Underground Airlines

  • by Ben Winters
  • Narrated by William DeMeritt
  • 9 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 Marshal 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 an 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 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 groundbreaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe.


What the Critics Say

"Underground Airlines is a work of astonishing originality and ambition. Like the best art, it forces us to question our own assumptions. Is the machine of modern civilization really that far removed from the alternate reality that Winters presents here? We're all implicated in this unsettling and visionary novel. Ben Winters is one brave writer." (Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore)
"A daring and very well constructed novel." (Booklist)
"The most timely of alternate history novels. Ben Winters has created a spellbinding world that forces the reader to look around - and to look within. This is a thriller not to be missed and one that will not be easily forgotten." (Hugh Howey, New York Times best-selling author of Wool)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good vs Evil in 2016?

The premise of this story sounded intriguing. However this book fell short. At times I had trouble following the storyline and even the characters, some having more than one name.
This book seemed to avoid meaningful social commentary; it just didn't go deep enough.
It's as if the author thought of a great idea for a plot and then couldn't figure out how to make it all work or flow.
At times it was difficult figuring out who were the good guys and who were not.. This wasn't a credit to the book however.
Here the main character is thinking about the slaves, their lifetime of servitude and suffering.....
"What do you do with that fact? Do you hold it like a stone in your hand? Do you pitch it away from this great height and let it fall? Do you swallow it and feel it in your throat till the day you die?"
This was the most "meat" the reader/ listener got from the main character. I wanted to know more about the characters but Mr. Winters withheld.
It was an ok book. Not all that one might hope for.
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- Suzn F "I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?"

Old Times There Aren't Forgotten

Quite a compelling read... Some well thought speculation on the what if front, and it's more alternate current events than alternate history;). The idea of slaves as stock/chattle is pulled off incisively w/o beating you over the head;). The story moves well and has some delightful turnarounds woven. Into the central plot and overall storyline... It paints a grim picture of how the country coulda turned out drastically different, although in many ways maybe not so much... Puts a whole new spin on the idea of profiling and enhanced interrogation... The pace and flow never lags making it a decent binge read;). Characters are well done, but Victor and Martha shoulder the load... Particularly impressed w/ the sequences of victor's memories of his time as a person bonded... On that same note, thought that his past could have been a bit more complete... Narration is average, and fairly slow, but plays relatively well at 1.25x... Definitely worth the credit...
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- DobieChuck "Blind listener reading everything, especially mystery/thrillers and sf&f. Restricted to audio so picky where credits spent. #BooksRule"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-05-2016
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio