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?” (Goodreads)
Medium: Unabridged audiobook
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
Narrated by: Clare Corbett, Roy McMillan, Tom Bateman, Various narrators
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Publisher: Penguin Audio
I had read many raving reviews and numerous great things about this book and I had been meaning to read this for quite some time. I was so excited to find the audiobook edition of this book, but none of the things that I had read or heard properly prepared me for what was to come.
The Passengers. An 11 hour and 39 minute drive to death, mayhem and chaos.
It is certainly an understatement of the year to say this book gave me a year-worth of fright in those eleven and a half hours.
In fact, I still don’t think my meager words would ever do this book justice, but I will give it a try on conveying my thoughts and opinions on this book. Bear with me.
Right from the beginning, literally from the very first chapter, this book GRABBED my attention. I am not talking about a casual grab of my attention which makes me go like, “Oh, this is interesting,” but I am talking about a terror and fright that make you shiver with fear and feel chills running down your spine.
Just imagine; trapped in a fully-autonomous car that doesn’t allow you any scope of control in every sense of the word and being told by a total stranger that your car is hijacked and you are going to die in the next 2 hours.
You can do absolutely nothing to escape from the situation. The windows are locked and go opaque so nobody can see how frightened you are and the doors wouldn’t budge. You have no control to stop the car, or veer off the so-called designated course that’s destined to death. You are gliding toward to the end of your life just sitting there frightened shitless. And exactly the same thing is happening to another seven passengers.
Just writing this synopsis makes me relive the terror and scare that I experienced listening to the audiobook a couple of days ago!
Needless to say the main plot of the car-hijack scared the daylights out of me, but this book packs multiple jolts of terror that made all the hairs on my body stand up.
The first jolt came with the recognition that nothing in this book is absolutely impossible or far-fetched. Fully-autonomous cars are no longer a pie in the sky. It’s actually happening. Whether or not all the roads in the world go fully autonomous is anybody’s guess, but it’s perfectly plausible to some extent. That recognition gave me the first wave of shock and made me gasp.
The second jolt arrived through the descriptions of the lives of the eight passengers becoming dependent on the mercy of the mass, the opinions of people tethered to the Internet and social media. People start to VOTE on whom to sacrifice and whom to let survive based on a tiny fraction of the passengers’ lives.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard it; people making such crucial, vital judgments based on the meager information that is presented on the Internet? Not knowing the full scope of those eight passengers’ lives, personalities, and backgrounds??
Then it hit me; this is, once again, perfectly plausible and this might be exactly what we are doing right now. Verbally abusing and crossing virtual fistcuffs with others online solely based on what we see on social media. We have become awfully hasty to judge others and put them in a box pasting a label on top of it, either “like” or “dislike.”
This is where I felt the real threats on being constantly tethered to the Internet. Internet offers us instant gratification. We no longer bother to flip through telephone books or paper dictionaries to find what we are looking for. Many people have made transition from newspapers to online news. You can find almost anything on the Internet, you have all the information that you need at your fingertips. A single click away. While it’s made the world much more convenient and efficient, it’s also made us much more desensitized and come to believe what we see on the Internet is a true representation of what’s going on around the world, people we interact, et cetera.
I wanted to believe the otherwise, but the sad truth is, we can be such people described in the book. That gave me the second jolt of fright.
The third jolt is closely connected to the second one, and it’s the danger of being wired 24/7. The threats from us shedding our personal information without knowing it.
Smartwatch that calculates how many steps we have taken over the course of the day, our vitals such as blood pressure, pulse, not to mention stores and organizes our schedule… we unknowingly share our most personal, crucial pieces of information up on the Cloud and blindly believe it’s secure. Which is not necessarily the case. Whatever secure systems can be hacked, nothing can be impenetrable if you know where to look at and where to temper with.
Through the terrifying ride to death, this book portrays and illuminates the real terrors and threats that we tend to let slip at the expense of convenience and instant gratification. It adds to the fright that all the things mentioned above are plausible.
The structure of this book is also clever. I initially thought this book would spend all the pages that are allocated to describe a nail-biting ride of the eight passengers, but I was proved wrong. This book is technically divided into two parts and in part two, the author shares the after stories of the surviving passengers – some still reeling from the aftermath, others embarking on the new chapters of their life… and some drama and twists happen. The texture of this book shifts to the typical thrillers that we are all familiar with.
I did find some parts a bit info-dumpy and found my attention wandering off and ended up listening to the same part over and over and over again, but given those are parts necessary to build up the story, I think I can let them go.
There’s no denying this is one of the most terrifying reads that I have read so far, and I tremendously enjoyed listening to the audiobook.
I don’t know what it’s like to physically read this book, but I think the audiobook adds to the tension and thrills this book already possesses.
The inserts of newsflash are particularly terrifying and realistic, making me feel like listening in the real newsflash or something. I don’t think you should start reading or listening to this book at night. This book will most certainly keep you up at night!
As there’s hardly anything that I can fault in this book, I will give this book 5 pancakes.
This my very first John Marrs but this most certainly won’t be my last.
The Passengers is a terrifying, unsettling, disturbing read that surely gives you chills, and I am quite happy I read this book at last.