August 4, 2013
Under the Empyrean Sky, by Chuck Wendig
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. 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. When Cael and his crew discover a secret, illegal garden, he knows it’s time to make his own luck…even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.
There were several low-star reviews complaining about language and sexuality. Since television pours these things, along with violence into people’s heads, I find I difficult to get behind their rage. I work in a video game store and every day I see parents allowing their pre-teen boys to play games rated ‘M’ for mature. I try to caution them these games have extreme violence, offensive language, and sexuality with nudity – to no avail. Come on, people! UTES has less sexuality than a PG-13 movie and less language than in music and the aforementioned movies. We bury our heads in the sand and decry the downfall of civilization – guess what? Society has been sucking for quite a while. Anyway, on to the review:
I avoid stories with wording like ‘trilogy’ in the title unless it is a reissue of a completed trilogy. I find planned trilogies use weak devices like cliffhangers. Unfortunately, UTES delivers just that – a cheesy cliffhanger. I actually thought my kindle was malfunctioning, when I couldn’t read beyond the last page. There are several parts of this story that are laughably predictable – but no more so than any other dystopian YA fiction. I won’t take away stars for the predictability or the perceived language, or even the comically cliched villains, but Chuck loses a star for the incomplete ending.
This is not a negative review, I enjoyed every moment spent reading it. Chuck is a great writer and I will be reading the other heartland books when they come out.
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, and the YA Heartland series. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, terribleminds.com, and through several popular e-books, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and red dog.