The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh. 

Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process—and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming—which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group—known as “Arrivalists”—who may be fomenting revolution. 

Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized—and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.

TITLE: The Ferryman
AUTHOR: Justin Cronin
PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 560 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Thriller

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

DNF 30% in.

From the first page, THE FERRYMAN felt like mint chocolate cotton candy: a novel flavor combination which initially is a heady experience but eventually feels bland in its sameness. It’s startling at first, because it’s a flavor which does not normally belong in cotton candy and seems at first like a cool idea, but ultimately contributes little to the conversation of what makes a tasty dessert. I do not, generally speaking, want the book equivalent of cotton candy, but the writing is gripping and the world was interesting at first. 

Ultimately I stopped reading when the bland misogyny became too frustrating. In a world where every marriage is a contract with a time limit (the parties can renew), it makes no sense for the main character to have a level of jealousy and possessiveness that in the real world is cultivated through an assumption of monogamy as a default. I read an ARC and so will refrain from using quotes in case the final version changes substantially, but this was a setup I've read before executed in a way that was frustrating to read.

Graphic/Explicit CW for classism.

Moderate CW for grief, cursing, toxic relationship, blood, violence, medical content, medical trauma, self harm, suicide, parental death, death.

Minor CW for sexual content, dementia, alcohol, drug use, excrement, infertility, infidelity.

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