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
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.
About the Author
Ben H. Winters is the New York Times bestselling author of Underground Airlines, Golden State, and the Last Policeman trilogy. The second novel in the trilogy, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick award. The Last Policeman received the 2012 Edgar Award and was named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate. Ben lives with his family in Los Angeles, CA.P346
"This one kept me up at night and changed the way I saw the world once I was finished."—Ann Patchett, Time
"This is one of the most thoughtful and inventive books I've read. Part alternate history and part detective novel, Underground Airlines couldn't be more timely or thrilling. It's a page-turner with a big mission: to warn against placing our history on a dusty shelf. On every page is the spirit of Faulkner's quote-The past is never dead. It's not even past. Here, Winters takes America's legacy as a slaveholding nation all the way to its logical and terrifying conclusion."—Attica Locke, Edgar Award-nominated author of Bluebird, Bluebird
"An extraordinary work of alternate history . . . Indisputably a winner"—Maureen Corrigan, NPR
"Underground Airlines is a masterful work of art with a gripping mystery at its most basic level. It's also a complex allegory woven throughout with sparking rich dialogue and multiple shades of awareness. Passengers, fasten your seat belts. The ride may be turbulent, but that's what makes it great."—Jen Forbus, Christian Science Monitor
"A swift, smart, angry new novel . . . Its vibrant imagination never slackens. . . . As a feat of world-building, Underground Airlines is astonishing, immediately taking its place in the genre's very first rank."—Charles Finch, USA Today
"[Winters] paints a convincing picture of what fugitive life would look like in our own era... he wants to get us to see the past in the present-the innumerable ways that we still live in a world made by slavery."—Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker
"An immersive thriller as well as a provocative alternative history, 'Underground Airlines' showcases a fully realized central character who believes his own disturbing past can be kept safely buried. But history has a way of bubbling to the surface of the present."—Jean Zimmerman, New York Times Book Review
"[A] striking work of speculative fiction . . . Winters creates a powerful and timely ethical framework for his fast-moving new thriller."—Jane Ciabattari, BBC
"Chilling"—Alexandra Alter, New York Times
—The Washington Post
—- The Boston Globe
"Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man meets Blade Runner in this outstanding alternate history thriller. . . . The novel's closing section contains several breathtaking reversals, a genuinely disturbing revelation, and an exhilarating final course of action for Victor."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Explosive, well plotted, and impossible to put down, this alt-hist by the Edgar Award-winning author of the "Last Policeman" trilogy will attract readers of all genres. . . . Fast paced and filled with menace, the story has an ambience that makes it special."—Library Journal (starred)
"A daring and very well constructed novel"—Booklist
"Astonishing . . . A timely novel focusing on race and equality . . . Winters handles the controversial topic with sensitivity, yet isn't afraid to ask some bold questions along the way."—BookPage
"[Underground Airlines] is powerful, suspenseful, and devastating-hard to put down, even harder to forget."—Family Circle
"Strange, modern . . . [A] genre-bending detective yarn"—Oprah.com
"Underground Airlines is a masterwork of world-building...[the book] gives you an incredibly complex character to explore it with, ensuring that your attention is well-spent down to the last page." —- LitReactor
"A top-flight thriller that's as emotionally searing and tragically plausible as anything in contemporary fiction."—Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
"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-bestselling author of Wool
"Underground Airlines is bold, brilliant, and beautiful -- everything you could want from a novel, Ben Winters delivers ten-fold. He's a writer to watch, one of exceptional vision and imagination whose characters draw the reader in to the point that an alternate history seems not only plausible, but the only one that counts until the final page."—Michael Koryta, author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
"A rich noir in a terrifingly convincing alternate America. It's both beautiful and brutal. The Handmaid's Tale for Black Lives Matter."—Lauren Beukes, author of Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls
"It is a rare thing when a writer has a fresh new provocative idea - and then executes it beautifully. This is what Ben H. Winters has done in his novel Underground Airlines. Imagine an America in which slavery still exists. Now imagine a dramatic telling of the story."—James Patterson
"Brilliantly written, terrifyingly conceived, Underground Airlines had me from the first page to the last. Many writers might have been content to set a few characters loose in the middle of the kind of powerful premise - slavery in four states never ended -put to work here, but Winters gives us gripping plot, clear-eyed social commentary and chilling implications. This may be alternate history, but what it has to say about actual, enduring race and racism cuts awfully close to the 21st century American bone."—Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
"Smart, quick and tricky, Ben Winters knows how to pull off a high-concept thriller. Fans of The Man in the High Castle will love Underground Airlines."—Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen