About ten years ago, I read a little book called Ready Player One. You may have heard of it. A young, up-and-coming director named Steven Spielberg made a movie about it. You know, R2-D2 was a DJ in it. For some reason.

When I first read it, I thought it was so groundbreaking. I like video games and movies from the 80s! Finally, a book that makes references for me! I really hadn’t read anything like it. It’s a book that focuses on gaming and talks about the merits of being online and gaming and also how bad that can be for you. As you can see, I didn’t read very much when I read RPO.

Now, I think it’s a pandering and quite frankly really dumb piece of writing. But did I buy Ready Player Two, quite possibly the worst title for a book sequel ever? Of course I did. My current feelings towards the book notwithstanding, I remember the feeling I got when I first read it. It was incredible. I truly felt seen. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

Rabbits by Terry Miles is everything that RPO wanted to be and then some. This book is really goddamn good.

The story centers around K, a depressed oddball who plays an underground ARG called Rabbits. Rabbits is a secret real-life game that is based around connections and clues that don’t quite make sense. One night, K is approached by Alan Scarpio, an off-the-wall billionaire that is rumored to be one of the winners of a previous iteration of Rabbits. He tells K that there is something wrong with the game and he needs his help to fix it.

Then, Scarpio disappears.

What follows is an absolutely bonkers series of events that I really can’t even begin to explain and, honestly, I don’t really want to. I want you to know as little as possible going into this book. I want you to get to know K and his motley crew of weirdos on your own.

Speaking of this crew of weirdos, we have Chloe, the love interest/genius; Baron, the best friend; The Magician, the owner of a local arcade that is also a meeting spot for Rabbits players; and so many other strange tertiary characters. This book deals with some really heady topics that have to deal with quantum mechanics, memory, the Mandela Effect, and some stuff called Radiants so try to pay attention while reading it.

I said to my wife while I was reading this that I really hope the book sticks the landing at the end and, well, it kind of did? Like, I’m satisfied enough, but I felt like it needed another fifty pages to really flesh everything out. It’s not a bad ending, just… Not great?

Anyway, why am I comparing this to RPO? Other than the gaming connection, this book has a lot (A LOT) of pop culture references, which it shares with RPO. However, Rabbits does this so much better. With RPO, the references were more like your uncle trying REALLY hard to show how with it he is and peppers every conversation with a pop culture reference or twelve. You couldn’t go one page without a Delorean making an appearance next to the goddamn TARDIS. It’s lousy with references for the SAKE of references. Ernie Cline was trying to break some sort of record when it comes to making references in a book. ((Alternate Joke: Ernie Cline looked at the Reference section of a library and said “Wait a minute, there isn’t a whiff Star Wars here!”) Alternate, Alternate Joke: Ernie Cline took the term “Reference Book” to heart in the worst possible way.))

Rabbits uses references in a way that is integral to the plot. It’s not just regurgitating facts onto the page, it’s using knowledge about the source material to make a connection. It’s not “Look at that BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA over there!” It’s more “Oh, that is a weapon used in an obscure book which is being used as a map to get to the final part of the game!” It’s necessary to the plot. It’s not just saying something referential, it’s using the reference as a starting point.

Overall, I really loved this book and I will be giving it to my friends who liked RPO. It’s a good read-alike that actually doubles as a good book. 5/5, 9/10.

Make sure to pick this up from your favorite indie bookstore on June 8th, 2021.

Thanks to Netgalley for the eARC!