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Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

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Underground Airlines: 09/26/16

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is more of a thought experiment than a novel. It supposes an alternate time line where slavery is still institutionalized in four states in the South and the relationship between the South and the Union is along the lines of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The protagonist is a black man working in deep undercover as a bounty hunter of slaves making their way to Canada.

The title and nifty cover art are both misnomers as there is no flight based underground escape system. The "railroad" motif has really been supplanted with trucking, rather than flying. Both instead are there just to let the reader know that it's set in the present day — with airplanes, cellphones, GPS tracking, the internet, etc.

As the main character, who calls himself Victor (along with Brother and a few other names), is a black man in a nation that still has institutionalized slavery and more overt racism than we admit here in this reality, the book's itinerant plot falls into the traveling while Black road narrative.

As the author isn't Black, Victor's experiences are as much thought experiments as the book as a whole. Victor's troubles on the road, whether in White neighborhoods in the North or Black ones, or in either in the South, read like a check list from the Travelguide.

Three stars

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