Page 45 Review by Stephen
Arrestingly powerful piece written simply, concisely and directly by John Marsden and brought to anthropomorphic, all-ages life by Shaun Tan. And I do mean all ages. It's an exceptionally fine book to give to young adults increasingly concerned about the environment but also - post-Iraq - war, but I would suggest that just as many copies have been snapped up by adults for exactly the same reason. That and the sheer majesty of Shaun Tan's expressionistic execution.
For if THE ARRIVAL was a heartfelt rallying cry against racism in compassionate support of those who have no option but to leave their loved ones behind to go in search of safety abroad
if THE ARRIVAL was about opening our arms and the doors of more prosperous and peaceful nations as a refuge for those facing very real physical danger, then integrating them into a magnificently diverse population, then THE RABBITS is a scathing satire on so-called civilisation and an attack on wholesale invasion. Specifically it's a barely disguised allegory of what happened to Australia and its ecology - its land, natural resources, its indigenous population and indeed species - when the white man came to town and obliterated them all. You know, with more than a little help from those cute little bunny-wunnies we blithely brought with us. We didn't half breed like them too.
I can see Shaun Tan absolutely jumping at the chance to hop on board here. This is everything he's passionate about, and he's brought with him his usual sense of scale, the leviathan of a serpentine liner with its dragon-like prow looming over the land on the cover. The anthropomorphic rabbits are grotesquely bunched-up beasts, narrowed eyes peering through ocular apparatuses from under stiff, starched collars like malignant toads. They scrutinise and categorise whatever they plunder. Everything about them and everything they do and bring with them is an alien antithesis to the natural environment - all regimented right-angles, straight lines and lots and lots of industrial gauges, smoke-belching chimneys, and soulless, gargantuan factories with clocks all dictating precisely the same time. There are so many exceptional set-pieces here, but I particularly relished the double-page spread in which the uniformed and indeed uniform rabbits first set about imprinting their pre-conceived notions of perfection on the landscape, matching it precisely to a painting they've brought with them, an essay in ruled perspective and unwavering symmetry. Talk about prefabrication. Wittily the painting itself is imposed on the landscape behind it which begins to echo exact its lines of radiating perspective as the hutch-like houses are built according to plan.
For similar sentiments on how rubbish a balanced life of peaceful and harmonious coexistence with nature is, please see Eric Drooker's BLOOD SONG. We even have interior art up there and it's gorgeous!