Robert's been to Desta before, but for the rest of us, this was our introduction to Ethiopian food. It was quite a worthwhile adventure. The dishes, meat and vegetable, have sauces with vibrant flavors, and you get to eat everything with your hands (with some aid from a flexible, sour flatbread called injera). If you want to try a sampler of many different flavors, we recommend you get the vegetarian plate, which offers more variety than a single meat dish.
The book's strongest element is the intriguing and capable protagonist, who has layers that "go way down." The story is told from his perspective as a sort of "invisible man." In fact, we get several references to him being "invisible" and unknown, which, after about the 3rd reference, make you wish you were reading Ellison instead. Though the writing style is fast-paced and sparse in a way that lacks the poetic touch of writing one might call "literary," it meets the narrative standards of sci-fi, providing plenty of creative plot twists. It is some fun to try to figure out if "Victor" is a double, triple, or quadruple agent.
However, Winter's alternate history is, in a couple of ways, fundamentally flawed. It fails to fully tease out the logical historical climate that would probably have followed from the U.S.' failure to eradicate slavery. This alternate history assumes that too much remains the same, when, in fact, other major historical events would likely have been altered (e.g., WWI and II). The book also fails to realistically show how much of the U.S.' economy could have relied on institutional slavery in the long run because of the added expenses that accompany its cruelty. But if you can ignore the fact that Underground Airlines is not a complex, realistic reimagining of history, its themes and characters can come close to what some might call compelling.