Title: Underground Airlines
Author: Ben H. Winters
First published July 5, 2016
336 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 9780316261241 (ISBN10: 0316261246)
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is a gripping novel that takes place in a world where slavery still exists in four states called “the Hard Four.” Victor, a young black man, is working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service in exchange for his freedom.
His latest assignment is to capture a runaway named Jackdaw. As Victor infiltrates the Underground Airlines, an abolitionist movement, in search of Jackdaw, he begins to uncover unsettling secrets about the country and his own employer.
Along the way, he meets a woman and her child who may be his salvation. Winters’ novel is a thrilling and imaginative take on a world that is eerily similar to our own.
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of race, power, and humanity in a world where slavery still exists.
Published in 2016, the book is a blend of speculative fiction and thriller, with a touch of historical fiction. Ben H.
Winters is an American author and playwright, best known for his award-winning novel The Last Policeman.
The novel has a unique premise: the story is set in an alternative United States where slavery was never abolished. The protagonist, a black man named Victor, is a former slave who now works as a bounty hunter for the U.S. Marshals Service, tracking down runaway slaves and returning them to their owners.
The story takes place in present-day America, with all the familiar landmarks and institutions that readers are used to, but with a dark twist.
The novel’s themes are timely and relevant, given the ongoing struggles for racial justice and equality in America. Winters does an excellent job of exploring the nuances of these issues, without being heavy-handed or didactic.
He portrays the moral ambiguities of Victor’s job, as well as the different perspectives of the characters he encounters. The novel also raises questions about the role of the government in perpetuating oppression, as well as the power dynamics between the oppressed and the oppressor.
The pacing and structure of the novel are well-crafted, with suspenseful twists and turns that keep the reader engaged. Winters’ writing style is descriptive and evocative, with vivid imagery that brings the story to life.
The characters are complex and multi-dimensional, with their own motivations and flaws. Victor, in particular, is a compelling protagonist, with a rich backstory and a moral compass that is both admirable and flawed.
One of the strengths of the novel is its attention to historical detail. Winters has clearly done his research on the history of slavery in America, and he incorporates this knowledge seamlessly into the story.
The novel also has cultural significance, as it sheds light on the ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in America.
However, one of the weaknesses of the novel is its ending, which some readers may find unsatisfying or abrupt. The novel also raises some ethical questions about the portrayal of slavery in fiction, and whether it is appropriate for non-black authors to write about this subject matter.
Overall, Underground Airlines is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that is well worth reading. It will appeal to readers who enjoy speculative fiction, thrillers, and historical fiction, as well as those who are interested in exploring issues of race and power in America.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be challenged and inspired by a great work of fiction.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.