The Ferryman – Justin Cronin

Published By: Orion
Pages: 560
Released On: 02/05/2023

The islands of Prospera lie in a vast ocean: in splendid isolation from the rest of humanity, or whatever remains of it. . .

Citizens of the main island enjoy privileged lives, attended to by the support staff who live on a cramped neighbouring island, where whispers begin to grow into cries for revolution.

Meanwhile, life for Prosperans is perfection – and when it’s not, their bodies are sent to the mysterious third island: a facility named The Nursery, to be rebooted and restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett is a Ferryman, who shepherds the soon-to-be retired into the unknown. He never questioned his work until the day he is delivered a cryptic message:

“The world is not the world…”

These simple words unravel something that he has secretly suspected. They seep into strange dreams – of the stars and the sea – and the unshakeable feeling that someone is trying to tell him something important.

Something greater than anyone could possibly imagine, which could change the fate of humanity itself…


I had resisted this book for a while. I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Justin Cronin before and had not read any of his work, and so had no preconceived opinions as to what I was going to get. But the sheer quantity of praise it was getting online, meant I simply had to see what all the fuss was about. And if his other books are all as well made as this one, I’m going to have to devour them all.

It’s hard to go into too much detail without spoiling it, and this is definitely a book that deserves to go in blind. You’ll get the most enjoyment and satisfaction, I think, if you have limited knowledge of the plot, other than what’s on the blurb. So forgive me if this review is just 500 different adjectives for how amazing it is.

This is an expert at his craft. I’ve never read a book so sublimely created and executed as this. At times, it felt like I wasn’t even reading a fictional boo, it felt so real, the words lift off the page and into your heart. There’s no real way of describing this without using really corny language, because there are no words that fully encapsulates what he’s created.

There is definitely an edge of Westworld to it but it is completely its own.

There is an element of climate change and whatnot going on which was interesting. I’m not a fan of books that try to force statements down the readers’ throats, as I come to fiction for an escape from the real world. But I think the way he has worked it into this book is perfect. It’s very real but within this fantasy world, it feels just out of reach.

Whilst I say I choose books for escapism and entertainment, I don’t mind a book with a moral compass and makes you think. And boy does this make you think. About everything and anything on so many levels.

It’s a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, dystopian and thriller, but it has a heart. I agree with one of the cover reviews that say it’s a love story. A love story between family, friends, strangers, the planet, your ambitions, yourself. It seems busy to have so many conflicting genres, but they all complement each other so well that it is just seamless. It is so absorbing, but just slightly out of reach.

It is deliciously layered, full of marvellous characters and dreams and nightmares and wants and dislikes and loves and hates and fun and sorrow and loss and grief and memories and perfection.

It caused a serious book hangover. I had hundreds of books to pick as my next read, but I just couldn’t leave this world Justin had built and enter a new one. There was still so much I wanted to learn about it that I couldn’t forget about it.

On principal, I shouldn’t have liked it. At 560 pages, it’s about 150-200 pages longer than I like a book to be, so I thought it would be a hard slog, but the pages just vanished, and if anything, I was desperate for it to be longer.

It’s one of the smartest books I’ve read. And it’s tough going but in the best way. It really wants you to think; it drags you into this world and refuses to let go, but by which time you’re clinging on for dear life anyway.

If you’re like me, you’ll never be completely confident that you know where it’s going. There’s twists and little hidden surprises everywhere, some of which will see you hanging off the edge of your seat, mouth agape, with tears in your eyes. It is surprisingly emotional. In good ways and sad ways.

It is a breath-taking novel, one I think needs rereading again and again, if only to spend a few more hours with Justin’s genius. I was thinking about whether it would make a good movie or TV show. On the surface, I think it would. But I think so much of its excellence lies within Justin’s prose, and I don’t think anyone could fully replicate that. It’s a story I think perfect for the written medium, and to change it in any way would be to lose its heart and its soul.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: