THE PASSENGERS by John Marrs

THE PASSENGERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the near future, government-mandated self-driving cars become the norm in Britain—until they prove susceptible to a sophisticated terrorist hack.

They were supposed to make the roads 95% safer for both passengers and pedestrians. Despite some scattered concern, the British government’s decision to pass a law saying that everyone must update to Level 5—completely autonomous—self-driving cars seems to have improved the quality of life for most of the population. Then one morning, eight people climb into their cars and, within a few minutes, an unfamiliar voice welcomes them by name, and the GPS has recalibrated to an unknown destination. Then they are told that they will probably be dead in several hours. All of this, of course, unfolds over social media almost immediately, and the world finds itself captivated—particularly when the Hacker begins asking them, the audience, to vote on who lives and who dies. Almost everyone who has been kidnapped has a secret they don’t want to reveal—but the Hacker has secrets of his own. Only a bystander named Libby, conveniently serving on a jury that determines fault in self-driving auto accidents, has any hope of unraveling the truth and exposing the tragedy at the heart of this sensational act of terrorism. One can almost hear the Hollywood music in the background as the action unfolds; the plot twists are truly gripping. Despite the effort to create complexity in the characters, Marrs (Her Last Move, 2018, etc.) is most successful when he’s setting up another shocking action scene, less so when plumbing the depths of emotion. As with any story centered around the potential catastrophe of trusting AI to run the mundane moments of our lives, there is an uneasy prescience about this techno-thriller’s setup.

Summer blockbuster entertainment at its best. All that’s missing is a slo-mo pre-disaster montage.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-9848-0697-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2019




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