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Under the Empyrean Sky

(The Heartland Trilogy #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,979 ratings  ·  378 reviews
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 a ...more
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Skyscape (first published January 1st 2013)
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Lizze Delgado The gay friend is not so minor a character as to be an afterthought. He seems like the best friend of the main character. I like the way he's voiced i…moreThe gay friend is not so minor a character as to be an afterthought. He seems like the best friend of the main character. I like the way he's voiced in the audio version, and he gets plenty to say (and yet he never screams "I'm the gay one!!")

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Corn is king. The stuff has pretty much taken over in this book (I would go on a foodie rant but I'm restraining myself).
This is not your heritage corn though. This stuff is a Monsanto dream.
Way Pop told it, the Empyrean crossbred the corn with a handful of other plants: kudzu, flytraps, some kind of nightshade. Called it Hiram's Golden Prolific.

Living in the "Heartland" means having to deal with this corn. The life in the Heartland isn't easy either. The corn causes tumors and short life
Dan Schwent
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Heartland, genetically modified corn has overrun everything and people struggle just to survive. Young Cael McAvoy is the leader of a salvage crew, finding scraps of a bygone age to sell to bring in money for his home town, Boxelder. But when Cael and his crew find some forbidden plants growing wild amongst the corn, things quickly spin out of control...

Chuck Wendig's foray into YA dystopia is an interesting tale. It reminds me of Ship Breaker, to an extent. A genetically modified corn sp
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

I should have immediately wanted to read Under the Empyrean Sky. I mean, it takes place in corn country – a place where I’ve spent my entire life. Need proof? Here’s a picture of some family members in my grandfather-in-law’s backyard:

Chicago commercial photographers

(Please note that due to TROLLS the part of said family members is being played by Mitchell and Momma June of Honey Boo Boo fame. See Trolls, I make the fat jokes before you can. Ha!)

I no longer live
*** 3.25 ***

Hahahaha! My first and lasting impression while reading this book was - maaaaannn, this author sure hates corn 🌽🌽🌽 and the Midwest, or as he calls it, the Heartland and the people who live in it. Being that I am one of those who lives in the heart of the Heartland, I actually understand the feeling. As the characters are known to say, with not little resentment, "This is the life in the Heartland!"... However, corn 🌽 must have harmed Mr. Chuck Wendig somehow, because in his dystopian
Frankie Brown
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked Under the Empyrean Sky -- it entertained me, it was thought-provoking in many places, and it offered a compelling, disturbing view of a future America overrun by mutant corn.

This would have been a solid four-star review, if not for one major problem: the book's treatment of women. This particularly upset me, because as an avid reader of Chuck Wendig's blog, it was my understanding that he's aware of the mistreatment of women in literature.

The chapters told from women's point of view don'
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-shelf, sci-fi
This is a pretty cool mix between rural farmer YA life and a wickedly evil genetic nightmare of a world with a richer world floating above them. I mean, sure, it's about friendship and rivalries and getting on rickety hoverboats and avoiding the specter of genetic mutations deep in the plants that start turning people into walking cornfields.

Details. It's all in the details. :)

The YA stuff was certainly competent even if I'm not all about the rural farmland stuff. I really, really loved the horr
Mogsy (MMOGC)
This was an e-ARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I thought it was really fantastic, but honestly, I'm also a little lost as to how to talk about it. To understand, I guess you have to be at least a little familiar with Chuck Wendig and his writing. If you're not, then you're in for a treat...or a shock. Or both.

I only just became a fan of the author myself, having recently read The Blue Blazes and Blackbirds. I liked them a lot, and especially adore
Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig
Published 2013, Skyscape
Stars: ★★★★☆
Review also posted at: Slapdash & Sundry

First, thanks to Netgalley for providing me with the Trilogy for review. Not only do I get to read the whole thing and provide my unbridled opinion on it, but I get to do it for CHUCK books!!! (Check out his Miriam Black series if you want a prime example of awesomeness.) So thanks Netgalley. Other than these review copies, I got nothing in return for my review (well, maybe some sati
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)

Cael McAvoy and his friends live in the Heartland, where corn grows in spades, but Heartland’s people can’t eat it. In fact, some would say the corn is alive. One thing is for sure, it fuels everything that the Empyreans need, in their kingdom in the clouds, while Heartland’s citizens survive on scraps, because the land can’t grow anything else. Cael is, however, captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, and they’re pretty darn good at what they do, even if the m
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review was originally posted on Avid Reviews:

Under the Empyrean Sky is a dystopian novel and the first installment in the Heartland Trilogy. Though the dystopian future has recently become an extremely popular trope, Wendig’s novel stands apart from the rest with a very unique vision of our planet’s future. The story holds an environmental message at its heart, and tackles the issues of genetic modification, the use of pesticides, and the dangers of lett
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely written with a younger audience target base, which I knew before buying it, but I still thought it was worth a shot after reading Wanderers, which I was pleasantly surprised with. Under The Empyrean Sky is still enjoyable for a reader of any age, it has good pace, nice elements and the characters are ok. But I have to admit I constantly thought to myself, while reading, that this would have been amazing if written as an adult horror sci-fi...but that's just me.
There isn't muc
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley + Skyscape in exchange for an honest review.

I had such a hard time writing this review, as this book fell victim to my dystopia burnout (I thought Red Rising cured me, oops). I really wanted to like this book because i) I like reading the author’s blog and ii) these covers are freaking amazing (yes, judge away!). Alas, I didn’t love or hate it – I felt plain meh.

The setting was my favourite part of this book. Set in a futuristic world where mutant co
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Excellent setup for a series! Nick Podehl was great and the story was like a runaway train. The very start is a bit slow but it doesn't last for long. I should have known that a story by Wendig would have me flopping around the extremes of reader response. Lots of action, many layers of social inequality and cool steampunk-mad max world.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Chuck Wendig is like the literary hype man of innovative genre fiction. He's all "AWWWWW YISS! YOU WANT SOME DYSTOPIAN CLASS WARFARE? YOU WANT SOME CREEPY ASS BIOLOGICAL WARFARE? YOU WANT A COMPLEX YA HERO WITH ANGST, HUMOR, AND DESPERATE MOTIVATIONS? YOU WANT IT? WELL I GOT IT. AWWWWW YEAH, COME ON AND GIT IT!" And the result is so damn energizing and exciting and goddamn cool as fuck that it ultimately distracts me from the inconsistencies and problems in the narrative.

And y'know what? I'm pr
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A few things have happened since I started reading the first book in Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy, Under the Empyrean Sky: I find myself looking at corn suspiciously. I started saying "Jeezum Crow!", much to the consternation of colleagues. And I wonder why I never read any of Wendig’s books before. If they are anything like Under the Empyrean Sky, I want to read them all!

The story seems to be set in a dystopian Earth or Earth-like planet where a society divide has left an elite set of the p
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Stylistically and in terms of the vibes this setting has, it's kind-of like a cross between a Western and a dystopian novel. Neither are quite accurate (particularly the Western label), but that's what it more-or-less felt like to me. Western isn't my favorite setting, so I had a hard time getting into this book and setting very much (it was also a good bit grittier than I care for in language & style), but it has some pretty descent plot and characters. While it wasn't quite my kind of book, ot ...more
Emma Rosloff
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
While I’d heard praise for Chuck Wendig’s blog, I hadn’t actually heard much about his book, Under the Empyrean Sky. In fact, it was the cover that drew me in (as superficial as that sounds) as I was browsing through the Young Adult section of the library. Gotta hand it to the artist — it’s a great cover. Really sets the tone. I saw Wendig’s world in all the same colors: yellow, orange and brown.

My favorite thing about this book? The worldbuilding. Wendig paints a vivid picture, creating a world
 Simply Sam ツ
Even though I thought Cael was a selfish, thoughtless little a**hole, even though I honestly really don't care about rescuing Gwennie or Merelda, even though I felt more like a spectator than a participant in the story, it still managed to keep me entertained. I felt the writing was pretty great, interactions between the characters felt believable, the world building was really well done, and I admit, I am more than a little curious about what goes on above the heartland on the empyrean flotilla ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone because I'm totally a Wendig fangirl.
Shelves: must-reads
What did you say? Wendig calls it cornpunk?

(Scratches chin.) I like this. I like this a lot. This is going in a direction I can get behind.

These days, dystopia YA is all the rage. One is born every time someone farts. Only half of them fit the definition of dystopia. (For definition, see my Divergent review.) Most of the ones I read don't make me bat an eye because I'm used to reading ones that have pretty much come true. You know, 1984 as brought to you by the internet, microchips, and the NSA.
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
Review is below the PSA. The PSA does not reflect upon the book which is really quite good.

 photo Goodreads_zpsfd34dfc1.jpg

Just when I thought there would never be a good dystopian again Under the Empyrean Sky comes along. This is a solid book - well written, perfectly paced with real life-or-death consequences. While it doesn't do anything groundbreaking with the genre, everything it does it does very well.

The thing about survival, Pop always says, is that it's not about who's fastest or strongest but who can adapt to ch
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This being my first Chuck Wendig book, I wasn't familiar with his writing style, which some people say takes some getting used to. Even so, the world that he constructed is so engrossing, so interesting, that I couldn't put this book down.

The basis of the story—the haves in the floating cities, the have-nots on the ground—is one that we've seen many timse before, but Wending manages to throw enough imaginative and creative elements into it to make it new and interesting.

Having grown up in the Mi
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
I’ve been interested in this book for a while because of its major cover appeal and interesting premise, but didn’t expect to like it nearly as much as I did. Under the Empyrean Sky offered a unique voice, immersive world building, and characters who were as vibrant as they were gritty.

The story starts out with a clear perspective and only gets stronger from there. The book was front-loaded with a lot of profanity, which might bother some readers. I actually like profanity in books as long as it
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2014-reads
Actual Rating : 4.5
Chuck Wendig never ceases to amaze me with his elegant prose and well drawn characters. The first book of the Heartland trilogy is a tragic tale of love, inequality, and adventure. This book is better than any YA novel I've ever read and has set the bar for all YA novels. My only gripe for the novel is that the main character, Cael, was kind of an asshole throughout most of the book. A likable asshole thought. Despite that, this was an awesome book and I can't wait to get star
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2015
2 Stars

I love Chuck Wendig...

I am a huge fan of most of his works. Under the Empyrean Sky is a jump into the over saturated YA genre that I find myself loathing more and more with every read. It is probably due to my hate of all things "Hunger" like that I disliked this book. I found myself skimming much of this read.

I love Chuck Wendi!!!

Just no love for this book.
Michael Stewart
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was fantastic. Second is locked and loaded. Great voice, masterful use of point of view. Wendig's in top form here. ...more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I just read this in seven hours.

I wasn't -quite- sure what I was getting into. Chuck Wendig is the guy behind and the jerk who brought us Changeling: The Lost and Hunter: The Vigil (I LOVE YOU CHUCK - BUT WHY). So I'm very familiar with his -not-storytelling- voice, but was slightly leary going into his -totally-storytelling- voice.

What we have here is a YA story about the evils of mucking about too much in bioengineering plants, the class divide, and The Man telling us wha
Wyatt Packard
Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-fiction, fantasy
Under the Empyrean Sky starts like many dystopian novels do, with little information given to the reader. As you read you learn that the book is set in the future Midwest where Empyreans live on floating cities in the sky while forcing the Heartlander to grow corn that has been so genetically modified that it has become an invasive species. Cael is a seventeen year old scavenger and the captain of his own hover ship crew. Him and his friends find long lost or broken down items to sell for the ne ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is my first YA book, and any fans of Chuck Wendig who might be dubious of picking it up because of the YA tag, stop worrying. The YA tag does not diminish Chuck's style, everything you have come to expect is there. The grim reality, the sharp descriptions, the strong characters that fit and all add to the flow.

This is the first in a trilogy set in a Cornpunk future where the land is covered by an invasive strain of carnivorous corn. The Heartland is a grim and foreboding place, its people m
Liz Neering
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. I feel like I just took a master class in pacing. This book grabs you from the opening paragraphs and never lets go. It's intense. The stakes are always high and getting higher. There are consequences even for well-intentioned actions. There are very real struggles here to cheer very real characters through.

There's also swears, violence, mutant corn, class warfare, and hoverboats. So what are you waiting for?
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See similar books…
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey.
He has contributed over two million words to the roleplaying game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP).

He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is a fellow of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter's Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, will show at th

Other books in the series

The Heartland Trilogy (3 books)
  • Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy #2)
  • The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3)

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