Monday, July 27, 2015

Sci Fi Review: Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1) by Chuck Wendig

Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1)
by Chuck Wendig

This is the first of three books in The Heartland Trilogy. It begins with Cael, the leader of a small group of teens who earn money by scavenging, racing against a rival team. His vessel is a boat, but not a water craft, a hover craft. The sea is an endless field of corn. Right there, I was intrigued, and then things get really interesting: love threatened by state-mandated matches, hints at former greatness next to evidence of hard times, and privileged overlords with an utter disregard for human decency.
One of the things I love about this story is wading through the hints to try to figure out when and where the story is taking place. Future? Past in an alternate universe? Country? There’s enough evidence to figure out the where, but then it becomes a question of the when. It’s never stated outright, but I don’t think it needs to be. Where would the fun be in that?
Another thing I love is the complexity of the characters. They are richly detailed, but their character and motivations are revealed in their actions, and occasionally through their narration, as the perspective of the story at times shifts to different people. Hints are sufficiently subtle that no one is an open book, making for realistic interactions that bring everyone in the story to life. Now, there do seem to be a few archetypical characters, but having read the second book, I realize that I was wrong about some of them. I love being surprised.
And on that note, I thought this was YA at first, really through most of the first book, but again, having read the second and started the third, I must say this is a bit more complex and adult than a typical YA offering. Just all around solid world building, angst, struggles, revolution, and complex characters, even amongst those pegged as villains.
I also thought this was just about the right length. It’s as long as it needs to be, and the level of complexity is engaging, without being confusing.
Alright, so overall, I’d say I love this book. I would strongly recommend this to folks who love a meaty dystopian or sci fi offering. The science and the level of dysfunction are satisfyingly realistic, with familiar themes delivered in a new way.
I received the review copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.