- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 28 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Hachette Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: July 5, 2016
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B01G5Z94X2
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Underground Airlines Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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In "Underground Airlines," the protagonist, who goes by a shifting set of names from Jim to Victor to Brother, is an escaped slave who has been caught and is now trapped in a new form of servitude, forced by the U.S. government to track down other attempted runaways. He hates his work but feels he has no choice; if he tries to flee again, he will be returned to slavery or killed. As he is tracing the flight of a man to Indianapolis, he uncovers information through the "Underground Airlines" -- a network of allies helping slaves escape -- that could lead to his freedom. But his bosses at the U.S. Marshals Service also expect him to hand over the evidence.
I admired how Winters portrayed the hypocrisy of the rest of the nation; most people would claim not to buy from companies that use slave labor, yet Atlanta allowed those corporations to use its highways to transport goods. It reminded me of the fact that most of us buy from retailers that benefit from exploitative prison labor to this day. I empathized with Victor's self-loathing for being forced to serve as an informant and badly wanted him to escape. Winters painfully describes the brutality and violence of slavery in ways that emphasize how many lives were destroyed by a cruel and unjust system -- one that was kept in place by millions of individual choices.
Yet the plot of "Underground Airlines" slips from a well-paced, believable story in the North to a chaotic, underexplained cascade of events when Victor travels to the South. By the end of the novel, I found myself outside the tension of the story, disbelieving what had happened and wondering how the author would wrap up the loose ends. Some of the fantastical elements introduced in the final chapters undermined the overall cohesion of the book and distracted from the compelling psychological tension of its earlier scenes. I finished the book impressed by its ability to portray the lasting consequences of slavery and racism but unconvinced of its internal coherence.
A good thriller made better by the alternate reality setting: in fact the setting is so good that I could see further books being written in this world which could hopefully give more of the depth and detail that I wanted to see in this book.