The bestselling book that asks the question: what would present-day America look like if the Civil War never happened?
A New York Times bestseller; a Goodreads Choice finalist; named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Slate, Publishers Weekly, Hudson Bookseller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kirkus Reviews, AudioFile Magazine, and Amazon
A young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service in exchange for his freedom. 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.
As he 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 extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child -- who may be Victor's salvation.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
One of the most startling and powerful novels we’ve read in a while, Underground Airlines is set in a modern-day America that’s very familiar—except that slavery was never totally abolished. The book’s protagonist is a black bounty hunter who helps hunt down escaped slaves from the South and return them to their corporate masters. Both a tense, vicious thriller and a portrait of a morally compromised man whose turmoil reflects the diseased society he inhabits, Ben Winters’ timely story grabbed us by the windpipe.
Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man meets Blade Runner in this outstanding alternate history thriller from Edgar-winner Winters (The Last Policeman). Victor, an African-American bounty hunter for the U.S. Marshals Service, possesses a supreme talent for tracking down runaway slaves in a world in which there was no Civil War and slavery still exists in four Southern states. He's a master of disguise and dissembling. Victor tracks a runaway slave code-named Jackdaw to Indianapolis, Ind., where he ingratiates himself with Father Barton, a purported leader of an abolitionist organization called Underground Airlines, and succeeds in penetrating the group. But soon thereafter Victor impulsively befriends Martha Flowers, a down-on-her-luck white woman traveling with her young biracial son, Lionel, a kindness that soon jeopardizes Victor's carefully constructed cover identity. The novel's closing section contains several breathtaking reversals, a genuinely disturbing revelation, and an exhilarating final course of action for Victor.
Most innovative novel of the year
Plausible opening scenario
A wonderful read, constantly progressing the plot. The final 1/3 brought several unexpected twists. Highly recommend!
Unbelievable read - excellent writing and amazing plot and story of an alternate US. But not so alternate that the storyline isn't plausible. It's horrifying and will cause conversation specifically because it puts so many issues on the table. There were times I was reading that I had to put it down. But just long enough to regain my bearings. Incredible twists and turns at the end. Certainly the best book I've read in 2017.