Synopses & Reviews
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, and AudioFile Magazine
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.
"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
"This one kept me up at night and changed the way I saw the world once I was finished." Ann Patchett, Time
"Like Victor, Winters, who is white, has a wonderful ability to inhabit different characters...[and] creates a believable world out of telling details...The voices he conjures can be rough, but they ring true...As the book twists and turns to its conclusion, only one thing is clear. This is not a problem that will be easily solved, in Victor's world or in ours." The Boston Globe
"The novel succeeds so well in part because its fiction is disturbingly close to our present reality... Winters has written a book that will make you see the world in a new light." The Washington Post
"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
"[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
About the Author
Ben H. Winters is the author of Underground Airlines (July, 2016) and The Last Policeman trilogy — The Last Policeman (2012), Countdown City (2013), and World of Trouble (2014) — for which he received the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction, a Macavity Award nomination and an Anthony Award Nomination, along with placement in numerous "Best Of" lists, including on Amazon, Slate, and NPR. The trilogy has been published in 14 languages so far. Ben's other books include Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novels The Mystery of the Everything and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, a Bank Street Best Book of 2011 and an Edgar Award nominee. Ben is also the author of many plays and musicals for children and adults, as well as Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night, a book of scary poems for kids. He he has written for national and local publications including the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He grew up in Maryland, attended Washington University in St. Louis, and currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he teaches at Butler University.