I've been a huge fan of Andrew Smith's books since I stumbled across Grasshopper Jungle several years ago and thought it was one of the most bizarre, inventive and plan fun books I'd read in years. Rabbit and Robot is very much in the same vein and it's going to be difficult to talk about without giving away too much. But I will do my best...
Set in a future where war is a daily occurrance and most of the world is on fire, Cager and his friend Billy are among the few people in the world who are not either robots (cogs) or those who programme robots (coders). This is purely because their fathers are the uber-elite, super rich who have built the system. To keep the human population under control, a drug called Woz is administered freely.
Cager is not supposed to use Woz, but out of boredom he started taking it and is now an addict. To try and wean him off the drug, Billy and Cager's carer Rowan hijack a luxury space cruiser for him to detox in.
Unfortunately, as they are prepping to leave the Earth's atmosphere, Earth implodes under the weight of too many wars, leaving the three men as potentially the only human survivors. The spacecraft is well suited to sustaining human life long-term. A full staff of cogs is available to serve and food and drink can be printed to order.
But something has been let loose on the spaceship. Something that makes the cogs behave in an increasingly bizarre manner. And who are the human girls on board that Cager alone can smell? Will they be able to help Cager and Billy escape a lifetime trapped in space?
There is so much to like about this book. From the fully functioning cogs, each of whom has one defining characteristic - cheerful, depressed, know-it-all, outraged, horny - to the visit to the ship by another species of alien who claim to be fully responsible for the human race. And then there's the French-speaking amorous giraffe...
Cager is kind of an annoying protagonist. He's spoiled and weak and unable to do anything much for himself. But it's clear this is not really his fault. His parents have brought him up this way, allowing Rowan to be a surrogate parent/valet/man-servant all in one. They've even paid kids to be friends with Cager and Billy.
To give away more would be too much, so I won't go into much more detail. Just know that everything that happens in this book is surreal, strange and immensely fun. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you like quirky, extremely imaginative stories, this one is for you.
But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.