Originally published: 1 April 2019 (On Kindle) ; 30 May 2019 (Paperback)
Author: John Marrs
Published by: Penguin Random House
Genre: Futuristic Thriller
Length: 416 pages
Reading dates: 30 March-2 April 2019
I was so excited to hear about this book and was desperate to get my hands on it. I tried (and failed) to get on the blog tour but then I noticed on Twitter that there were some proofs available and the lovely Stephanie Naulls offered to send me one. And then it didn’t turn up so I had a little cry. Then about 4 weeks later my husband was picking up a parcel from the post office (yes, a book) and it was there behind the counter, having being sitting there undelivered! I was over the moon – this is a fantastic looking proof copy with black sprayed edges so I was thrilled to get one. I have heard great things about John Marrs but this is the first of his I have read.
In the near future, all vehicles in the UK have been replaced with Level 5 self drive cars – these have no manual override, no steering wheel and no brakes. They run completely using AI and since their introduction, there are hardly any accidents, less pollution and no traffic jams. In theory nothing can go wrong…
Then 8 self-drive cars are set on a fatal collision course by a cyber hacker. They contain people from all walks of life – a well known veteran actress, a woman who is 7 months pregnant, a husband and wife (in separate cars), a young man who is down on his luck and is suicidal, an Indian woman who speaks no English who is escaping from her abusive husband, an elderly war veteran and an asylum seeker. Meanwhile, a group of jury members who are investigating who is at fault when there is a road accident are dragged into the hackers game – he demands that they choose who should be the first to die. And to add to the pressure, the whole thing is being streamed on social media.
The only jury member to make a stand against the hacker is Libby – a mental health nurse who is a reluctant member of the jury. She has a strong dislike of autonomous vehicles and has campaigned against their introduction.
I work in the automotive industry (and write a newsletter on autonomous vehicles and their technology) and this touched on all the potential problems with these cars. Cybersecurity is obviously a big sticking point on the future introduction to self-drive cars and also if people will trust the AI behind them! It also looks into the ethics of Level 5 vehicles – if there is to be an accident (unlikely but not impossible) then what decisions would the car take? Who will it save? The passenger, other passengers or pedestrians?
This was a great original thriller – several unexpected things happened that left me literally with my mouth hanging open with shock. It was a clever idea to look to the near future and write a thriller based on technology we will all be using soon.
I also liked the way he used social media to show how mob mentality can take place, especially through the anonymity of Twitter – a selection of hashtags trending while the situation is going on include #EnglishBeforeImmigrants, #SaveThemAll and #SendingPositiveVibes are trending as well as hashtags demanding certain Passengers are killed or saved.
A great terrifying premise and brilliantly executed, it certainly lived up to my expectations.
About the author:
John Marrs is the author of The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, Her Last Move and Welcome to Wherever You Are.
A former freelance journalist based in London, England, he spent twenty-five years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines until becoming a full-time author in 2018.
He has written for publications including the Guardian’s Guide and Guardian Online, Total Film, Huffington Post, Empire, Q, GT, the Independent, S Magazine and Company.
His books have been translated into twenty different languages and The One is soon to be a major new Netflix series.