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Can you trust it?

Cover of The Passengers
A review of The Passengers by John Marrs

If you, like me, are feeling the end of summer doldrums a bit, then I've got the book for you. The Passengers by John Marrs takes you on a wild ride and sets you on a collision course with fun! Too much? One pun too many?

Marr's novel is set in the not too distant future in England where totally self-driving cars have become the norm and are about to become law. In the first brief chapters of the book we're introduced to a series of people who all get into their automated (AI controlled) cars one morning and soon find out that not only has control of their car been taken over by an unknown hacker, that hacker is telling them that they will most likely be dying in 2.5 hours. As each passenger realizes their plight, their reactions are broadcast on social media across the world.

At the same time a group of officials and one member of the public are meeting as a secret, government controlled grand jury of a sort. Their task? To determine fault in car accidents involving driverless cars. On the second day of their week-long deliberations they find they too have been hacked and now the "Hacker" informs them that their new jury deliberations (along with the votes of the public on social media) will determine who among The Passengers will live or die.

This was a fast-paced, thrill ride (oops, sorry, hard to resist) and I had a really good time reading it. The author also introduces some good commentary on our increasing attachment to and reliance on automated technologies (self-driving cars are a thing!) and on the mob power of social media and how emotions (good and bad) drive it (darn it! that one was purely an accident! gah! cannot get away from the driving puns). I will admit that once I finished the book with it's too tidy ending and really began to think about it, I could find the flaws. There are some plot elements that are convenient and a couple authorial choices to which I'd give a side-eye. So it's not perfect. But those quibbles aside, I raced through this and was totally along for the ride. 

Sep 9, 2022