I’ve only read one John Marrs book before, The One, and it was really good, so I had high hopes for The Passengers and boy did it deliver! I read The Passengers in one day – it was completely unputdownable! How could it not be with a premise like this: Eight driverless cars are hacked and set on a collision course. Who lives and who dies is up to you! The only thing that could have made The Passengers better is if it was a Black Mirror style choose-your-own-adventure book where you really could decide who lives or dies!
The Passengers is absolutely an edge-of-your-seat read. It doesn’t waste any time in getting to the action – and believe me when I say it is action packed! You as the reader are put right in the thick of it and it really does make you ask yourself some hard questions. More than once you’re prompted to think; would I save this person, and why?
The Passengers is a complete and total page turner.
Ok, so on to the premise in a bit more depth. Eight ‘unhackable’ driverless cars have their OS’s hacked and are set on a collision course at high speed with each other. The passengers are each informed of this and their near guaranteed and imminent demise. We get to see their reactions, as well as the reactions of the world as it’s broadcast live over TV and social media.
The eight passengers consist of: an elderly and self-important TV star, a disabled war veteran, an abused wife in the middle of finally fleeing her husband, a young pregnant woman, an illegal immigrant, a highly suicidal youngish/middle-aged man and a husband and wife (who are also parents) who are travelling in different vehicles. Now the public have to – or get to, depending on your disposition – judge which one passenger should survive. Butare the passengers all that they seem? The answer is obviously no.
” ‘The only thing you need to know at this point is that in two hours and thirty minutes from now, it is highly likely that you will be dead.’ “
There’s a ‘jury’ which had been assembled to debate other separate (though not entirely unrelated) issues involving self-drive cars and the legality of any deaths/accidents in the everyday real world. This jury, consisting of several ‘in industry’ representatives and one token ‘Joe Everyman’ member of the public, is forced into becoming the grand jury for deciding who should survive the collision.
There’s also the participation of the public that needs to be taken into consideration too. Social media provides an unofficial voting platform for the fate of the passengers. But the passengers have secrets. Some dark, deeply disturbing secrets which are revealed to the public in specific and often misleading ways to influence the voting.
The Passengers is a great exploration of representation and presentation of truths, lying by omission, dark secrets and living a lie. Things get unpleasant (that’s putting it mildly) real quick and there are some enormous shockers. The Passengerswill make you question your own moral compass several times –guaranteed!
“His heart was beating twenty to the dozen as he listened to the terror-stricken confusion of the others as they begged to be told what was happening to them.”
I was completely hooked from the very first page – I’m not embellishing even in the slightest when I say I read this in 1 day. I did not want to put it down, so I didn’t.
I liked that The Passengers opened with a focus on several of the passengers. The attention on them and their stories helped give a human connection to what easily could have simply been a ‘kill count’ number. It helped give me a sense of danger and urgency and kept messing with my perception on who should and shouldn’t live.
The characters were fleshed out and three-dimensional, which was quite an impressive feat considering there are so many of them! It helped make The Passengers a well-rounded and complex book!
There are so many twists and turns in The Passengers that I genuinely didn’t see coming, and I’m usually pretty good at picking up on thriller plot twists! A couple of moments were literally jaw dropping!
I loved the build up with practically every page turn! I was racing through the pages almost as fast as the cars were driving!
” ‘Do we even need to vote on this?’ asked Fiona. The others shook their heads and looked away from the screen. ‘Then let us move on to the next Passenger.’ “
The Passengers was an easy read due to the excellent writing style and flow. However the complexity behind it is astounding. Behind all of the twists, shocks and turns is a much deeper social commentary on several hot-button issues, yet it never feels preachy.
Many socially relevant topics/discussion points are brought up throughout the pages of The Passengers such as: mob mentality, how people behave as their ‘online self’ compared to their ‘real life self’, judgment, prejudice, leaping to conclusions, fake news, misinformation, ‘us vs them’ mentality, patriotism and media persuasion.
Interesting little side note; The Passengers is set in the same universe as The One. The DNA matching service from The One is mentioned multiple times in The Passengers and plays a fairly important role in a few of the passengers story arcs. Whilst I don’t think it’s essential to read The One before The Passengers (as references are adequately explained for those who haven’t) I’d recommend it if you have time, because it’s another great book. However you 100% don’t have to. You will still understand The Passengers if you haven’t read The One.
I do have to say that I felt that the second half of The Passengerswas not as strong as the first – and perhaps this is only the second half of the second half. The ending was a bit ham-handed at times, it seemed to bring the realism down a bit, which is a shame because up until that point it was quite believable. I can’t say much more than that without giving spoilers, so I won’t.
I also felt like our female lead was a bit wimpy and whiny at times. I really didn’t like her as much as others – she was quite a drip and I just wanted to shake her. The romance between two characters (no spoilers again) also didn’t do it for me and I could have done without it.
However all in all The Passengers is a spectacular read, an amazing thriller and completely unputdownable for me. It’s already a contender for one of the best books of 2019 in my eyes!
“Which one of this lot are you killing off first then?”
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review. I did receive a copy in exchange for a review, but this did not have any effect on my review – all the opinions are honest and my own.
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