‘The Passengers’ by John Marrs ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and a wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles, and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

Thank you to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing, NetGalley and John Marrs for the chance to read and review this book,

With any John Marrs book you know you’re about to read something not only great, but different. One of the things I love about this author is no two books are the same. This latest novel was no different in that regard. I was excited by the premise of the book and I’ve always thought the idea of a driverless vehicle was cool and something that would be handy, especially as I’ve never learned to drive. After reading this book I’m no longer so sure….

The book is set in the not too distant future where driverless cars, the kind where all you do is speak commands, sit back and relax, are not only possible, but just a few years away from being mandatory. As always there are some who don’t like the idea of self-drive cars, but most people are embracing this new technology, a technology they’ve been assured is completely safe and impossible to hack. But all that is believed to be true about driverless cars is about to come crashing down. Eight vehicles on their way to various destinations are taken oven by a mysterious Hacker who tells them that he has rerouted their destinations, and in two hours and thirty minutes it is highly likely they’ll be dead. The Hacker transmits the live feeds from the vehicles on social media and the news channels soon pick up the  terrifying story.

In a secret location five people are meeting to view footage of deaths by driverless vehicles and decide whether or not they were lawful. The Vehicle Inquest Jury, as it’s known, meets for one week each month and is made up of four Government appointed officials and one randomly selected member of the public, the latter of which changes each time. This week Libby Dixon, an opponent of driverless cars, is reluctantly the fifth juror. She is in the room when proceedings are suddenly suspended after the foreman, Jack Larsson, receives a call telling him about the news footage of the hijacked vehicles. The Hijacker’s voice is suddenly heard in the room. He has rules that they and the passengers must follow or there will be consequences.

The Hijacker tells the jury that he chose six of the passengers and the other two were in the wrong place at the wrong time when they happened to get in one of the two taxis he hijacked. We get to know the eight passengers and some details of their lives: the chosen six were introduced in the first part of the book and The Hacker tells us about the random passengers in part two.  The jury is then informed that they, along with an eager public via social media, are to chose the first to die and then which single passenger should be saved using the information they’ve been given and interviews with the passengers themselves. But do they really know the truth about the eight people hoping to be saved? And how should they and the public decide which life is most worthy of being spared?

This fast paced book had me gripped from the start. From the moment the first passenger was told they might be dead in just hours I was on tenterhooks and couldn’t put the book down. I liked that it opened with chapters about the passengers, detailing their own unique stories. It gave us a connection to them as human beings so that when their lives were in danger we felt the terror along with them and were fraught with the same dilemma as the jurors in wondering who should be the one to live. From the moment the live transmissions started we were in the same position as the jurors so we agonised alongside them as they tried to make the right decisions and came to terms with the fact they were powerless to save all eight people.

Behind the drama, tension and mystery of this novel lays a deeper social commentary on many issues: how lives and news events are played out online, that people say things on social media that they’d never say in real life from behind the safety of a keyboard, mob mentality both on the streets and online, our readiness to judge others on surface information that can often give a false image of someone or something, how much we are monitored in today’s society and the potential consequences of that, and the us versus them mentality that many have towards asylum seekers and immigrants.

John Marrs is one of my favourite authors and this book has again shown just how talented he is. No matter the topic he will enthrall you. I loved that this book had references to The One, which was the first of his books I read and one of my all time favourites. This novel had all you want in a thriller: it was exciting, full of suspense, intriguing and you didn’t know what was coming next right to the end. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially if you love thrillers. Just make sure you’ve got a clear space in your schedule as you won’t want to put it down.

Out April 1st on Kindle

Out May 30th in Paperback

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