The Passengers by John Marrs
Publisher: Del Ray
Publishing Date: 1st April 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)
Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.
When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.
The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?
“The Passengers” takes us to a world with self – driving cars… You don’t have to do anything, you are a passenger that simply sits in the car. Traffic congestion, pollution and accidents has gone down significantly. The cars are, of course, unhackable… That is, until one day, the system IS hacked. Eight “passengers” are on their way to different locations when suddenly they’re told their cars are taken over and soon they’re going to die in an accident. The governing body that oversees the driverless cars and the whole of AI technology are contacted and they, as well as some of the normal people serving in a jury, are to choose who of the 8 people should be saved and why. It is all, of course, streamed to social media and the general public also gets involved. The race against time begins – is it possible to save those people?
There was a great cast of characters. Among the passengers we have a refugee woman, an Indian woman with a family that was abused by her husband and who doesn’t speak English, a wife and husband of ten years, both in two different cars, a pregnant woman, a famous actress, an army veteran and a young man who’s down on his luck. Each of them is trapped, their routes being taken over, their destination programmed. After two and a half hours one of them will live, while the rest will die. A group of jury members, who are actually investigating who’s at fault when there is a car accident and people die (and it’s almost never the car’s fault!), are dragged into the hacker’s game. The only jury member who makes a stand against the hacker and the other members is Libby, a mental health nurse with a great dislike of the driverless cars.
It was a great story about manipulation and the dangers of technology. It was horrifying to see how easily you can manipulate people, showing them this what you want them to see, and actually how people react, where their morals lie, how easy it is to led them. I was very involved in the characters’ lives though I didn’t allowed myself to judge them, waiting for the outcome. And the fact that the author actually didn’t care which of the character should die, not falling onto pieces over them, was a great and refreshing change. He also brilliantly captured the mob mentality on social media and on the streets.
But. And there is a “but”, sadly. For me the book has a great premise, it started brilliantly and the development was also great, though I must admit that there were already moments that it seemed to me that the author had a great idea but then wasn’t sure how to direct it furthermore, how to bite it to make it thrilling. And then came the end that was a disappointment for me. I was expecting a mind – blowing, fireworks ending but it simply felt flat and not complete, not wrapped up. It seemed as if the idea petered away, and I’m really sad about this as I was hoping for so much more from John Marrs. Don’t get me wrong, please, I was hooked to the pages, I vibrated together with the characters, I wanted to punch some of them in their faces and kept everything crossed for the others, and then it was as if the balloon has deflated. Sadly.
But altogether, it was a fast – paced and full of twists and turns story and although it touched upon some difficult and thought – provoking issues, it was an easy read, surprising you with the development of the story. The author has brilliantly captured the future world – he made it scary and dangerous and it really freaked me out to see that people not only allow the electronic devices decide for them but they’re also not afraid to play with other people’s lives. It was accomplished and unsettling and I am so truly sorry and also sad that it didn’t work for me – I wanted to love this book but I also wanted more substance and better execution. However, I know there is so much potential in John Marrs’ writing, his books are original and unique and I’ll be reading whatever he writes in the future.