Underground Airlines

Underground Airlines

Book - 2016
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"It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred. A gifted young Black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself. A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraodinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all--though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface. Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost. Underground Airlines is a ground-breaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company,, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316261241
Characteristics: 327 pages :,map


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Sep 10, 2018

An imaginative and creative world, wherein slavery is still legal in 4 states. I thought the premise was really interesting, and lent itself to talk about bigger issues - but there were a few too many twists in the plot. Additionally, while the plot itself was compelling, the book is short on emotional and character development; and the ending felt rushed through. Would be a really cool 8 episode HBO series.

WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

I find myself talking about this book a lot---in his disturbing and dramatic alternative history novel, Winters imagines a world in which the civil war never happened and slavery still exists in the modern-day United States. Intricately plotted, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. I couldn’t put this book down!

Jul 02, 2018

A very creative and thought-provoking premise, especially in today's environment of re-exposed racism.

May 02, 2018

Winters does a remarkable job with remaking history, overlapping real US history with all-too-plausible alterations, to create an America in which pragmatic compromises resulted in slavery being indefinitely retained in multiple states. It's an alternate history sci-fi novel, a disturbing commentary on race relations, and an excellent mystery full of surprises, all rolled into one.

Aug 31, 2017

Another wonderful selection by my bookclub. Managed to get 70 pages through this thoroughly boring and uninteresting pile of garbage before returning it to the library. Much like Joel Schumacher in the director commentary of Batman and Robin, the audiobook version of this should be the author repeatedly apologizing.

Aug 23, 2017

In the tradition of Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" (Nazis win the war.) and Roth's "The Plot Against America" (Lindbergh becomes president.), Ben H. Winters's "Underground Airlines" presents an alternative (or speculative) history. In this, there are still slave states (Called the "Hard Four") and the protagonist is a black bounty hunter tracking down fugitives. Winters, who wrote "The Last Policeman" trilogy and "Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters," is white and so it's a rather bold move to take on slavery. There's an ongoing debate about what writers can and can't write. Should writers have unlimited freedom or should they stay in their own lane? It's one of the only interesting questions this poorly written and indifferently novel raises. You'd be much better off picking up Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad" or Omar El Akkad's "American War," which imagines a second Civil War.

Cynthia_N Aug 12, 2017

Winters created a world where slavery was still legal in four of the United States. The main character always tells you the shade of color of the slaves which was just creepy and overall it was a good unsettling read!

Aug 07, 2017

Good to pass the time. Enjoyed the story overall. Wasn't too challenging but did make me think.

Apr 19, 2017

The premise of the novel is fascinating and disturbing, and the alternate history well-considered. In the face of continued legal slavery in some southern states, FDR creates a federal program to monitor the economic activity, and Truman talks some states into abolition for war contracts during WW2. In the present day, a federal Marshall tracks escaped “persons bound,” but haunted by his own past. Winters’ pacing is brisk, and the thriller builds to a number of surprising revelations until the very end.

Dec 11, 2016

Highly recommended.
This novel depicts the U.S. with an alternative history: What if there had never been a Civil War and several Southern states still had slaves? Not only are there slaves, many Northerners are openly racist. Any black person can be stopped and asked to show papers proving they are free.
The author does a brilliant job of weaving details about the Constitutional Amendment and federal laws that allow slavery to exist. The treatment of slaves is chilling; for example, a white manager who works for a huge corporate farm describes how well they treat "Negroes" where slaves are worked to exhaustion, forced to work even when they are sick, and all must sing a song about how happy they are to work for the corporation.
Unlike most alternative history novels, one can't leave this book and feel relieved that it's fiction because racism is still all too prevalent in the U.S.

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Dec 11, 2016

akober_0 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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