The author of The Passage has written a standalone door stop of a novel called The Ferryman. The plot is part science fiction, part fantasy and part mystery. For someone who loves genre mashups, did the entire book thrill me as much as its blurb?
Prospera is a remote trio of islands whose bioengineered and privileged citizens live for a century without many cares. As each citizen ages, they are monitored. Once their health declines to 10%, the citizen is “retired” to a mysterious island called the Nursery. There they are recycled into a new citizen with no memory of their prior life. Citizens are encouraged to become guardians of these newly formed residents because citizens cannot have biological children of their own.
To make this idyllic society work, a support staff of biological humans do the manual labor. These second-class people live in squalor on another island called the Annex. A wave of sick-outs among the Annex’ residents is causing consternation among Prospera’s highest echelons. There is a new religion fermenting rebellion that is slowly moving through the workers.
Proctor Bennett is a ferryman, who shepherds the soon-to-be retired to a ferry to the Nursery. One day he is asked to assist his father to the retirement ferry. His father freaks out on the dock and states the world is not real. Proctor begins to question his entire life’s meaning and soon descends into a whirlwind of bad choices.
I absolutely adored the world-building in the first third of the book. While reminiscent of other classic stories, it was a highly original meshing of literary with science fiction. However, that feeling came to a screeching halt when the first large twist hit the plot. Really? Why would you insert such an overused trope into what up until then was such an innovative plot? Heavy sigh…
After finishing the book, I have some perspective about my disappointment. It started out clearly as a 5 star favorite. The Ferryman fell to 3 stars after the twist but somehow managed to rise to 4 stars by its conclusion. It is a satisfying choice for fans of high-concept science fiction plots like The Matrix and Minority Report. Just don’t raise your expectations too high. It’s a good book but not as great as promised by its blurb.
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.