The best things in life, it’s been said, are free. More proof: The BBC has released Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad in audio form, read by “The Wire” actor Clarke Peters ― and the 10-part series is currently free to stream.
Colson Whitehead’s brutal, haunting sci-fi twist on black American history was an instant classic when it published in 2016, garnering the National Book Award and immediately becoming a must-read. Now, readers who haven’t yet found time to sit down with a copy of the novel can now leisurely listen to the narrative while commuting or doing laundry; even those who have read the book will probably enjoy allowing Peters’ rumbling voice to immerse them in Whitehead’s visceral prose.
Not that The Underground Railroad is soothing reading. Listening to it at bedtime, as the program’s title suggests, might even be nightmare-inducing. In it, Whitehead graphically depicts horrors inflicted on black people throughout American history, from enslavement to medical exploitation, the grotesque details of his fiction all the more chilling because they are firmly rooted in historical reality.
The unflinching realism of the novel is wrapped up in a sci-fi frame that imagines the Underground Railroad as a real subterranean railway system shuttling escaped slaves north, and that travels through over a century of anti-black subjugation within the journey of one woman, Cora.
In addition to airing during the BBC’s Book at Bedtime program starting tonight, the audiobook segments will be free to stream for the next 29 days ― so don’t dally.