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Underground Airlines Audiobook

Underground Airlines

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Publisher's Summary

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 Marshal 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 an 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 groundbreaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe.

©2016 Ben Winters (P)2016 Hachette Audio

What the Critics Say

"Underground Airlines is a work of astonishing originality and ambition. Like the best art, it forces us to question our own assumptions. Is the machine of modern civilization really that far removed from the alternate reality that Winters presents here? We're all implicated in this unsettling and visionary novel. Ben Winters is one brave writer." (Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore)

"A daring and very well constructed novel." (Booklist)

"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 best-selling author of Wool)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 05-19-17
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 05-19-17 Member Since 2016

    My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.

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    "A CLEAN HAND STATE"

    HE SMILED, I SMILED, WE SMILED AT EACH OTHER.
    If I graded on concept alone, I would give this an A+. If I graded on language alone, I would give this an A. On storyline, a B-, on character development a C. For the first hour I was completely enthralled due to the whole concept of the story and I loved the magical why Ben puts together words. This is one of those classical type of books where you often get three different words to describe one feeling or sight or whatever.

    I CAUGHT MYSELF COMPLETELY ALONE IN THE PRESENCE OF MYSELF
    What Ben could not due was get me involved in the story, get me in the head of the main character, Victor and get me to care what was happening. Once I was used to the new idea and once Ben explored how this new world works, and the newness wore off, I did not have a story or character that stuck with me.

    EVERYTHING'S EVERYBODIES
    Joel from Newport Beach, writes a more articulate review, voicing better, what I am trying to say.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth J. Katschke 07-11-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Interesting what if..."

    Imagine a USA without a civil war and slavery was still legal in 2016. This is the premise of Underground Airlines. It's an interesting way to frame and examine racism today and how it may not be all that far removed from that distant past, and it's intimate connection. The story is like a crime novel, and it moves along nicely. I recommend the story.

    William DeMerrit is excellent. Each character is uniquely and expertly performed. I look forward to hearing his other work.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel NEWPORT BEACH, CA, United States 02-04-17
    Joel NEWPORT BEACH, CA, United States 02-04-17 Member Since 2011

    Joel Szerlip

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    "Great Setting, So-So Story"

    After reading Ben H. Winters trilogy, The Last Policeman, I became cautiously optimistic about his latest venture Underground Airlines. On the surface, it's a novel that takes place in an alternative history where the Civil War didn't take place, and slavery wasn't abolished. Instead, it was relegated to four southern states. To avoid war a new set of amendments were added to the constitution that made it impossible to abolish slavery without basically disbanding the entire constitution. A compromise to avoid the Civil War.

    Underground Airlines, similar to Winters past trilogy, at times falls victim to its lofty setting. I found myself far more interested in the alternative version of reality than the plight of Victor, the stories main character. Without spoiling anything, Victor is in charge of tracking down runaway slaves who are trying to escape via the "underground airlines." With a very successful track record, Victor is set to find Jackdaw, the latest runaway, but he realizes really quick that this isn't the typical case.

    I never really became part of Team Victor. Winters still doesn't do much with character development, instead leans heavier into the setting and the world than in the mystery of the case. At times I actually wondered if this book would have been better off as just a straight alternative history, instead of a mystery/thriller set in an alternative history. I will say though that you could still make some interesting parallels into the real world and this fictitious world that was quite biting.

    As much as I love the setting, the actual moment to moment story and characters fell flat. It felt a lot like the first novel in The Last Policeman where it wasn't until later books that you ever really cared about any of the characters. Underground Airlines ended up being a solid story in a fascinating world.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emanuel McCown III Bronx, NY United States 07-19-16
    Emanuel McCown III Bronx, NY United States 07-19-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent book!!"

    I loved this book. I could not stop listening to it!The story was very creative and wound along paths that you did not expect. It is spellbinding

    I really liked the main character.

    The narration, which can destroy a good book, was excellent.

    Ben Winters is a very good writer. This is the first book of his that I read. I am going to read another one very soon!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DobieChuck Colorado 07-06-16
    DobieChuck Colorado 07-06-16 Member Since 2017

    Blind listener reading everything, especially mystery/thrillers and sf&f. Restricted to audio so picky where credits spent. #BooksRule

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    "Old Times There Aren't Forgotten"

    Quite a compelling read... Some well thought speculation on the what if front, and it's more alternate current events than alternate history;). The idea of slaves as stock/chattle is pulled off incisively w/o beating you over the head;). The story moves well and has some delightful turnarounds woven. Into the central plot and overall storyline... It paints a grim picture of how the country coulda turned out drastically different, although in many ways maybe not so much... Puts a whole new spin on the idea of profiling and enhanced interrogation... The pace and flow never lags making it a decent binge read;). Characters are well done, but Victor and Martha shoulder the load... Particularly impressed w/ the sequences of victor's memories of his time as a person bonded... On that same note, thought that his past could have been a bit more complete... Narration is average, and fairly slow, but plays relatively well at 1.25x... Definitely worth the credit...

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim TEMECULA, CA, United States 08-22-16
    Tim TEMECULA, CA, United States 08-22-16 Member Since 2006
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    "Horrifying and Brilliant Alternative History"

    As a high concept alternative history this book is a stand out thought experiment. That experiment is that the US never fought the civil war so now in 2016 four states still practice institutionalized and legal slavery. What I found most fascinating in this over all very good book is the imagined practical reality of that situation. It describes a quasi-fascist southern racist regime in highly convincing detail. It’s by far the best and most interesting part of the book…and also the most frustrating because the author supposes that we all live in his imagined world and thus don’t really need to be filled in on those details. His narration of the practicalities of a 2016 slave state USA is very disturbing and heavily reminiscent of novels about Hitler’s Germany such as city of Night or Cimmerian (both available on Audible). There are many absolutely compelling segments where I promise you will be both fascinated and appalled in equal amounts. If I had any complaint it would be in the plotting. Some parts of the story are either under explained or just plain missing. Parts of the early chapters drag a little and the ending feels a bit rushed. There are several ‘deus ex machina’ moments which can be excused as the plot really only serves as a structure to hang the compelling descriptions of this alternate reality. This is by far not a fun read…it’s very good read but it will make you question many aspects of our modern America and see our race torn world through a very dark glass.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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    Judi B 07-23-16
    Judi B 07-23-16
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    "There but for the grace of God..."

    A smart, compelling story that transports the listener to a world that could so easily be ours. The performance is riveting, thanks to the narrator, who makes you connect with the characters while opening your eyes to the small and large differences in this alternate America. The writer has captured An important reflection at an important time in America's history. Highly recommended to all who want to be reminded of just how far we've come even as we are eager to go farther still. Race relations in America - as it could have been.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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    Simon Templar NY/NJ 07-12-16
    Simon Templar NY/NJ 07-12-16 Member Since 2015

    Steve

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    "A- The 2nd half of this masterpiece falters"

    The 2nd half of this masterpiece falters a little, but still well worth a listen/read.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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    D. Leedy san francisco, ca 07-11-16
    D. Leedy san francisco, ca 07-11-16

    perfectleft

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    ""Everything Happens""

    A great premise, well plotted and executed, wryly humorous. Solid narrator, William DeMeritt, who handles the introspective passages and character dialog equally adroitly. This is more like an American Noir antihero driven story than an Alt History. While unfortunately timely, the book isn't a preachy polemic, or a nerdy fleshing out of an alternate timeline. It's very much like modern America with the conceit throwing its contradictions into relief without tedious exposition. The good aren't as good as they think and evil is more prosaic than dastardly. It's about a man against himself more than his adversaries or circumstances. He's got layers and goes all the way down. He's good, isn't he? Ultimately it's a great story, worth your time and not a trendy edifying read for false liberal solidarity. Winters opened himself up to all sorts of backlash to write this story but acquits himself splendidly.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 08-01-16
    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 08-01-16 Member Since 2006
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    "Suspenseful, imaginative and oddly prescient"

    Loved it. Kept me guessing and figuring until the end. The narrator and main character is beautifully conceived, very rich, and the performance -- of all the characters -- by William DeMerritt adds an extra level of depth and humanness. I absolutely loved it, kept me awake at night and has kind of haunted me in between listens.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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