The Passengers is a fast-paced suspense novel that takes place in the very near future that is just a tiny bit different from today. The difference? The self-driving cars are no longer a novelty, they are ubiquitous and mandatory. The day begins ordinarily enough with a few people leaving for work or other destinations. The passengers are a cross-section of society and seem ordinary enough–at least until we learn more about them. Soon after they settle into their cars, a voice comes on and informs them he had taken control of the car and they will die in a crash in two and a half hours.

Meanwhile, Libby is starting jury duty in a special jury that hears cases involving autonomous car accidents. It’s been set up to determine who is at fault–and as far as Libby can see on day one, it is rigged to find the cars innocent of any fault. Their deliberations are broken in on by the same Hacker who has taken control of the cars. The Hacker puts on quite a show, allowing the public to choose the first to die, blowing up a few passengers to show he was serious.

As a suspense novel, The Passengers is a great success. I had to keep reading to find out what happened. On the other hand, I thought several characters were flat and more a caricature than a character. That is particularly true of Jack, who leads the jury proceedings. He has no nuance. I also thought the secondary technological innovation, that of discovering we have genetic soulmates with a specific gene is pure nonsense. It takes what we have today, matchmaking companies that find people with traits that should be compatible (similar energy level for example) and go a step beyond that is scientifically unfounded.

Nonetheless, despite those problems, the story itself is suspenseful and successful at keeping me hooked until the end–a satisfying end that was completely fair.

The Passengers will be released on August 27th. I received an ARC from the publisher through ShelfAwareness.

The Passengers at Berkley | Random House

John Marrs