The Passengers by John Marrs

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The Passengers by John Marrs

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: An action-packed thriller set in the near future, where self-driving cars are utilised by hackers into weapons of terror. Exciting, hugely readable, and, worryingly, surprisingly relevant.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785038884

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In the near future, self-drive cars are the norm - a convenient and easy way of transport. However, when someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course. As everyday commutes turn into terror-filled journeys, the public have to judge who should survive. But with every aspect of these passangers being examined by the public - will they turn out to be what they seem?

Author John Marrs is a former journalist, based in Northamptonshire. Having spent 25 years interviewing celebrities for national newspapers and magazines, he has recently given up his job to write novels full time. His first car was a three-door, Ford Escort with a Batman sticker in the rear windscreen. My first car is, rather sadly, not a thing, given that I can't drive, so I could really imagine myself in the place of the passengers in this book - used to convenience and being driven everywhere (although sadly for my partner, he has to do all the driving, not an AI powered car interface...). However, all of us can either relate to driving or being driven - and that's what makes The Passengers work so well. Like a lot of good sci-fi, author John Marrs takes concepts and situations familiar to the reader, before pushing them a few years into the future - allowing him to introduce new elements and possibilities, but grounded in a reality that allows the reader to instantly relate to the situation that the characters find themselves in, no matter how far-fetched they may initially sound.

The central thrust of the plot genuinely feels like it could be the subject of a new reality show a few years down the line - people trapped in cars hurtling together, and desperate to win the game and keep their lives. Covering eight different cars allows the reader to explore a range of people and how they react under pressure - with the intimate setting of the cars truly putting the reader in the back seat with the passengers. It makes for engaging reading - the larger, pulse-racing plot threading well through the smaller, more concentrated passions of the various people. The twist towards the end is genuinely breathtaking - and Marrs allows space to bring his various plot threads to a neat finish. Clever, convincing, and never anything less than gripping - The Passengers is a future thinking thriller that takes readers on a thrilling ride to a satisfying destination.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend The Trees by Ali Shaw - another read that combines science fiction principles with commentary on our present day world as well as thrilling twists to make for hugely memorable reading.

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