The Passengers by John Marrs

As should be pretty clear by now, I am the height of inconsistency when it comes to reading and writing book reviews. Whether it is my fickle nature, a lack of inspiration or the business of life, I have just not been able to consistently post reviews here this year (well, the last couple of years).

The Passengers is a good example. Signed up for a blog tour, got a copy of the book from NetGalley, read it, and promptly failed to post a review when it came out on August 27 like I had said I would. So sorry for the delay.

What intrigued me about the book was both its plot and its technological and philosophical elements:

You’re riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, “You are going to die.”

Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.

From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, “Which of these people should we save?…And who should we kill first?”

As I mentioned on Goodreads, this is another book that feels stuck between 3 and 4 stars. Enjoyed it? Yes. REALLY liked it? Eh, not exactly.

And as others have noted, this book has Hollywood action flick written all over it. It is a unique combination of philosophical/moral conundrums and action. Lots of twists and turns and a plot that keeps you guessing.

It slows down. however, when it turns to the internal emotional lives of the characters. Might have been a stronger, tighter book if there were less attempts at amateur psychology. And at times the characters are a little too stock (Corrupt politician, female character who seems weak but turns out to be strong, etc.).

Still, a pretty entertaining summer read despite the uncomfortable feeling that these issues (moral, political, technological) all lie in our future.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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