Two top women gladiators fight for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own in this explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black.

Graphic depictions of violence/death, racial slurs, sexual assault.

Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review).

Don't just take our word for it...

“Like Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Adjei-Brenyah’s book presents a dystopian vision so…illuminating that it should permanently shift our understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of doing.”
– The Washington Post

“One of the most exciting young writers in America. His work is urgent, engaging, wildly entertaining, formally bold, and politically electrifying. Read one page, any page, and you’ll see what I mean.”
– George Saunders, author of Liberation Day

“A cross between Gladiator and The Hunger Games…[An] acclaimed master of our futuristic nightmares…a keen observer of racial and socioeconomic disparities that result in a high number of Black people incarcerated. While this is set in the future, it feels uncomfortably close to the present.”
– Oprah Daily

Taste the very first page

She felt their eyes, all those executioners.
“Welcome, young lady,” said Micky Wright, the premier announcer for Chain-Gang All-Stars, the crown jewel in the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment program. “Why don’t you tell us your name?” His high boots were planted in the turf of the BattleGround, which was long and green, stroked with cocaine-white hash marks, like a divergent football field. It was Super Bowl weekend, a fact that Wright was contractually obligated to mention between every match that evening.

“You know my name.”

She noticed her own steadiness and felt a dim love for herself. Strange. She’d counted herself wretched for so long. But the crowd seemed to appreciate her boldness. They cheered, though their support was edged with a brutal irony. They looked down on this Black woman, dressed in the gray jumpsuit of the incarcerated. She was tall and strong, and they looked down on her and the tight coils of black hair on her head. They looked down gleefully. She was about to die. They believed this the way they believed in the sun and moon and the air they breathed…