Book review: Underground Airlines

VICTOR’S latest mission is proving trickier than usual. A former slave turned slave catcher, he inhabits an America that’s the same as the country we know today... only different.

Ben H Winters

Century, £12.99;

ebook, £7.99

In this distorted present, the American Civil War never happened. 

Slavery — complete with horrifically modernised forms of incarceration and torture — still exists in a handful of Southern states known as the Hard Four.

With abolitionists defeated, clandestine groups that free individuals provide the only glimmers of hope. It’s these ‘underground airlines’ that the morally ambiguous Victor is up against. 

But what is it that his bosses are trying to hide? 

This is a counterfactual novel in the Fatherland mode and similarly has a terrific premise. 

But any momentum created by Winters, also author of dystopian trilogy, The Last Policeman, is stymied by over-complicated plotting and overloaded description.

Still, the haunting scenes of slavery in the Hard Four will stay with you.


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