Brown Robin Review: The Year of the Angry Rabbit

The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Brandon

Beware spoilers!

Review by Brown Robin. This is a book which requires some professional-level suspension of disbelief, but I believe it compares favorably to such satires as Dr. Strangelove and Atomic War Bride.

The Prime Minister of Australia is presented with a familiar yet thorny problem, an invasion of rabbits. Scientists are roped into an effort to develop a toxin to put the matter to rest. This effort fails spectacularly, resulting in super rabbits and a toxin remarkably effective against humans. Australia becomes the ruler of the world. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t last.

There are so many touches to like and admire in this silly, silly book.  The practice of staged wars, something like the Aztec version of lacrosse, all to win the tourist and entrepreneurial dollar.  The production of materiel destined for the sea floor in a full-employment scheme.  A character whose previous career consisted of only preternaturally bad choices, who yet has the ear of his Prime Minister, and proceeds to walk the world to its doom with his Big Ideas, which really seemed to work for a while…

Like Strangelove, there’s hardly a female in this story, but I feel that’s part of Braddon’s point.  This is a old boys’ club world, with an outcome one would expect from the patriarchy. I appreciated the [spoiler alert!] fact that in the end, the Australian aborigines inherit the Earth.

I imagine this novel as written over a weekend, as it is chock full of keen insight and cutting humor, and a whole lot of nonsense, but if you can see past the howlers and boners, you’ll find a neat dissection of what passes for grownups in our political realm. Though I have to admit, I found Prime Minister Fitzgerald an appealing enlightened despot. He really did mean well.

10 thoughts on “Brown Robin Review: The Year of the Angry Rabbit

  1. Am I the only one getting ‘Night of the Lepus’’ vibes from the cover? This is the book it’s from. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Lepus DeForrest Kelly starred in it
    The use of disease to defeat the invasive European rabbit in Australia is a true governmental project. The program for full employment by producing to-be-destroyed items is from Heinlein’s 1956 book ‘Door into Summer’. So the author is rehashing bits from other sources, I hope he gives them credit. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/how-european-rabbits-took-over-australia/#:~:text=In%20the%201950s%2C%20the%20government,wild%20to%20eradicate%20an%20animal.

  2. Yes, I think Night of the Lepus actually did credit Year of the Angry Rabbit as its source, though they are in very different cultural spaces – the book is a somewhat vicious satire, the film a not very frightening horror movie.

    Australian friends assure me that Brandon was a constructive cultural irritant, best known for his memoir of being a prisoner of war, one of the early visibly gay cultural figures in the country. I don’t know if that is true, only passing on what I have been told.

  3. In Brown Robin’s previous review, of Pebble in the Sky, we didn’t list the publication date either. I don’t understand why this is throwing people off.

  4. @OGH: I don’t know why, but it seemed obvious to me that this was a very old book; on the other hand, the difference between this and Pebble in the Sky is that a lot of people reading File770 know for a fact that that one is very old.

  5. Yes, YotAR is mid-60s publication, and was the basis for Night of the Lepus, which I have not seen, and probably won’t, Bones’ presence notwithstanding.

    It was one of the first sf novels I read, and when I found a copy for less than a hundred bucks, I snagged it for the sake of nostalgia. I was not disappointed. My reading tastes have evolved, but not unrecognizably so.

    There’s a running gag where he keeps trying to disappear people once their part of his schemes is played out, or merely for convenience. It’s funny to see a basically decent fellow deploy the Stalin maneuver at the drop of a hat.

  6. Andrew (not Werdna): Yeah, well, I forsee that my obituary notice will include “and he made people so annoyed they looked up stuff in the Wikipedia then came back to announce it.”

  7. @OGH: An event so far in the future that I will have forgotten your prediction by then.

  8. Night of the Lepus is the kind of movie that everyone involved with should have been ashamed of (though it is interesting to watch the actors play it as straight as they could; no one breaks up at any point or even looks ready to, no matter how ludicrous the lines they have to speak) but I feel that the model-makers don’t get enough credit for the really excellent job they did of re-creating the full-size town for the giant, carnivorous rabbits to rampage through.

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