Rabbits is the novel I didn’t know I wanted to read… mostly because I knew it as a podcast, until a month ago when they snuck an announcement onto the feeds of Rabbits as well as Tanis and The Last Movie, which is pretty much the most on-brand announcement ever. Rabbits, like most things Terry Miles, shift between horror, science fiction, metafiction, and pure geekery, this time in the form of an underground, unofficial game about finding discrepancies in minute details — the ultimate nerd game.
Rabbits the novel follows K’s experience playing the current iteration of the game, XI, which occurs at least two rounds after Carly Parker’s adventure in season one of the podcast. K actually manages to discover more about the entities that control and play the game than anyone bargains for when Alan Scarpio himself tasks him with saving the game.
And yes, season one of Rabbits implies a season two, which dropped the week I’m writing this, but while you’re out looking for podcasts, check out our podcast, The Game of Nerds, where we have fascinating discussions about real nerd life.
I’m done talking about podcasts, but I’m not done with games. Games are central to K’s experience saving Rabbits since it’s basically a game of games. Clues are hidden in old video games or internet sites with instructions to play obscure role-playing games. Films, rock albums, and novels also hide signs that direct K to find who those are running the game and figure out what the reward might be at the end. In an age when where we buy that totally sweet Gambit T-shirt on Instagram without a second thought, this obsession with the minutiae of material culture isn’t the most flattering mirror, but it’s honest.
However, the suspense mostly comes from the unknown. And, boy, there’s plenty of that. The whole PNW canon stretches the limits of intentional vagueness, leaving characters to jump to conclusions in an intentionally Fox Mulder style. Peripheral characters move in and out of K’s path, doubtless off on adventures of their own, but at times the messages they pass on feel so synthetic and vague that it’s hard to imagine someone speaking those words with a straight face. But despite this, K formulates answers as to why the game exists and how it works. It marks one of the few times that the term “alternate universe” comes to the surface in a serious context.
In another X-Files echoing move, K also takes the satisfying step of actually exploring the romantic relationships that other Rabbits players only hint at having with one another. The object of K’s affection is mostly his blonde companion Chloe, a unicorn of popular culture mashups who has played in an indie band and works in an arcade for fun, though in the third act, K’s childhood crush Emily reenters his life. How strongly would romantic attraction change from universe to universe? K finds no satisfactory answer, but then still manages to draw lots of brain-bending questions about the small things on which larger concepts like life partnership might be built.
For K, and for all Rabbits players, life seems to be built on culture. The Rabbits game continually draws on an endless parade of the Internet and pop-cultural references to stoke the nerdy ego’s belief that remembering the details of utter nonsense could save the world (a.k.a. my bachelor’s degree in English). And why not? K explores personal worlds based on the fantasies of individuals that only threaten to collapse when order should be imposed on them. Beyond an eidetic memory, a love of video games, and a wardrobe consisting of T-shirts and jeans, K remains something of a tabula rasa. I’ve tried to avoid using gendered pronouns for K because Rabbits the novel is written in first person and I’m not sure K ever uses one. K could be any gender or race, a potential way for readers to see themselves playing Rabbits alongside K.
If you read this website often, you’re probably the kind of person who would love Rabbits, so go get a copy, be sure to annotate it cryptically, and then leave it mysteriously in a Little Free Library somewhere for someone else to discover.
Four out of five stars.