Fear the Corn. And everything that floats above it.
Under the Empyrean Sky is now out. Purchase the book at:
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The Official Description
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.
What People Are Saying
“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 ultra-engineered 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.”
“The first book in Wendig’s Heartland trilogy sets the stage. Flotillas, peopled by the wealthy Empyreans, float above the Heartland, allowing the lowly Heartlanders to grow only Hiram’s Golden Prolific corn. This monstrous crop has taken over everything, leaving deformed, malnourished farmers and their families to survive on the government’s stingy handouts. [Teenager] Cael and his longtime enemy Boyland and their crews are constantly pitted against one another, striving to earn the title of best scavengers. When Cael discovers an amazing row of real garden fruits and vegetables, he unearths not only a possible death sentence for him and his friends but also torture for his family and other Heartlander citizens. It’s a tense dystopian tale made more strange and terrifying by its present-day implications. The Heartland teens understand that they are pawns in the hands of the powerful, fed an insidious combination of hope and coercion to keep them all under Empyrean control. Escape only brings retribution to their families and friends. Cael has two more books to conquer this perversity, and it will be interesting to see how he does it.”
Libba Bray, Author of The Diviners and Going Bovine:
“Wendig brilliantly tackles the big stuff—class, economics, identity, love, and social change—in a fast-paced tale that never once loses its grip on pure storytelling excitement. Well-played, Wendig. Well-played.”
John Hornor Jacobs, Author of The Twelve-Fingered Boy and Southern Gods:
“Under the Empyrean Sky is like a super-charged, genetically modified hybrid of The Grapes of Wrath and Star Wars. Wendig delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a future agri-dystopia. Fascinating world building, engaging and deep characters, smooth, electric prose.”
Tom Pollock, Author of The City’s Son and The Glass Republic:
“A lunatic, gene-spliced, biofueled thriller. Wendig’s story flies faster and slicker than his teen crews’ hover racers. Fear the corn.”
Joelle Charbonneau, Author of The Testing:
“Under the Empyrean Sky is an imaginative, page-turning adventure that will delight science fiction fans and have them impatiently waiting for the next installment.”
Why I Think You Might Like It
Because it contains hopefully awesome things like: hobos, plant-human hybrids, hover-boats, secret gardens, food politics, naughty little jabs at Monsanto, literally bloodthirsty corn, fake profanity (“Lord and Lady!” “Jeezum Crow!” “King Hell!”), real profanity (“piss-blizzards!” “shit-biscuits!”), robotic farm equipment, class warfare, slingshots, forced marriages, drunken mayors, broken hearts, love quadrangles, all packed in the sunniest agricultural dustbowl dystopia you ever did see.
Because the second in the series, Blightborn, is twice as big and twice as crazy.
Because you’re curious just how I might handle a YA book and audience.
Because it’s cornpunk, and you wanna know what that means.
Because dang, that’s a pretty cover.
What Other Reviewers Have Said:
52 Reviews says: “delivers on all levels with a cast of rich characters, a setting that seems limitless in possibility, a message that rides confidently beneath the current of the story and a real understanding of what it is to stand between being a child and an adult, complete with the requisite indecision and ugliness of youth. There’s action, adventure, and even a bit of romance in this tale and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Heartland Trilogy. And I’ve learned not to scoff at the plans of the incredibly versatile Chuck Wendig.”
Bibliosanctum says: “I had to wonder, Is he going to be dialing it back for this? My guess was that he would have to, for a YA novel. And if that’s the case, how much? Is this still going to read like a book by the Chuck Wendig I know and love? The answer, thankfully, was yes. The story here is definitely all Wendig, but just imagine it tweaked a bit around the edges to make it more appealing to the YA reading audience.”
All About Urban Fantasy says: “With YA fiction I often find myself rolling my eyes at the idealized teenage life the authors portray in the books. When I was sixteen I cursed, did stupid things and generally acted like someone who was too old to be a child and too young to be an adult. In UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY Wendig does a fantastic job of portraying his teenage characters as, well, teenagers. They swear, talk about (and have) sex and make the kind of rash decisions that you probably would have made as a teenager.”
Books From Emma says: “I believe this may be the next big alternative dystopia series to hit the shelves in the next couple years. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment.”
Bandelier Girl Reads Everything says: “Hunger Games meets the Heartland: Loved the unique take on the dystopian future – the “Heartland” is now a seething mass of corn crossed with kudzu, and the land is too toxic to grow anything else. The rich are all in their flotillas in the sky as the people in the Heartland are left to scavenge for survival. Tumors abound, the pollen storms are poisonous and young couples become “Obligated” to each other when they turn 18. Cael, our hero, and his friends and family struggle under this scenario, getting by until things get nasty. The first in a trilogy – this book set up the characters, their world and the plot, and got me so hooked that I was jonsing for the second book as I reached the ending of this first one. Really interesting, fast paced, well written – fun YA read!”
Pabkins at My Shelf Confessions says: “The premise is crazy interesting, I could totally picture this as being some whacked out American future because it takes place in ‘The Heartland.’”
The Geek Girl Project says: “I’m glad I decided to go ahead and read it because it was one of the most imaginative, enjoyable books I’ve read in some time.”
Exploring All Genres says: “I will be eagerly waiting for the next book to come out so I can see just what happens next.”
Leanne from Literary Excursion says: “It throws you right into the mix of things, into the whirlwind that is the life of teens. They use profanity, are prone to explosive emotions (anger, lust, hatred, jealousy, betrayal, love), go against society’s wishes, and are part of intimate encounters. They face real issues, that are relatable to teens today — even if those teens are (arguably) not living in a dystopian society. While the profanity may seem excessive at times, it is not, and tapers off more as the story progresses. There is also a huge element of hilarity in the words the teens of the Heartlands choose… ones unfamiliar to us in their pairings, but that get their meaning across loud and clear. I lost track of the times I found myself laughing at insults hurled from Cael and the other characters, from the combination of ridiculous phrases and the vehemency with which they were said. Some of you may think of it as my adolescent traits showing through, but the Heartlanders’ profanity is just the right type of fodder for my funny bone.”