Trade Paperback)
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Trade Paperback – 2 July 2020)
Length: 307 pages
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
From the insanely creative mind of one of fiction’s cleverest authors, Jasper Fforde, comes The Constant Rabbit, an incredible comedic satire featuring human-sized anthropomorphic rabbits in an alternate version of modern-day England.
Jasper Fforde is an awesome and fantastically inventive author who has a very distinctive and enjoyable writing style. I have been a fan of Fforde’s work for years, and his Thursday Next books were a favourite series of mine when I was growing up (I should really go back and reread those). I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of his 2018 standalone novel, Early Riser, which was certainly one of the more unique and entertaining books that I read that year. While I do love Fforde’s writing, I have to admit that I was initially a little wary when I heard that his new book was going to be about rabbits as I assumed it was going to be a kids’ book. However, once I realised that it was going to be another crazy adult standalone novel, I made sure to get a copy, especially once I found out it was a satire on UK politics. I am extremely glad that I got a copy of this book as The Constant Rabbit turned out to be a truly remarkable novel with a complex and enjoyable story.
In the year 2020 there are over a million anthropomorphic rabbits living in the UK thanks to a mysterious event 55 years previously. These rabbits can walk, talk, think and have developed their own unique culture and society. While the rabbits on the whole are a polite and peaceful group, many in England, including the ruling United Kingdom Anti-Rabbit Party (UKARP), fear them and are planning to forcibly rehome them to a new Mega-Warren in Wales. Before the planned rehoming occurs, one rabbit family moves into the quiet and cosy village of Much Hemlock, much to the concern of the villagers. Convinced that this rabbit family will cost them their chance at the Best Kept Village award, the citizens of Much Hemlock attempt to force them out, but the family matriarch, Mrs Constance Rabbit, is having none of that and resolves to stay in the village.
Surprisingly, the rabbits soon find support from their neighbours, Peter Knox and his daughter, Pippa. Peter, an employer at the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce, the organisation tasked with policing and controlling the rabbit population, quickly becomes infatuated with Constance and begins to question everything that he thinks he knows about rabbits. However, with plans for the upcoming rehoming accelerating, Peter soon finds himself in the midst of a complex battle for freedom and control, and his actions will have surprising impacts on the entire future of the country.
Wow! Just wow! Now this was one hell of a fun read. Fforde has absolutely outdone himself with this latest book which proved to be an exceptional and amazingly clever piece of fiction. The Constant Rabbit is a captivating and widely entertaining novel that drags the reader in with its creativity and humour until they become enthralled with the unique story that it contains. I had an incredible time reading this book and I ended up laughing myself silly throughout it due to Fforde’s clever and distinctive style of humour. This book gets a full five stars from me and it truly was a thumping good tale.
The Constant Rabbit is told from the first-person perspective of human Peter Knox as he recounts some of the historical events he witnessed. This was a truly remarkable story that follows a mostly blameless and ordinary small-village inhabitant as he navigates a complex and controversial world of rabbits and rabbit-hating humans. This turns into quite a compelling tale about a battle for freedom, recognition and human stupidity, as the protagonist witnesses both sides of the struggle. There are some great moments of drama, excitement, action, and romance throughout the book, which come together extremely well in a compelling and entertaining manner. Fforde features some unique story elements throughout this book and introduces the reader to a series of enjoyable characters who are caught up in these crazy events. These memorable characters include Constance Rabbit, a resourceful and clever rabbit who serves as a major moving part of the plot and the protagonist’s main love interest. There is also a Lugless, an outcast rabbit who, after having his ears cut off in a ceremonial fashion, has turned against his own kind and now works for the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce, and Mr Ffoxe, an anthropomorphised fox, who serves as the book’s vicious main antagonist and the head of the taskforce. However, most of the character development is reserved for main protagonist Peter Knox, who goes through some serious redemption throughout the course of the story following some troubling events in his past. His association with his rabbit neighbours really changes him, especially once he starts to see how crooked and petty humans are in comparison, resulting in him making some surprising decisions. This is a gripping narrative and I really enjoyed all the wonderful and weird directions that the author took it.
Another fantastic aspect of The Constant Rabbit is the distinctive and intelligent sense of humour that permeates every page of this book. I personally found this novel to be deeply funny, and I ended up laughing myself silly at several awesome jokes. Much of the humour revolves around the ridiculous situations, the outrageous personalities, and the clever parodies of life in modern day England, all of which are considered normal in this version by the characters. Seeing these various events or people occur in the novel is itself entertaining, but when combined with the witty and dry observations of the protagonist, the rabbit characters or the narrator through his footnotes, it becomes an absolute riot of fun and comedy. There are some amazingly funny jokes and sequences throughout this book, although the part I laughed the hardest at had to be a farcical murder trial in which a man’s innocence or guilt was determined by whether they had brought an owl with them to the murder scene. Other great jokes included lines about the rabbits’ inability to tell humans apart (most rabbits apparently cannot tell the difference between Brian Blessed and a gorilla), fun observations about rabbits in popular culture (spoilers, the rabbits are unimpressed) and the inclusion of rabbit versions of films and books. I also had to have a laugh at the author’s description of a potential anthropomorphic event occurring at the city of Goulbourn in Australia (which is quite near to me), and all I have to say about that is I very much doubt my government could organise a secret massacre of a group of drunken wombats, much less hunt down a whistleblowing sheep. That being said, the Big Merino statue in Goulbourn does totally exist and it is the town’s defining feature (which tells you quite a lot about what life in Goulbourn must be like).
One of the things that I most like about Fforde’s books is the way that he comes up with a whole new alternate universe for each of his works. All his works are set in alternate versions of England that is specific to that series, all with a number of noticeable differences between the fictional and real worlds. The version of England that The Constant Rabbit is set in was altered by an unexplained event 55 years earlier that turned a group of rabbits (as well as some other animals) into human-sized sentient beings who have gone on to create a large society of over one million rabbits which has its own culture and ideals. This in turn has led to a much different version of the UK, with significant social and political differences as humanity tries to come up with new ways to adapt to the rabbits. This is such a fantastic and out-there concept, but it works surprisingly well as a setting for this amazing and clever story. There are so many intricate details associated with this new, rabbit inhabited England, and Fforde does an outstanding job welding together this new universe and showcasing all of its features. While several key elements of this new world were introduced right at the start of the book, many were not identified until later, when they became relevant to the plot of the story. I felt that this was a great way of presenting all the major aspects of this world, as it ensured that the reader was not overwhelmed right off the bat. Fforde also includes a number of footnotes and short, out of narrative paragraphs at the start of each chapter, to provide intriguing and often hilarious anecdotes and descriptions of parts of rabbit culture or other inclusions from this world. All the clever inclusions and distinctive variations from the real world prove to be a fascinating and entertaining part of the book and I had a wonderful time seeing what wacky and inventive things Fforde would come up with next.
Another thing that I really appreciated about this book was the way that Fforde used his overly ridiculous story and setting to successfully satirise racist politics in modern day England. Anyone even vaguely familiar with some of the political and cultural issues in the UK will really appreciate what Fforde is trying to achieve with his story, and there are some great parables throughout it. The whole ‘us vs them’ mentality surrounding the issues of rabbit rights is a clear send-up of racism and anti-immigration policies and mentalities that have infected the country. Having peaceful, hardworking and tolerant rabbits and their supporters be targeted by bigoted idiots is very relevant and you cannot help but think of real-world examples of such behaviour. The ruling UK political party, UKARP, is an obvious parody of the right-wing party UKIP, equipped with its own version of Nigel Farage. Fforde really does not pull any punches and portrays them as an incompetent, intolerant, and power-hungry political party who are determined to forcibly rehome and contain all the rabbits as their main political ideal. This book contains some terrifying, if probably accurate, depictions about how a ruling party like UKARP would act when it came to people it did not like, such as putting the ultimate anti-rabbit group (in this case anthropomorphised foxes) in charge of control and monitoring the rabbits. There are some other great elements of satire throughout this book, and English readers in particular will probably get the most out of The Constant Rabbit as a result. Overall, I thought it was a great piece of satirical fiction and I had a blast seeing the author highlight all these social issues in his own special way.
The Constant Rabbit is an outstanding and incredible novel that proves to be boundlessly entertaining and deeply funny. Jasper Fforde did an incredible job writing this novel and readers are in for an awesome and memorable read that will have them laughing for hours. This is such an impressive and inventive novel, and I am highly recommending it to anyone who is after a boundlessly entertaining read that contains a real sense of comedic fun and some excellent satirical observations.