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Under the Empyrean Sky

Under the Empyrean Sky

4.0 6
by Chuck Wendig

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Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it.

It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow — and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it.

As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety


Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it.

It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow — and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it.

As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie — his first mate and the love of his life — forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry — angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it.

Cael’s ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adult author Wendig (The Blue Blazes) launches the dystopian Heartland trilogy featuring a group of teenage scavengers at odds with an oppressive government that dwells in luxury up in the sky. Cael McAvoy, leader of the Big Sky Scavengers, is dealt a severe setback when a rival crew led by the mayor's son sabotages his land-boat, which he needs to safely navigate the hostile fields of genetically modified corn that hold the Heartland in a stranglehold. When he discovers a secret garden of illegal fruits and vegetables, he sees a chance to get ahead by harvesting and selling them. Instead, he and his friends are drawn into a bloody fight for survival, which turns into open rebellion. Wendig conjures up an atmospheric and brutal world full of pollen storms, aggressive plants, and terrifying tumors, and populates it with memorable characters, while withholding enough information about the Empyreans to maintain intrigue. This strong first installment rises above the usual dystopian fare thanks to Wendig's knack for disturbing imagery and scorching prose. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (July)
VOYA - Cheryl Clark
In the Heartland, corn is both king and conqueror. It shackles the people to the land and allows the rich to live decadent, worry-free lives atop floating islands in the sky. Seventeen-year-old Cael McAvoy is determined to break free from a dead-end future, and when he discovers rogue vegetables growing among the cornfields, he knows he has found his ticket to the good life. But when his beloved Gwennie becomes betrothed to his uber-nemesis, Boyland, and he uncovers a secret about his father, he knows the time has come to quit living by the Empyrean's rules and to forge an unknown future. Wendig is the kind of writer who makes other writers jealous and turns readers into salivating fanatics. Yeah, he is that good. Not only does he take a weird, dystopian premise and make it work, he does so with panache. His descriptions are spot-on, using language that evokes the hardscrabble, Midwestern setting of the novel. Clever plot devices and characters you just want to throw a frying pan at round out the fun. Young readers will identify with Cael and his desire to break away from his oppressive life and carve out a better future, and fans of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series will savor the strange setting and tragic romance. This is definitely one to add to stock of young adult dystopias. The only drawback to this little gem is that readers will be left waiting for the second book in the series to come out. Reviewer: Cheryl Clark
Children's Literature - Magi Evans
Cael, Lane, Rigo and Gwennie live in poverty in the ruined Heartland of a future America, forced to scavenge for their living while their farmer parents grow practically worthless GMO corn that threatens to take over the land. Their rulers are the elite, pampered Empyrean citizens who live in flotillas that travel through the sky. Teenagers have their future spouses chosen for them at age seventeen, and this is the year for these four teens. In addition, each year one family is chosen by lottery to join the Empyreans in the sky. When the pairs are announced, Cael is disappointed that he is not paired with Gwennie, his true love; she ends up with Boyland Barnes, the bullying son of the mayor. Angry and bitter, Cael heads to the abandoned town of Martha's Bend, where he finds a bountiful, but dangerously illegal, garden of fruits and vegetables, tended by a group of hobos who are led by Cael's father, a man Cael has thought of as a lackadaisical drone. Unfortunately they are discovered by Boyland, who reports them to the Empyrean proctor, on the same day it is announced that Gwennie's family has won the lottery. After a bloody battle with Empyrean police, Cael, Lane and Rigo escape from the town, while Gwennie's family heads to the Empyrean flotilla. Wendig has created a bleak world in which hopelessness is rampant, but these teens refuse to submit to it. Instead, their anger and frustration spill over into violent action. Left to wonder how the boys will fare in the dangerous wilderness, and what awaits Gwennie in the Empyrean sky (with hints that not all is as it seems there), readers will be eager to get their hands on the second book in the trilogy. Reviewer: Magi Evans
Kirkus Reviews
A chilling post-apocalyptic adventure set on an Earth devastated by poor agricultural practices. For teenager Cael, a good day might be killing a shuck rat for dinner and sailing a land-boat above ultraengineered cornfields to scavenge parts from a wrecked motorvator. A bad day is watching the girl you love become Obligated to your archrival. Welcome to the Empyrean world, where the haves hover above ruined Earth in luxurious flotillas and the have-nots toil below in the Heartland, told whom to marry and what to grow--those "endless…everything" fields of corn that threaten to swallow towns and must be beaten back with "Queeny's Quietdown," an ominous herbicide. It's all just "[l]ife in the Heartland," resigned citizens say of violent "piss-blizzard" pollen storms, stillborn babies and the tumors that grow like strange fruit on their bodies. When Cael and his friends discover a trail of precious, prohibited vegetables growing deep in the corn, they stumble on a secret that may save them--or get them killed. Wendig offers vivid glimpses of authentic teen emotion and snappy, profanity-laced dialogue set in a grim-yet-plausible wrecked world. With last pages that offer more late-breaking revelation than resolution, this story's dangling threads will no doubt entice readers to reach for the next book in the Heartland Trilogy. A thoroughly imagined environmental nightmare with taut pacing and compelling characters that will leave readers eager for more. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Heartland Trilogy Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of the novels Blackbirds, Mockingbird, Double Dead, Bait Dog, Dinocalypse Now, and The Blue Blazes. He is cowriter of the short film Pandemic, the feature film HiM, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Chuck lives in Pennsylvania with his family. He blogs at www.terribleminds.com.

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Under the Empyrean Sky 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
TracyJTJ More than 1 year ago
Under the Empyrean Sky is dystopian sci-fi which transports the reader effortlessly into its world and carries them along in a fast paced story with just about everything you could want. Within the first two pages, the reader immediately knows what is at stake for the main character, Cael, and gets a good glimpse of the broader political and social constructs of this world – brilliant. (I wish I read more books that did this so quickly and so well.) Cael McAvoy lives in the Heartland and the only crop the government allows the people to grow is a genetically modified strain of corn. This corn is aggressive, wiping out other species and even trying to trap and consume people within its fields. It is also inedible. Heartland's citizens are malnourished and suffering from different forms of cancer. Cael and his friends are scavengers sailing their ship above the corn looking for anything of value to supplement their families’ incomes. Meanwhile, the Empryean elite live in opulent sky flotillas. The government brutally suppresses all rebellion and controls almost all aspects of the lives of those in the Heartland. Cael is sick of the injustices of his life… Ok, so you know how this goes - our hero is going to become involved in a rebellion. Despite the fact that at its heart this is an age old tale, Wendig executes it brilliantly and the reader is left wanting to read more. There were no surprises for me in this book, yet I loved every minute of it. Four Stars!
_staceykym_ More than 1 year ago
Review I didn't really think much of Under the Empyrean Sky, hence the three star rating. When I first requested it, it seemed like a novel written for kids in primary as a target audience. To my pleasant surprise it wasn't. Its also not all the blurb has got it cracked up to be. It is about CORN but its also about survival - which was kind of depressing (don't mention the first half of the book to me) and kept me up at night once I put it down. To be honest I was really frustrated with it at first. It kept going on and on and on about all this stuff that at some point I went, "Why am I learning about a totally random, apocalyptic world that makes absolutely nooo sense and makes me want to dig a hole and die?!". I know, a bit dramatic, but I couldn't help it. Once you reach halfway and read on, things bump into place and new stuff is revealed that makes you understand the Heartland world a bit more and a little better. The author was a genuine storyteller. He spun words like corn wheat into gold. (Ha-ha, get it? CORN.) It certainly livened up the book. There weren't any grammatical or typo errors, which was lovely. I have no language related complaints or whinging about it to be honest - unlike half of the book I pick up! It really isn't a book that I would normally pick up or buy, and probably even now I wouldn't really recommend it except to kids maybe in primary school. Its a sort of tale that usually goes buried beneath thousands of others - also part of the reason why I gave it a three star. Congratulations to Chuck Wendig on a successfully published book! Rating Plan 1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking. 2 star : Didn't like it, didn't find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me. 3 star : An average book. Wasn't bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea. 4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting. 5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!
SEStone519 More than 1 year ago
Cael McAvoy is sick of life in the Heartland. The Empyrean government forces Heartlanders to grow genetically engineered corn that depletes the soil and kills all other plants. And Heartlanders aren’t allowed to grow anything else: the Empyrean outlawed the farming of other crops and destroyed the seeds. They closed down the schools, keep order through a vicious police force, and eliminate “terrorists” who buck order. Cael wants more than a life dictated by the Empyreans floating among the clouds. He’s angry. At the Empyreans for guaranteeing his life will never get better, and at his father for not being upset by that fact. After following Chuck Wendig’s blog and Twitter since last September, I decided to check out his fiction. Under the Empyrean Sky seemed too deep into the science fiction genre for my tastes, but the opportunity to read it (and the rest of the Harvest Triology) practically fell into my lap. The story starts off like a lot of other YA dystopia novels: Cael despises the status-quo and is getting ready for a ceremony where the Empyrean will decide a major part of his life. Sure the setting of the Heartland with the invasive corn set it apart from others, but Cael didn’t strike me as special. He came off as the stereotypical “angry young man.” But Wendig’s writing kept me reading. I was surprised when an event that’d been foreshadowed came to fruition, even though I’ve spotted the plot device in other books from miles away. Another plot twist I didn’t even see coming. And even though I didn’t really care for the characters, I was on the edge of my seat as the novel ramped up to the climax. I’ll be starting the next book, Blightborn, very soon to find out what happens next. Under the Empyrean Sky would be great for a reader looking for science fiction/dystopia in a YA novel. Rating: 4/5 Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig is published by Skyscape and is available as a hardcover, paperback, and as an eBook. **I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley.com in return for an honest, unbiased review.
Kefirah More than 1 year ago
I loved this story and found a near-instant liking for the three pals, Cael, Lane & Rigo. The world Chuck Wendig creates springs forth as easily as the corn and is as tenaciously stuck in my head. I dived into Blightborn almost at the turning of the last page of this book and can't wait to see how it all plays out. Having followed Wendig's blog for a few years, I am not disappointed with his stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Under the Empyrean Sky is a fantasy novel based on a world that once might have been like ours, but where the haves moved up to giant flotillas in the sky while the have-nots got stuck in The Heartland—a mid-western agricultural dystopia—along with an aggressive, genetically altered strain of super corn.  For reference, just because it bears mentioning, corn and and any other form of plant life taller than I am gives me the spine-quivers all the way down to my pinky toes. And seriously, don’t even get me started on sunflowers! So. Anyway, the book is about a group of teenagers coming of age in this awful place where your spouse is assigned to you like a number in the DMV line and you have an entire soul-sucking lifetime of managing the mutant corn to look forward to. It’s almost enough to make a career in a cubical farm dealing with TPS report cover sheets seem not quite so dreary and pointless. I’ll grant you, it’s an…unusual concept*, but, I’ll also tell you that Chuck knocks right it out of the park. I devoured the last third of the book like a Sasquatch with a bag of beef jerky. Herr Wendig does a masterful job of producing hints of little threads along the way that all weave together into one big, ugly knot of conflict in the third act. And even if the world can be a little hard to grasp given the ubiquitous mutant corn and the lack of personal choice or freedom, by the end it’s almost impossible not to be all-in with the the protagonist, Cael, and his friends and family. Also, this book gets a few bonus points from me for winning on the predictability scale. While there are some things I definitely did see coming, the big turn walloped me in the side of the head like a stinky 3-day-old mackerel. My only complaint with Under the Empyrean Sky is that it takes a bit of time for any personal investment to really take hold. The first half of the book is necessary world and character-building that, while well-written, doesn’t give you a sense of the stakes that eventually come into play. It’s absolutely imperative to the story, though, because that’s what builds, heap upon inglorious heap, the vision of how tough and hopeless The Heartland can be for its residents. And, boy, is your patience ever rewarded. After working your way through the beginning and getting a feel for the place and the characters, the story builds both in momentum and jeopardy, careening towards a climax that’s as compelling as anything I’ve read for a long time. If you’re not afraid of a little belligerent corn, and can hang in there with a story for a good cause, I definitely recommend Chuck Wendig’s Under the Empyrean Sky. It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted from a corn-punk dystopia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago