Earlier this year I read The One by John Marrs after my friend Alice spent the best part of year (probably longer to be honest) nagging me to read it.
I WAS GRIPPED!
And as is the law when you’re gripped by a new to you author’s book, I downloaded some of his other books and then didn’t read them….until now when I picked up The Passengers….
Let’s just say, as an author, John Marrs has top marks in keeping me gripped with his books and if The Passengers isn’t turned into a TV series or film, then someone has seriously missed a trick.
In a near future, driverless cars are a legal requirement, they’re hailed as making the roads safer, they’re completely autonomous meaning you can get in your car, sit back and chill out while your vehicle does all the work for you. Sounds ideal, right?
Well, at the start of this book, eight people are about to realise that they’re in for a very bad day indeed.
Someone has managed to hack into the systems of eight cars, all the vehicles are on a collision course, in a few hours’ time they’ll hit each other, at speed.
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.
Each of them is harbouring a big secret they’re hiding; all is not as it seems with this group of passengers.
On the same morning in Birmingham, Libby is attending day two of a secret inquest. Each month a member of the public is chosen to spend a week on a road death inquest jury along with a government minister, member of the medical profession, a member of the clergy and others. Their job is to rule who is responsible for the small number of fatal accidents that happen – is it human error or vehicle fault?
The hacker, not intent on terrifying eight people has also designed a game.
Of course, they want the jurors and the public to decide on which passenger should be saved.
This is a thriller that manages to tap into some very realistic fears.
Firstly, the faceless hacker knows every detail of all their lives through the data and technology they use. From social media to fit bits, banking apps to phones, where their cars take them to, everything. Let’s be honest, that is not outside the realms of possibility, in fact our data is already harvested and used. Occasionally a book like this or a television documentary will bring that into focus, sometimes alarmingly and I did end up eyeing my phone, fit bit and Kindle with suspicion.
Secondly, there is message behind this book. It’s about people making choices and judgements on a snapshot of carefully selected information, designed to sway opinion. Also, scary, and very realistic.
The story weaves between each of the characters, their back stories, the jury room and Libby’s life. There is a lot going on in this book, but it is easy to follow, I didn’t feel lost at any point or bombarded with information.
It moves incredibly fast with short, snappy, chapters and plenty of cliff-hangers. There were moments I gasped out loud as the plot took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, or the hacker did something I hadn’t seen coming and hoped weren’t really true.
It was rammed with twists and turns, and I was desperate to get to the bottom of each character’s story and of course the hacker’s motivations.
However, despite all this. I did have a couple problems with it. There’s quite a substantial plot hole in Claire’s (pregnant woman trapped in a car) story, and when I say substantial, you could lose multiple self-driving double decker busses down it.
The final chapters that dealt with the aftermath of the hacker’s attack – 6 months later and 2 years later – dragged on a bit. There were obviously further twists in the aftermath but by the final one, I couldn’t help but think, enough now, this one wasn’t really needed.
On the whole though, I thoroughly enjoyed this ride – bad pun definitely intended – and will continue recommending John Marrs to people, a great read.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm