Published: 1st April 2019
Genre: Dystopian Thriller
Trigger warnings: Suicide, sexual abuse
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 a breathless book which contained a great number of the things I look for in a thriller. We have an original and innovative concept; well developed characters who turn out to be a lot more than you might expect upon first glance; incredibly high stakes, and no shortage of twists and turns. A winning combination!
As for the plot, it consumed me instantly and pulled out all the stops to ensure that I was gripped throughout. An intense and occasionally unsettling read, when at full throttle The Passengers is truly exhilarating. The chapters are short, the pace is very fast, and as such this is a story that never holds back.
The concept is an intriguing one, and that is where the dystopian aspect comes in. It is a number of years in our future, and the UK has become the first country in the world to give complete control of its roads to driver-less cars because research has shown that they improve safety compared to manual vehicles. The author clearly put a lot of research into this, and he came up with some impressive creative ideas which gave the story more credibility.
The beginning of the book is haunting and sets things up perfectly. Eight passengers, all with interesting and diverse backstories, have their cars hacked by a mysterious entity who informs them that they will soon be dead. You cannot get much scarier than that! Their ordeal is beamed across the world, on television and on social media.
Meanwhile, it is down to the public and a ruling committee to decide who to save, and who to condemn to their deaths. Gradually we find out more about the passengers; their insidious secrets brought to the surface by the merciless, scheming Hacker. As the plot intensifies, it does become rather frightening. I was completely freaked out at one point!
The whole aspect of having to decide who to save does raise some important issues, which the author is not afraid of highlighting. I also felt it directed a clear question towards the reader – what would you choose to do in that situation? And I think you could hardly be placed in a more impossible position.
For such a fast paced, plot-driven novel, the characters are very well developed. The main protagonist is Libby, the member of the public chosen to be on the committee. And you know what? She is an absolutely wonderful protagonist; so easy to connect with, and on many occasions I felt she spoke on behalf of the reader and called out the injustices of the world presented in the book.
Libby’s best moment, however, is saved for the ending. Just when I thought she was making a horrific mistake, everything is turned on its head by a brilliant twist. I loved this ending, it was well-written an brought a fittingly dramatic conclusion to the story.
Most of the passengers were interesting, especially as you learn more about them. Some of their issues were quite hard-hitting. As for the Hacker, he was a menacing presence. Every time he spoke, there was a sense of foreboding about what was about to happen, or be revealed.
Despite the good points, I did have problems with a couple of the characters. Jack Larsson is horrible and unlikable, but he seemed like a bit of a caricature rather than someone who was actually believable. And Cadman was…irritating. As much as I can see why social media played such a role in the book and the powerful message it conveyed, I do not think it really enhanced the plot.
But overall, this is a must-read for all thriller fans. It is a pulsating ride that hardly relents right up until the end. There are indeed so many adjectives I can use to describe this book, and it certainly leaves a lasting impression. If you decide to pick it up, I can guarantee that you will be on the edge of your seat!
Having written five previous books including The One, John Marrs has become well-known for writing suspenseful thrillers. The premise for The One was used as a plot device in The Passengers, ensuring a link between the two books.
A former freelance journalist who wrote for a variety of publications, Marrs became a full-time author in 2018. The One is due to be adapted into a Netflix series, and there are similar plans to adapt The Passengers.
A thriller that I or any other reader will not forget in a hurry. It was frightening, compelling, and extremely good!
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5