In a world where slavery was never abolished, there are still the four states, named the Hard Four, where slavery still exists. Meet the man who calls himself Victor or Jim or any number of aliases. His job is to hunt down runaways from the Hard Four, so he can call in the authorities to pick them up and be returned. Why does he do this? Well, he was a runaway until he was picked up and given an offer he couldn’t refuse. The current case, has him in Indianapolis, the site where Lincoln was assassinated, tracking a slave down. However, things start to go awry in odd ways, and that does not leave him feeling easy about any of it. Ben Winters writes a fast-paced, surprisingly prescient look at an alternate history that says so much about our own. Now, I just have to wait and see if he will write more in this angst driven, brilliant world he has created; I hope so.— Jason Kennedy
Dark, thought-provoking, and wildly original. Underground Airlineswas a novel I could not put down. The speculative story follows an alternate reality where slavery has not been made illegal in the US. A blackmailed slave turned bounty hunter goes on a mission to infiltrate a slave smuggling ring but gets more than he bargained for when his operation goes wrong. This is a book you won't want to miss.— Kelli O'Malley
July 2016 Indie Next List
“Winters has managed to aim a giant magnifying glass at the problem of institutionalized racism in America in a way that has never been done before. This Orwellian allegory takes place in the present day but in a United States where Lincoln was assassinated before he ever became president, the Civil War never took place, and slavery still exists in four states, known as the Hard Four. In agile prose that manages to convey the darkest of humors, Winters tackles the most sensitive of issues such as the motivations of misguided white liberals involved in racial politics, the use of racial profiling, and the influence of racism on the very young. Underground Airlines is the most important book of the summer. Read it.”
— Kelly Justice (E), The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
NOMINATED FOR BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL BY THE ITW THRILLER AWARDS
A FINALIST FOR THE CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE
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
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 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 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.
About the Author
Ben H. Winters is the author of, most recently, World of Trouble, the concluding book in the Last Policeman trilogy. The second book, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate.