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  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781787303959
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $32.99

Chain-Gang All-Stars

Squid Game meets The Handmaid's Tale in THE dystopian novel of 2023

The hotly anticipated debut novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black

Welcome to Chain-Gang All-Stars - the popular and highly controversial programme inside America's prison system. In packed arenas, watched by millions of live-stream viewers, prisoners compete as gladiators for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

Fan favourites Loretta Thurwar and Hamara 'Hurricane Staxxx' Stacker are teammates and lovers. Thurwar is nearing the end of her time on the circuit, free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares for her final encounters, as protestors gather at the gates, and as the programme's corporate owners stack the odds against her - will the price be simply too high?

  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781787303959
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is the New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black. He is a National Book Foundation's '5 Under 35' honoree, a winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award for Best First Book and the Dylan Thomas Prize, among many other accolades. Raised in Spring Valley, New York, he now lives in the Bronx.

Praise for Chain-Gang All-Stars

In a narrative world where the real is growingly more unbelievable than the make believe, Chain-Gang All-Stars is an uncanny, singular feat for literature. I've never read satire so bruising, so brolic, so tender and, really, so pitch-perfect. It's nuts brilliant. Just read it!

Kiese Laymon, author of HEAVY: An American Memoir

A chillingly dystopian tale.

Culture Whisper

Makes explicit how the spirit erodes as the body becomes currency. Adjei-Brenyah writes sharply about the economy of spectacle and the fickle alchemy between futility and hope.

Raven Leilani, author of LUSTER

A defiant, awe-inspiring novel that will be read, studied and celebrated for generations, Chain-Gang All-Stars leads with love. Readers will be forever changed by this book.

Jessamine Chan, author of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

Told with bold, muscular prose, this book is filled with surprising tenderness. As big as it is dazzling. It's just wild how good and original this book is. A revelation!

Tommy Orange, author of THERE THERE

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is 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 LINCOLN IN THE BARDO

Adjei-Brenyah is...[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

With his sharp eye for satire and reverence for humanity, Adjei-Brenyah's latest explores the exploitation, violence, and false promises of the prison industrial complex, capitalism, and the country itself.

The Millions

Adjei-Brenyah may have the buzziest book of the year . . . A ferocious attack on America's for-profit prison systems.

Goodreads' Most Anticipated Books of 2023

A clear-eyed critique of our country's prison system, along with the profit and racism inherent in them.


At once a kaleidoscopic, imaginative examination of America's unjust prison system, and a fantasy-tinged spectacle, Chain-Gang All-Stars is likely to excite and provoke in equal measure.

Our Culture

A searing debut with an unforgettable voice, Chain Gang All-Stars will force you to reevaluate what freedom in America really means.


Chain-Gang All-Stars should pique your interest if titles like Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Atwood's Handmaid's Tale are more your vibe.

The Week

Beautiful and brutal, with a really furious social commentary underpinning it.

Bea Carvalho, Independent, debut authors for 2023

It is an up-to-the-minute j'accuse that speaks to the eternal question of what it truly means to be free. And human. Imagine The Hunger Games refashioned into a rowdy, profane, and indignant blues shout at full blast.


As vital as it is brutal. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah illuminates darkness with the electricity of his prose. The massive weight of the subject is matched by the sheer scope of Adjei-Brenyah's imagination. A startling, important novel that will inspire and inform many conversations.

Charles Yu, author of INTERIOR CHINATOWN

Breathtaking and pulse-pounding... Both the political allegory and the edge-of-your-seat action work beautifully. Readers will be wowed.

Publishers Weekly

Like Orwell's 1984 and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Adjei-Brenyah's book presents a dystopian vision so upsetting and illuminating that it should permanently shift our understanding of who we are and what we're capable of doing... So raw and tragic and primal is Chain-Gang All-Stars that despite its futuristic elements, it has the patina of some timeworn epic...Shockingly intimate and moving.

Washington Post

[A] blazing debut novel...A damning indictment of mass incarceration, systemic racism, and the grotesqueries of unfettered American capitalism, Chain-Gang All-Stars is also a breathless dystopian thriller.

Lit Hub

Vividly imaginative and startling in its clarity of intent...A sort of The Hunger Games meets Gladiator meets WWE meets the modern private prison system.


A brutal, heart-wrenching story that feels so close to reality...A tale of survival and resistance in an unfair prison system.


This book will change you!...A masterpiece.

The Today Show’s #ReadWithJenna

You cannot applaud Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut novel without getting blood on your hands... [Adjei-Brenyah] fills the characters' inner lives to the brim... The society in which they live defines them by their worst deeds, but the writer of this novel refuses to.

New York Times Book Review

The new maestro of dystopian lit has arrived.


Chain-Gang All-Stars surpasses all expectations...Adjei-Brenyah's acerbic vision lands like a lightning bolt of truth.


[A] ferocious debut novel...Adjei-Brenyah does not flinch. Neither does he miss his targets, because he has the stiff winds of history at his back...With Chain-Gang All-Stars he lets us think we're reading a satire, but soon reveals a mirror of our dystopian days that lie not too far away.

Boston Globe  

A complex, brutal, beautiful, panoramic takedown of the prison-industrial complex... At once original, its own fresh creation, and clearly part of a lineage of American literature that links the opening 'Battle Royal' chapter in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to Native Son by Richard Wright, Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver and Soledad Brother by George Jackson... Adjei-Brenyah's distinguished novel updates this tradition to encompass our dizzying, barbaric, performative and capitalistic digital age.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Magnificent. A radical interrogation of incarceration, racism, entertainment, the whole fabric of American injustice, as well as a pure fire page turner.

Max Porter, author of SHY

An incredible feat - Adjei-Brenyah has created a completely built world that is rooted in reality, but also allows the imagination to expand on the silences and fallacies of a country hell-bent on glamorising the cruel practice of incarceration.

Leila Mottley, author of NIGHTCRAWLING

Deservedly acclaimed, Adjei-Brenyah is as commanding a storyteller as he is a world-builder.

Daily Mail

Adjei-Brenyah's piercing satirical takedown on the current state of the US penal system is grimly funny, epically violent and - at times - surprisingly tender. Quite the ride.

Marie Claire

A rumbustious satire of the criminal justice system, a book that is far more entertaining than an attempt to convince its readers of the case for prison abolition has any right to be.

David Shariatmadari, Guardian

Adjei-Brenyeh's sentences are nimble, his chapters brisk yet full of brio. He knows what he's doing, and it's this innate authority that makes Chain-Gang All-Stars so compelling - right up to the final, fatal blow

Sunday Telegraph

Compelling... The range of different narrators provides a smart 360-degree perspective of the too-familiar society that demands murder for entertainment


An exuberant circus of a novel, action-packed and expansive...fuelled by a sense of thrilling, righteous rage.

Xan Brooks, Guardian

Adjei-Brenyah is clearly a writer of substance, with something to say.


Terrific. A blistering exploration of a near future world that feels by turns bonkers and achingly prescient.

Irenosen Okojie, author of NUDIBRANCH

A hugely imaginative read - the world-building is masterful - while also making a powerful point about incarceration in America today...Unmissable.


While physical imprisonment - its degradations, its inefficacy - is central to this fantastically confident, nimble, entertaining and impassioned novel, Adjei-Brenyah is alert to more metaphorical and conceptual manifestations of incarceration, too. He ultimately asks us to reassess our tired, harmful thinking about what prison is really for. He demands that we imagine something better.

Michael Donkor, TLS

We simply couldn't put it down... enthralling and engaging

Leanne Fridd, The Times, * Bookseller Summer Reads of 2023*

Brutal, thrilling, devastating and beautiful

Amanda Truman, The Times, *Bookseller Summer Reads of 2023*

[An] enthralling debut... An unmissable read

UK Press Syndication

Adjei-Brenyah compels the reader to look beyond the page, blurring the lines between modern America and the hellscape he so energetically imagines


[Adjei-Brenyah’s] punch is as powerful as ever… [a] gripping story

Big Issue

Few others this year have touched Adjei-Brenyah for ideas and ambition… perhaps the most indelible novel of 2023

Daily Mail, *Books of the Year*

A scintillating, seat-of-the-pants thriller…which will make you angry but will also keep you hooked because the characters are so well drawn and sympathetic

Big Issue, *Books of the Year*

So good. Brutal subject matter, beautiful writing. This one is from the heart.

Stephen King

Discover more

Get ready for the debut novel that will leave you speechless

‘Chain-Gang All-Stars’ is shaping up to be one of the buzziest debuts of 2023. Learn more about it and see some of the rave reviews for Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s first novel.

Your guide to the books and authors on this weekend's RN Big Weekend of Books

Tune into Radio National on Saturday 17 June and Sunday 18 June.

A senior product manager shares the debut novel she's obsessing over

Taryn Burges waxes lyrical about her love for Chain-Gang All-Stars, one of the buzziest debuts of 2023.

Add these 2023 books to your TBR list for a year of great reading

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