Ranked – Short Story

“Passengers” (1968) by Robert Silverberg is disturbing. Both in content and in what is left out. Questions bludgeon until the futility of solving is accepted. Who/What are these Passengers? From where do they come? Why are they performing these atrocities? Only the last question can be approached. Passengers commit horrors because they can. They have the ability to wreck the lives of others for their own pleasure but even though you learn of this wreckage, nothing of the Passengers themselves is shared. I tend to imagine they are rogue angels rather than aliens, demi-gods rather than time travelers but nothing is revealed. This story is tightly drawn, even loving until, abruptly, characters and reader alike are left with the effects of manipulation and impotence. Those violations paired with the lingering ambiguousness of the oppressors make “Passengers” a powerful and lasting force for evil. Score: 936