Conspiracies abound in Rabbits, a surreal and yet all-too-real technothriller in which a deadly underground alternate reality game might just be altering reality itself.
We have the UK exclusive cover reveal and excerpt on the fantastic debut novel from Terry Miles, the founder of Public Radio Alliance, with featured podcasts reaching over 125 million downloads.
Here is the synopsis…
The door is open
What happens in the game, stays in the game . . .
Rabbits is a secret, dangerous and occasionally fatal underground game, where the rewards for winning are unclear. Yet they may involve large sums of money, CIA recruitment – or even access to hidden secrets of the universe. K doesn’t know exactly what Rabbits is, but he knows he can’t get enough of it – and he’s gone deeper than most. However, his game-play is seriously disrupted when he makes powerful enemies.
Alan Scarpio, reclusive billionaire, shows up out of nowhere and asks K to find someone. But Hazel isn’t just anyone: she’s an online revolutionary and the most famous Rabbits player of all time. As K races to locate Hazel, he senses a tightening global conspiracy blocking his moves. But has K really uncovered a plot which threatens to undo everything? Or is K headed for a breakdown of epic proportions, fuelled by his obsession with Rabbits? As events spiral out of control, he asks himself . . . which is the worst case scenario?
Rabbits is an exciting sci-fi-thriller based in the same world as the hugely popular podcast of the same name. Said to be page-turning crossover between Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Ready Player One, Rabbits could just be your new addiction!
Rabbits isn’t released until next year but until then, enjoy this excerpt from the novel…
In case you’re wondering, my name is K. That’s it. Just K. One letter.
Two things I’ll tell you: First, K is short for something. And second, I’ll never tell you what that something is. You’ll just have to find a way to cope with that disappointment.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest: A place that, at the time, I considered the wettest and loneliest corner of the Earth. A place that, many years later, I would romanticize as a kind of dark green gloomy world of ancient secrets and hidden lives, and a place that I now see as a kind of perfectly disturbing amalgamation of all of those things.
I’m old enough to remember cabinet videogames in arcades, but young enough to have trouble recalling a time without the Internet.
As a child, my parents believed I had what’s called an eidetic memory: a remarkable ability to retain images, words, and patterns in extensive detail. Back then they used the term “photographic memory,” which is inaccurate. Photographic memory doesn’t exist, and even if it does, I didn’t have it. I was just able to remember certain things, picture them clearly, and recall them later. I couldn’t remember everything, just stuff connected to patterns I found interesting. It wasn’t a math trick. Although I may have been able to drop a box of toothpicks on the floor and tell you how many there were, you weren’t getting the square root of anything from me.
Because I was the kid who could remember weird shit, I was occasionally able to distract a couple of the angry bullies in my class long enough to make them forget to kick my ass, but that only worked about fifty percent of the time—a percentage that quickly plummeted to zero when I reached high school and the ability to focus on details and pick out complex connections became less of an occasional act of self-preservation and more of an obsession.
It was this obsession with finding patterns and cracking codes (that may or may not have actually been codes at all), that resulted in me being labeled “slightly neurodiverse”—a diagnosis that landed me on a number of different medications and a handful of different therapists’ couches. It was also this obsession that eventually led me into the world of Rabbits.
When asked to pinpoint the precise moment they’d heard about the game, people often can’t remember. Maybe they’d seen something on some obscure online bulletin board, or read a snippet of a conversation about hidden “kill screens” in arcade games from the 1980s. Or perhaps it was a friend of a friend talking about a kid who’d died while playing a strange Atari 2600 game that nobody can remember actually existing.
I remember exactly where I was standing when I first heard the name Rabbits.
It was at a party in Lakewood, Washington.
Growing up in Olympia, Washington, just about an hour south of Seattle, I’d heard the stories about Polybius: the video arcade game that allegedly killed some kids in Oregon. But this mysterious game was different, more enigmatic, and perhaps even more sinister. Like Polybius, the whispers surrounding this game included men in gray suits and potential mind-altering consequences for participation. But unlike Polybius, nobody was actually talking about this game—at least not until I attended that party.
Bill and Madeline Connors were close family friends who hosted a Fourth of July celebration every year. They had two daughters, Annie and Emily—one and three years older than me respectively.
The Connors sisters had the best taste in music, and they always wore the coolest clothes—a lot of belts, and a lot of hats. At this particular party, they were both wearing tall, striped Dr. Seuss–looking hats that they’d bought at what they assured me was the hippest store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. I took their word for it. At the time, I’d never been farther south than Oakland, to attend sailing camp.
While our parents were in the backyard playing a drunken game of lawn darts, I entered the house to get a Coke (something I was never allowed to drink at home) and overheard Annie and Emily talking.
They were huddled in front of the family computer staring at something on the screen.
“Did you figure out how to load EverQuest, or what?” Annie asked.
“I have something better,” Emily replied, bringing up a screen I recognized. I had a pretty clear view from where I was hiding, just inside the kitchen doorway. They were looking at a Usenet newsgroup.
Annie leaned in to get a better look. “What’s alt dot binaries dot games?”
“Gaming group,” Emily replied, striking a few keys with expert precision.
“Another dancing baby?”
“Just listen.” Emily gently placed her hand over her sister’s mouth and pressed the space bar.
A video file started to play. It appeared to be a clip from an old wildlife documentary. The voice on the screen was talking about something called the imperial woodpecker.
“So what? It’s a fucking woodpecker. Let’s go back outside. Luke Milligan is here,” Annie said, tugging at her sister’s sleeve.
“Luke Milligan’s an asshole. He tried to put his hand up Nina’s shirt in chem.”
“Really?” Annie was clearly disappointed.
“Besides, it’s not just any woodpecker,” Emily said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, look at them all. There must be at least fifty woodpeckers in those last three scenes.”
“Yeah, so what? They’re big?”
“Yeah, they’re big, but that’s not it. This documentary was made in 1989, and the last reported sighting of an imperial woodpecker was in 1956.”
“Whoa.” Annie leaned in closer to the screen. “What does it mean?”
“It’s Rabbits,” Emily said, and shut down the computer.
“Rabbits?” Annie’s eyes were huge. She was fascinated.
So was I.
There was something about the way Emily had said the word “Rabbits” that felt like a secret—like something adults knew that children couldn’t possibly understand.
Emily looked around to make sure nobody was listening. The angle of the kitchen doorway kept me out of her line of sight. She lowered her voice. “It’s a secret game.”
Annie stared at the image of a woodpecker frozen on the screen. “What does it mean?”
“It means I’m going to be playing,” Emily said, matter-of-fact.
“How do you play?”
“It’s kind of complicated.”
“Like we’re supposed to find things.”
“Things like patterns, discrepancies. Things that don’t make sense.”
“Patterns?” Annie said. She was doing her best to follow the conversation, but she clearly had no idea what the hell her sister was talking about.
Emily took a deep breath and collected her thoughts before continuing. “Okay, so, there’s a nature documentary released by a company that no longer exists, if it actually ever did.”
I stood there in the kitchen, completely enthralled, as Emily got into some pretty wild theories about that documentary.
The gist of it was pretty simple. There was a name listed in the end credits that didn’t have an accompanying occupation like makeup artist, boom op, best boy, or key grip.
One name was just hanging there, all alone on the screen—an “orphan name,” I think Emily called it. She told Annie she’d overheard a discussion about this film and had brought it to the others on her gaming forum. They performed some numerology and math involving the letters of that person’s name, and eventually found something called The Night Station.
“What’s The Night Station?” Annie asked.
“That’s what we’re going to find out. Come on.”
I ducked out of the house and into the backyard just in time to miss being spotted by the two girls.
Emily told her parents that she and Annie were going to the store, and asked, half-heartedly, “Does anybody need anything?”
A few voices yelled out requests—cigarettes, ginger ale, chips and dip. Annie wrote everything down as Emily grabbed the keys to her mother’s truck.
Mrs. Connors voice rose above the others. “Take K with you.”
“Mom, there’s no room,” Emily complained.
“It’s a big truck, Em. Don’t be difficult.”
Emily exhaled and walked past me without making eye contact. “Come on, kid.”
“What makes you think I wanna go?” I said.
Annie grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the house.
I definitely wanted to go—not only because Annie was the first girl I’d ever kissed, but also because of what Emily had been talking about in the kitchen. The idea of a mysterious secret game called Rabbits.
Rabbits is published by Tor on 10 June 2021.