Underground Airlines

Underground Airlines

eBook - 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...
Publisher: 2016
ISBN: 9780316268622
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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i
Ichijo
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.

l
lukasevansherman
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!

m
mgusek555
Aug 07, 2017

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

t
tjdickey
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.

a
akober_0
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.

SquamishLibraryStaff Nov 22, 2016

What if the civil war never happened? What if slavery still existed in four southern states?
A brilliant speculative fiction thriller portraying a frightening alternative modern day America, which may be closer to the truth than we like to believe.

s
stephaniedchase
Nov 15, 2016

An intriguing plot, properly conflicted main character, and chilling alternate present-day reality marred by a sloppy ending -- and elevated by being just the book we might need to read following the results of the presidential election.

c
celinar
Oct 28, 2016

Set in an alternate present where the Civil War never happened and slavery persists in the Hard Four states of the South, this book is tied with Riddley Walker for best dystopia I've read. The many-named narrator and main character is a brilliant detective and bounty hunter with a painful past. The worldbuilding is subtle but right on, from beater cars made in South Africa and Pakistan to smiling Asian children in Southern cotton companies' clothing ads to a new Michael Jackson track. Everything changes when the protagonist goes to Indianapolis to find Jackdaw, a different kind of escapee. In order to break free, he eventually has to go back into the Hard Four. What he finds there makes him miss the good old days of slavery. This is the total package: subtle but brilliant dystopic worldbuilding, compelling main character, suspense, plot twists, and a moral center.

r
roystreet
Aug 25, 2016

Thought-provoking and full of coruscating observations.
Though billed as a thriller and 'noir,' it contains few thrills, little suspense, and no 'femme fatale.' With flat characters, and
written in a brittle, first-person idiom.

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a
akober_0
Dec 11, 2016

akober_0 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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