The Passengers Summary – John Marrs

The Passengers Summary - John Marrs
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“The Passengers,” despite being a fast-paced and somewhat quirky thriller novel, lies in the author John Marrs ability to envision how technology and social media have taken control of people at all levels.

Summary of The Passengers Book

“The Passengers” is set in a near future in the United Kingdom where autonomous cars are now regulated and mandatory to eliminate human error and combat pollution. Libby Dixon receives a “Vehicle Investigation Jury Duty” summons, requiring her to spend a week with a small group to determine whether the fatal accidents that have occurred since the introduction of driverless cars were due to the cars or human error. However, Libby, a young therapist at the local hospital, shockingly discovers that the jury is biased towards the cars rather than the passengers or pedestrians.

When all the screens in the room are taken over by a hacker, she is soon plunged into a much larger moral abyss. A disembodied voice takes control of eight cars, each carefully chosen to carry someone with a different reason for being chosen. One is a Somali refugee with five children, another is a military veteran, another is a legendary actress, a police officer, etc. It leads to a massive collision, and the world must decide who deserves to live. The members of the Vehicle Investigation Jury are tasked with convincing the world which Twitter verse is worth protecting.

As the jury is informed about each passenger, the rest of the world hears this information and immediately starts voting for or against their favorites. The moral outrage at the hacker playing with human life is suppressed as everyone races to ensure the survival of their favorite characters. Only Libby and a few colleagues seem to worry about being forced into the role of gods. Each potential victim has a secret that the hacker insists on exposing, and playing the role of a god means deciding which transgression – infidelity, blackmail, fraud, pornography – is worse.

How it is resolved – and there are a few open doors before a final one – is quite clever and manipulative. While the loose logic of the novel detracts somewhat, Marrs’ ability to educate readers about the problems in a future dominated by autonomous driving technology will impress many. Additionally, the portrayal of how social media can threaten our humanity is eloquently expressed.

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