Read advance reader review of Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

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Underground Airlines

by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters X
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 336 pages

    Jul 2017, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley
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There are currently 24 member reviews
for Underground Airlines
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  • Mary G. (Purcellville, VA)
    Underground Airlines by Ben Winters is the best book I have read in a very long time. The book presents an alternative history of the United States. One in which the Civil War never happened. In this America, slavery still exists in four states and the Underground Airlines is the modern-day version of the underground railroad trying to extricate slaves from those states. The book tells the story of "Victor," a former slave conscripted to return slaves to their owners in exchange for his own quasi freedom.

    This book is beautifully written and hooks the reader from the very start. While I recommend this book very highly, I do offer this warning: do not read it alone. It is so provocative that it begs to be discussed. It is a no-brainer as a book club selection.
  • Ann B. (Kernville, CA)
    Bold, controversial premise atop scaffolding of by-the-book noir
    I was introduced to the first few chapters of this book via the audio version read by William DeMeritt. His voice nailed the tone of this classic noir thriller, which posits that the Civil War never happened and that four southern states continue to practice slavery. It's a remarkable novel in so many ways, but especially as it serves as one more ingress to our current national conversation about race and #blacklivesmatter. It begs the question: how far from reality is this alternate history, after all?
  • Julie G. (West Hartford, CT)
    Underground Airlines
    I absolutely loved this book. The writing was spot on, and while I could have read it in one sitting, I kept closing the book because I didn't want it to end. As an alternative history, it is compelling, gripping, and frighteningly plausible. The plot twists were impossible to predict, the dialog was great, and the main character was very human. I would highly recommend it.
  • Josephine J. (Goshen, CT)
    Wonderful alternative history fiction
    What if the Civil War never happened? What if the Crittenden Compromise became law? This is the premise of Ben Winters' riveting new novel. In this book, slavery is still legal in four Southern states, and slave catchers are authorized to find runaways and return them to their "plantations". Jim, or Victor, or Brother (he goes by various aliases) is one of them, an escaped slave himself who is given a chance at life if he becomes a bounty hunter. The main plot of the novel is his hunt for the slave known as Jackdaw. But as he goes on his search, it becomes clear Jackdaw is no ordinary runaway slave. This book also raises many questions of morality. We know today that slavery is a vile institution; are there any circumstances where slavery would be acceptable? Can a good person do bad things? Can I, the reader, root for this bounty hunter? Or do I become complicit? This book would make an excellent book club selection! It's a provocative page turner. I enjoyed it immensely.
  • Stephen H. (Palo Alto, CA)
    Did "Slavery" in America Ever Really End?
    What if the abolition movement had failed? What if slavery was alive and well in the United States today? That's the brilliant premise the author uses to plot a really suspenseful thriller about a federal agent who is assigned to re-capture escaped slaves. Had this book not been a perfectly crafted thriller, it probably would've turned out to be a disappointing morality tale about the state of Racism in America. But Ben Winters really nails the suspense and I was transformed by how real this novel feels. This is the stunning narrative about a black man who must face his own fears to save us from a brutality we all know still exists. Brilliant and worth sharing with my students.
  • Susan S. (Lafayette, CA)
    A thought-provoking thriller
    As I was reading this book, I was at first thinking 'there is no way this could actually happen in the 21st century'. But as I continued to read, I realized how many parallels there were to things that actually are happening, and I changed my mind. And that makes the book pretty chilling and extremely thought-provoking. The author did an excellent job of imagining what else would have followed from the original premise both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world (the U.S. is a pariah in the world and is not a world power). The alternate history is a background setting for a mystery/thriller with several twists (none of which I saw coming) and it works on that level also. I highly recommend it.
  • Candace B. (Grand Island, NY)
    Thriller with profound social issues
    This well written novel grabbed my attention on the first page and the first twist had me immersed for the rest of the book. The story's premise was thought provoking to begin with but as the characters were developed, the profound implications for their society and ours made me want to weep.
    I enjoyed this book enormously for the story line and the way the author helped you feel characters' pain and despair and admire their bravery and survival skills. This book is an A for me and I am already reading one of Ben Winters' past books.

Beyond the Book:
  The Underground Railroad

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