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Archive: Other Books > Underground Airlines by Ben Winters - 5 stars

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Susan Tunis (suetu) | 30 comments Underground Airlines -
Winters, Ben (Mulholland Books)

Ben Winters must be working to corner the market in procedural mysteries with high-concept twists. (See The Last Policeman trilogy.) His latest is set in contemporary America, with one critical difference. Back around 1860 Lincoln was assassinated, the Civil War was averted, and slavery was abolished in all but four of the United States—the Hard Four—where it exists unto this day.

When I first read this premise, the very notion was so violently disturbing that I broke out in gooseflesh all over, and stayed that way through much of the book. Winters' world-building is smart and comprehensive, both outlandish and utterly believable at the same time. And he follows the ramifications of this change into all aspects of American life and culture, very much reminding me of Michael Chabon's alternate history, The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Winters is not just revising history and building worlds, he's crafted a complex, conflicted central character, as well as a rich and varied secondary cast. He's deftly plotted a page-turner of a mystery that will surprise at every turn. And he's created a novel of ideas so provocative and unsettling that I want to hijack a book club just to have someone with whom to discuss it! This book demands discussion, and don't be surprised if it haunts you.

Late in the novel a character states, “This is not the slavery of fifty or even ten years ago. People think about slavery and they still think—still!—about the whips and the dogs and the spiky neck chains, all of that nasty business. But this is now. This is the twenty-first century.” You're shuddering, aren't you?--Susan


Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments Susan wrote: "Underground Airlines -
Winters, Ben (Mulholland Books)

Ben Winters must be working to corner the market in procedural mysteries with high-concept twists. (See The Last Policeman trilogy.) His lat..."


Excellent review!


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