While The Passengers is a fast-paced and somewhat outlandish thriller, its value may well lie in author John Marrs’ ability to imagine how technology and social media hijack humans on every level ... How this resolves itself —and there are several apparent denouements before the final one —is both clever and manipulative. While the loose logic detracts from the novel to an extent, Marrs’ ability to educate his audience about the problems of a future dominated by autonomous vehicles that are at the mercy of hackable data will win a lot of readers over. And his understanding of how social media can threaten our very humanity is nothing short of brilliant.
Speed on steroids, an adrenaline-pumped novel so heavily plotted that it is virtually impossible to hold back spoilers ... The parallel narrative lines converge as the countdown continues right up to the climactic last seconds. Finally, the clock runs out, but not before Marrs presents a few more surprises in the last big reveal. Some readers will have worked out the identity of the hacker early on. Nevertheless, The Passengers has a properly satisfying, head-spinning conclusion.
One can almost hear the Hollywood music in the background as the action unfolds; the plot twists are truly gripping. Despite the effort to create complexity in the characters, Marrs...is most successful when he’s setting up another shocking action scene, less so when plumbing the depths of emotion. As with any story centered around the potential catastrophe of trusting AI to run the mundane moments of our lives, there is an uneasy prescience about this techno-thriller’s setup. Summer blockbuster entertainment at its best. All that’s missing is a slo-mo pre-disaster montage.
...[an] enjoyable, if flawed, techno-thriller ... Despite an intriguing premise, much of the novel’s action occurs offstage. The hijacking’s climax follows familiar lines, and experienced genre readers won’t be surprised by the Hacker’s identity once it’s revealed. The book’s strength lies in its well-developed characters and in its exploration of issues such as the growing role of AI, mob psychology, and the ethics of who gets to decide who lives or dies. Though this isn’t the strongest of showings, Marrs remains a writer to watch.