Conspiracies abound in this surreal and yet all-too-real technothriller in which a deadly underground alternate reality game might just be altering reality itself, set in the same world as the popular Rabbits podcast.
It’s an average work day. You’ve been wrapped up in a task, and you check the clock when you come up for air–4:44 pm. You go to check your email, and 44 unread messages have built up. With a shock, you realize it is April 4th–4/4. And when you get in your car to drive home, your odometer reads 44,444. Coincidence? Or have you just seen the edge of a rabbit hole?
Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. Their identities are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past–and the body count is rising.
And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K–a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts or the whole world will pay the price.
Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.
I couldn’t resist this description of an alternate reality game – and it turned out to be a mindbender of a book.
I wasn’t familiar with the Rabbits podcast created by this author, but after checking it out it seems to be pretty popular. The website states it’s a documentary/docudrama, and the show’s producers won’t admit it isn’t real. That little niggle at the back of my brain wondering if this could really happen made this story even more appealing for me. The game of Rabbits is kind of like Fight Club – you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, and you tell no one you’re playing. Rumors about its purpose have surrounded the game for years, and the identities of the winners are unknown. It involves finding patterns, inconsistencies, and following clues in our everyday world, and the players seem to be pretty tech savvy and geniuses at detecting subtle irregularities.
After K is contacted by Scarpio (a former winner – maybe?) who tells him something has gone wrong with the game, things take a dark turn. Players go missing and/or turn up dead. K has had some issues in his past and at times is unsure of what’s real and what’s not – along with the reader. He loses time, encounters shadow figures, and remembers movies that don’t exist. My jaw dropped more than once at unanticipated twists, and I formed all sorts of theories.
At times, you’ll feel like you’re literally going down a rabbit hole with the characters, then look up at the clock and see you’ve also lost time because you need to know what’s happening. With quantum physics, alternate realities, false memory syndrome, and more, Rabbits is a trippy and often baffling novel I’d recommend to avid sci-fi fans. Now I’ll be looking for patterns and inconsistencies everywhere.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.