Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Underground Airlines - Ben H Winters

Underground Airlines made a lot of Best of 2016 lists, and I was lucky enough to snap it up at the library before the hold list got too long. It's a story about what the world would look like if the Civil War had never happened, and slavery was still legal in America. Not surprisingly, it's kind of a horrifying look. The protagonist is something of a bounty hunter, tracking down escaped slaves before they can make it to Canada and freedom, and his personal journey as a doer of such deeds drives the narrative. It's really well written and very compelling, and I had a lot of trouble putting it down.

I'm not really sure what to call this exact genre - it's a kind of alternate present, I guess? which makes it alternate history by default, but it's definitely set in the new millennium so it's a little hard to define. I don't think I've read much of it by any stretch, and wasn't sure about the idea when I picked this up, but Underground Airlines was a good, if upsetting, read. Too many of the ideas presented within are too real and too recent, but that's the intent of the book - to remind you exactly how close that kind of horror is, and how capable society is of it. A few scenes actually made me wince.

As a story, though Underground Airlines makes for a good time, or a worthwhile time - I don't know if good is the word I really want to use here, as some of it is pretty upsetting. The story is fast and interesting, the protagonist is complicated and conflicted, and the ending holds together. I'm glad I read it, and I might be seeking out more alternate history/present soon, though perhaps of a somewhat lighter nature.

This review was also posted on CannonballRead, where I'm racing to review 52 books, in my case all of four or five star ranking! 

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