Have You Read Chain-Gang All Stars? (My Thoughts)

Wow. Now this is a book.

Chain-Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is about a near-future in which prisoners are given the option to sign up for a gladiatorial combat sport in which they fight to the death. If you survive for 3 years, you’re free.

The novel is brilliant on every level. It’s about what we ask of those who put their bodies on the line to entertain us, it’s about chosen families (each participant is assigned to a small group), it’s about pain, it’s about the value of life, and so much more.

Most importantly, in my opinion, the book is about the prison system in America and how it disproportionally affects Black Americans. Mixed in with the engrossing plot, worldbuilding, and characters in this work of fiction are footnotes that remind the reader of the harsh reality of the penal system.

This is a book I could not put down. It’s a complete story from start to finish, and the way it unravels the world and the circumstances of the characters is excellent. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more, but if this intrigues you, I highly recommend Chain-Gang All Stars, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Have You Read Chain-Gang All Stars? (My Thoughts)”

  1. I’ve always wondered what brought upon the world’s fascination with prisoners being put into a life or death contest.
    Death Race (Movie-2008).
    Gamer (Movie-2009).
    And although not prisoners in a walled “prison”, but Battle Royale (Movie-2000) and Hunger Games (Book-2008) follow the same concept.
    I’d argue that Japan’s “Battle Royale”, the book written by Koushun Takami a year prior to the movie, restarted the idea, at least when it became a movie. Gladiators were a thing before all this anyways.
    Even Fortnite/PUBG follow the same outline.
    I think it comes down our society/justice system not knowing what to do with certain individuals in the prison system or even the prison system as a whole. I’ll stop there and won’t get too into the politics about it, but I think it’s scarier knowing that the concept of prisoners fighting for entertainment purposes is pretty ingrained in our minds.

    • I agree, it’s an ongoing genre, so it’s tapping into something in our humanity. I’m curious about your thoughts if you read Chain-Gang All Stars.


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