Fast and frantic from the word go, The Passengers by John Marrs was a fun read that I shot through. Sure, it all felt a little ridiculous at times, but I enjoyed it. And that is all that really counts, right?
Set in the near future in the UK, this is a world were self-driving cars have become the norm, making the roads far safer… Or so it seems. Eight passengers from a wide range of ethnic and social backgrounds (each with their own secrets) have had their cars hijacked and are set on a collision course that will see them all die. That is, unless a jury and social media can come to a consensus about who deserves to live. As a reader, I guess we would all have our own opinions on who we would want to keep alive the most and, if you have read this, I would be interested to know who you were rooting for. Personally, I wanted Claire Arden to live the most.
The story is told from a range of perspectives. We get a handful of the Passengers and the ‘hero’ of the story: Libby. Libby is clearly designed to be our conscience and guide in this story as she is a member of the jury and can see the whole event unfurling without changing from the consistent 1st person perspective that is used throughout the book. Unfortunately, Libby is a bit bland and dull, and we spend the most amount of time with her. In a way, I guess this works quite well though as it allows you to self-project a bit and, therefore, you feel a bit more personally invested in the story.
For me, the biggest strength of this book was its pacing. This was relentless throughout, which when combined with relatively short chapters, just kept me turning the pages and I absolutely powered through this book – especially considering I was reading this mid-moving house! Away from that, Marrs moves his characters away from Libby’s blandness and writes so absolutely amazing characters with real depth. It is a real testament to his character writing that you can feel attached to some of the characters in such a short period of time, especially Claire and Shabana, while loathing others, such as Sofia Bradbury – whose general sense of entitlement and delusion was just painful!
Oh, and a final strength: John Marrs got the whole attitude of social media bang on in this one. I could well believe the reactions and hashtags that were present throughout the book. Ranging from the almost bi-polar relationship that social media had with Libby through to the racism that the non-white Passengers were subject to.
Despite the strength of the pacing and characters, this book does have some flaws. The governments response to this whole affair was pretty feeble. I mean, why wouldn’t they have any procedure in place for this kind of thing! Boris Johnson isn’t the Prime Minister in this book after all! And as you progress the story, the more ridiculous the hacker feels – especially once you learn their backstory! I won’t say anymore, but I just didn’t believe that bit. These issues felt a little jarring to me personally as they are quite large parts of the story. On a lighter but equally unbelievable note, how can you have a book written in Britain’s near future and only mention Brexit one!?!?
In conclusion, I have to say that I did enjoy book. It wasn’t perfect and I would recommend going in with the attitude that there will be plot holes and elements of the story that don’t quite make sense but that that doesn’t really matter as, if you see past those flaws, you will have fun. It’s the book equivalent of a summer blockbuster, I guess.
Anyway, for those who have read this book, what did you think and who would you have saved? Let me know in the comments!