Self-driving cars have become so safe and trusted that the UK government has decided that everyone will be switching over to them. But one morning, eight people-- including a TV star past her prime, a young pregnant woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man-- all get in their driverless cars only to have the doors lock, their routes change, and a voice telling them, "You are going to die."
Their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world through hidden cameras in their cars, and it's not long before social media users show their true colors by chiming in with their opinions on which of the eight people should be saved... and which ones should die.
Sometimes a novel comes along that skillfully pushes the buttons on our primal fears. John Marrs' The Passengers is such a novel. From giving up control of the vehicle we're in, to how social media is used-- for good or ill-- as the foundation stone of public opinion, Marrs' fast-paced thriller kept me completely engrossed in his story.
In The Passengers, the government has an agenda and so do the people who hacked into the system controlling the self-driving cars. As we learn about each of the characters trapped in the cars and the hapless "jury" that has to make the final decisions on life and death, we become complicit in the decision-making. And it's not easy. The victims locked in the cars are afraid for their lives and become selective with the truth. Marrs adds twists to each person's history by having the hackers withhold key facts that the jury needs to know in order to make informed decisions, and these twists are like landmines on the routes those self-driving cars are traveling.
This book was well on its way to becoming another of my Best Reads of 2019; however, I'm sad to say that the ending unraveled a bit for me. One character's happily-ever-after ending came out of left field, and some of the knots the other loose ends were tied up in didn't feel quite right either. But... oh what a fantastic ride to my destination! (And I doubt very much that I'll ever willingly get into a self-driving car.)
The Passengers by John Marrs
Berkley © 2019
eBook, 352 pages
Source: Net Galley