The Ferryman

Justin Cronin

The Ferryman
Orion Publishing Co
United Kingdom
2 May 2023

The Ferryman

Justin Cronin

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage comes a riveting new saga in which a small portion of the human population survives on a hidden island nation - until one man begins to realize that the truth isn’t what it seems.

Life on the island archipelago of Prospera is everything a person could hope for. Founded by the mythical genius known as the Designer, Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, vigorous, and fulfilling lives - that is, until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. When that happens, they retire themselves, embarking on a short 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, Managing Director of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding the elderly 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. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly. 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 enough, Proctor finds his fate entangled with a cause much bigger than he realized, and the world he inhabits is shattered. Before he knows it, he will find himself questioning everything he once believed, and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.


In 2010, Justin Cronin’s third novel, The Passage, was released into the world. The Stephen King-like apocalyptic sensation became an instant bestseller, describing a catastrophic military-engineered virus created from bats ...

Fast forward to 2023 and Cronin’s new book is set in a dystopian society, an idyllic place, hidden away from a crumbling planet, where humans live long, satisfying lives, until they ‘retire’ and are ferried to an island to be renewed once more. Like anything that sounds too good to be true, the island of Prospera is paradise for some, but not all. Despite the best efforts of the people leading the community, there is still a class system (someone always has to do the dirty work, even in paradise) and the lesser beings are beginning to revolt.

Proctor Bennett is a director who has been responsible for helping those who need to retire, and his job as a ferryman is a highly respected one. When it is time for his own father to go, however, Bennett starts to question the process, and eventually the very fabric of his society. As the Ferryman discovers more about the world in which he lives, the reader also starts to realise that nothing, and I mean nothing, in this book is as it seems. Deception, misdirection, a complex plot, and a whole array of unreliable narrators will keep you guessing right up to the end. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, I was quickly proven wrong, and that’s what makes this book such a cracking read.

As humankind continues to imagine a world that can no longer sustain us, there are more and more novels being published which explore other possibilities, and Cronin’s is an intriguing, mildly terrifying addition to the genre. We can only hope that, unlike the catastrophic virus in The Passage, Cronin’s latest imaginings do not become reality any time soon.

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