I adore the works of Jasper Fforde. I think he is a clever and insightful writer who uses humour to illustrate the problems of this world but who also scatters lots of literary references, puns and word plays around his books. He reminds me a lot of the writings of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and if you enjoy those then you might want to look at Jasper Fforde’s work too. I review Early Riser here and First Among Sequels here.
The Constant Rabbit is about a world just like ours but where an event in a lab has made some rabbits (and a few other animals) become human sized, able to walk and with human levels of intelligence. The rabbits live in the world with humans but are not accepted by them. Laws are passed to make them less than human, people don’t want them to live in their village, there are attempts to round them up and put them in special camps, and there are fears that their breeding speed will result in them becoming the dominant race and driving out the humans. It is obvious from the very beginning that this is a book about attitudes to immigration and racism and it will make you look at those issues but it is also an amusing and lively story filled with amazing ideas.
Peter Knox is a man who has always been drawn to rabbits and enjoyed their company. He is also very unusual in that he can tell one rabbit from another (to most people they all look the same). Peter works for a government agency that tries to handle rabbits and he excuses this by pointing out that he needs the money and that if he didn’t do the job someone else would. Into Peter’s idyllic country village comes a rabbit family and Peter has to face his fellow humans but also the rabbits of whom he becomes very fond. He is torn each way because he doesn’t want to lose his job or be forced out of his home but he also knows that what is going on is wrong.
I thought this book was amazingly clever as the author tells us how large rabbits dress, what they wear, how they manage without opposable thumbs, what they eat and so on. The book is full of inventive thinking (and footnotes of course – Jasper Fforde loves footnotes). I also liked the way that the story addressed the things that people think and say about those who are different from them and how some of us claim to be allies but don’t actually stand up to be counted when it matters. As usual, books play a large part in the plot and there are large, faceless organisations who cover their evil in marketing speak. I did think that the end of the story was a bit of a cop-out although I am not entirely sure what else the author could have done.
I recommend this book, as I do all this author’s works. They are highly unusual reading and very enjoyable.