The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen
Henri is a mathematician. Specifically an insurance mathematician, an actuary. It means that he can calculate the chances, the probability of events, of things happening around him, of the most efficient way of using money and time. He has his job, his apartment, and his cat Schopenhauer, who he trusts. Unfortunately he is not doing well at work where motivational language is everything, and a surprise inheritance leads to a series of complications that even he could not have foreseen. With steep learning curves in every direction, remembering the difference between an amusement and an adventure park, and a sudden appreciation of art to contend with, Henri has his hands full.
This is a book from Finland, and even through translation the humour and incredible situations are still memorable. Henri is a hapless character as things happen to him without warning, and some of them are quite outrageous. His progress throughout this book is quite extreme, especially in the dangerous encounters he has which feature some spectacular props and circumstances. The characters that surround him are remarkable in every way, including employees with their own agendas and people who typically appear when least expected. When maths and totally illogical events collide with this much humour it makes for a special novel. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this memorable book.
The adventure park is introduced memorably as Henri narrates a fast moving pursuit around structures in an adventure park. It includes the Curly Cake Cafe, the Turtle Trucks and Caper Castle, where he tries to evade a mysterious, murderous pursuer. He runs to an enormous plastic rabbit, only to see a knife flying towards him. His first reaction is to use the loose ear which he has been trying to reattach to the rabbit to beat the man to death. Exactly how a man who says that he has only one wish “I wanted everything to be sensible” gets to be running round a deserted car park in fear of his life is somewhat complicated. It begins with his failed attempt to log onto a computer at work, which leads to a largely incomprehensible conversation with his boss. The outcome is completely unexpected to Henri, as is the visit of a lawyer shortly afterwards. The loss of a brother is one thing; the sudden acquisition of an adventure park another. His induction to the park and the employees is informative and much more. Another element of his brother’s operations looks to be getting a little exciting, and provides much of the impetus for quite a complex narrative.
This is basically a surreal and funny book which is amusing because Henri is the least likely person to even be in an adventure park, let alone running it. The strength is in the characters: Henri himself, Laura the manager with skills of an artistic nature, and Kristian the ambitious if easily impressed maintenance man. There are several layers to this book, as Henri has to think and react very differently from his previous existence, calculate very different probabilities, and experience things that he could never have imagined. I found it a memorable read which I found very entertaining.There is lots to enjoy in this book, and it manages to be funny even in a second language.