Book Review: The Passengers by John Marr

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Passenger  passengers

Publish Date: August 27. 2019

“The only thing you need to know at this point is that in two hours and thirty minutes from now, it is highly likely that you will be dead.”  — The Passengers

Passenger 2

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?”

Passenger 3

This story plays into our deepest, darkest fears about hackers, information security, artificial intelligence, and social media. It’s a deliciously creepy book about technology that makes me think twice about using the internet and vow never to buy an autonomous vehicle or join a social network.

Eight self-driving cars are hacked and their riders are held hostage. The cars are on a collision course and controlled by The Hacker, our book’s villain and clearly a deranged psychopath. The Hacker spills the tea to the public on each rider’s jaw-dropping, shocking secrets which sways social media’s opinion back and forth on who should die next. What is The Hacker’s connection to these riders? How did The Hacker discover their secrets? Why is he playing this “game”?

This story demonstrates that social media is a cruel, harsh place and it’s full of haters. People are emboldened on social media because it’s anonymous, and the digital environment exacerbates the side that people show less.

My favorite quotes:

“When people are part of a mob, they stop being individuals, their inhibitions disappear, they don’t follow their normal moral compass. When they’re surrounded by like-minded people, they don’t seem them as violent individuals, it’s the group that’s responsible for the violence, not them as individuals.”

“Humans are gregarious and we look for people like us to associate with. Under ordinary circumstances your average person doesn’t post on Twitter demanding the death of pensioner. But mob mentality and the anonymity of being behind a keyboard means people are braver when they’re together.”

“Get your head out of your Bible or Quran or Torah or Vedas or whatever religion you’re pandering to this week and join us in the real world, will you?”

The plot has a reality show feel to it, because the viewers watch each person and decide on who lives and dies. There’s a direct connection between watching reality TV, social media, and voyeurism. Experts say that we see the people portrayed on the screen as friends. We identify with their struggles and triumphs, and we live vicariously through them. It’s a fascinating thought.

The story also begins in the middle of a trial where an autonomous vehicle cause a fatal accident, which brings in many questions on artificial intelligence, ethics, and who’s at fault. These are very real dilemmas that we are facing in the not-to-distant future.

This book is about secrets, lies, vigilante justice, control, power, public opinion, the law, and technology.  The plot is centered around a driver-less car world, and the scary thing is that this feature is available now. Maybe that’s why I like this book so much; it plays on the possibility of very real scenarios, and it’s an unputdownable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from page 1 all the way until the end.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss exchange for an honest review.

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