The Passengers by John Marrs
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?
This is the third novel that I have read by Marrs and it was just as enjoyable as the others. I really enjoy Marrs’ writing style which is why I’m always looking for his books. Marrs is quickly becoming a favourite author of mine; I wish that finding his books at my local Chapters/Indigo was easier (I live in Canada and he’s from the UK and is not well-known here). Marrs does thrillers wonderfully, I never see his plot twists coming and I’m always shocked. I hold him in high regard as a writer that it’s now hard for me to find another author to top his writing.
The Passengers is set in the near future, where cars will be driverless. No brakes, no steering wheel, no way to control the car. That’s a terrifying thought but not far off from where we are with self-driving cars. The drivers of these cars are known as Passengers. In the first half of the novel we meet eight Passengers who have one thing in common, their cars have been hijacked by an unknown person (known as the Hacker) and in two and half hours they will face a head-on collision and be killed. The public can choose to save one person with the limited information the Hacker is giving them.
It is in this chaos that we are introduced to the main character, Libby, who has her own issues with the driverless cars. She is a civilian on a board of juror’s part of the Vehicle Inquest Jury, who review the black boxes of the vehicles that were involved in accidents. The reader finds out more about the eight Passengers along with the characters in the jury room and the public via the Hacker. The information that is provided by the Hacker is minimal and is curated to give a fractured version of who the Passengers are. This commentary was juxtaposed with the jury who make decisions if an accident of a driverless car was the fault of the car or of the Passenger. I liked how the reader was given selective information on the eight Passengers, information that the Hacker wanted the reader and the audience to be given.
This novel was told from the perspectives of the Passengers and Libby. The different perspectives did not take away from the plot but added more layers. Every time the chapter and perspective ended of one character I wanted to dive right back in and learn more. It was an element that worked well in this novel and kept me on the edge of my seat. I’m normally very hesitant about multiple perspective stories, especially when there’s eight Passengers plus our main protagonist Libby. Marrs’ did not over-do it with the perspectives, they each served a purposed and helped move to the plot along while giving the reader just a bit more information while still leaving them in the dark about the true motives and who the Hacker is.
At the beginning of every chapter there is a multimedia clipping or insert that either details what is occurring on social media, or how the laws of driverless cars have changed over the years. This did not distract from the novel but added more world-building and understanding of how the cars got to where they are in this novel. It was interesting to see the social media posts and what was trending as the story progressed. I’ve seen this done in other novels where it distracted me from the novel, but here it was done effectively.
The Passengers made me think more about how much information is out there on the internet and who can access it, especially my personal information. That was the terrifying part of this novel, not the hijackings, but how easily someone can access your personal information.
The pacing wasn’t too slow or too fast, the sense of dread grew every chapter as time was running out for the Passengers. I could not put this book down in the last half of the novel, as is the case with Marrs’ other novels that I’ve read. I was hooked with the pacing and kept wondering what was going to happen next. This was a tense thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I was shrieking towards the end of the novel yet again! I did the same for the other two books that I read, The One and What Lies Between Us. It seems like Marrs always emits strong emotions from me when I’m reading his books that other authors lack.
I highly recommend The Passengers to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced thriller with twists and turns along the way. I will keep on praising Marrs for his writing and his original plots that tie into what is occurring currently in the world. I think the only thing that I didn’t enjoy in this novel was the political undertones that were sprinkled throughout the novel which had me struggling for a bit before I got into the flow.
Cups of Tea: ☕☕☕☕☕
Publisher: Berkley Books
Published: August 27, 2019