A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION • A READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Two top women gladiators fight for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own in this explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black • LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE
“Like Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Adjei-Brenyah’s book presents a dystopian vision so…illuminating that it should permanently shift our understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of doing.” —The Washington Post
“This book will change you!...A masterpiece.” —Jenna Bush Hager, The Today Show’s #ReadWithJenna
She felt their eyes, all those executioners…
Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of the Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly popular, highly controversial profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators, and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death matches before packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, Thurwar considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games. But CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo, and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors, to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s brilliant and bloody dystopian thriller serves up a blistering condemnation of capital punishment. Lovers Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are essentially reality stars, locked in a prison that has turned incarceration into a “hard-action sport.” Criminals compete to the death for both their freedom and the amusement of American audiences, who binge-watch these showdowns with a disturbing ambivalence toward the fate and humanity of even the most popular gladiators. Building toward an epic, inevitable matchup, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a cry for compassion that should reverberate against the walls of our profit-driven justice system.
Bestseller Adjei-Brenyah sets his breathtaking and pulse-pounding debut novel (after the short story collection Friday Black) in a dystopian alternate U.S. where people incarcerated in an expansive private prison system have the option to fight for their freedom in gladiator-style death matches. Fighters who partake in the Chain-Gang All-Stars operation can rise to fame and notoriety, a crucial profit-driving component for those who control CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment. Among these superstars are fighters Loretta Thurwar and Hamara "Hurricane Staxxx" Stacker, who have made names for themselves as undefeated champions and "Links," or teammates in a Chain-Gang. As Thurwar takes a step closer to freedom one match at a time, however, she begins to worry about leaving Hamara and her other Links behind. Through this brutal, fight-scene-studded story, the author delivers insightful critiques of the prison-industrial complex, capitalism, and the ways in which Hollywood and celebrity culture exploit Black talent. Both the political allegory and the edge-of-your-seat action work beautifully. Readers will be wowed.
Simply incredible. One the best books I've read in the last 10 years. Searing.
The best book I’ve ever read
I used to count Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bachman and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margarette Atwood as my top two favorite books; Chain Gang All-Stars is now my number one. How can one adequately write a review for such a prolific, life changing, soul challenging work of literature? Please read this book, it will change you. “I love you”.
Chin Gang All Stars
Fantastic overall, initial reaction was concern with the level of violence which proved to be a central requirement of the story. Footnotes were intriguing and the book is an indictment of our Prison system. I don’t think an evolution from something like MMA to the CAPE program is completely unimaginable.