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Under the Empyrean Sky

The Heartland Trilogy, Book 1
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Series: The Heartland Trilogy, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
4 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Lyrics from "Harvest-Home Song" by John Davidson. Stedman, Edmund Clarence, ed. A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1895. Lyrics from "John Barleycorn" collected by Robert Burns in 1782. Lyrics from "The Big Rock Candy Mountains" by Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock, written in 1895 and first recorded as a song in 1928.

©2013 Chuck Wendig (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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Profile Image for Dan Absalonson
  • Dan Absalonson
  • 22-10-2013

Superb reading of a really cool story.

Any additional comments?

This was a fun book. I loved the weird world the characters live in. They don't have it to well and always seem to be struggling but the things they do are so cool. I would love to float above tall stalks of corn on a ship equipped with hover rails scavenging for parts. Would I want to do that as a living? No. But it would be fun for a day, and it was really fun to read about. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't get into the cool things they discover, but it was a ride I was happy to be on next to the characters. That is enough for me to really enjoy a book, but Chuck's writing style was like a big old cherry on top of this hovering banana boat he served up.

I came to know Mr. Wendig from hearing him on a few podcasts and on these podcasts the hosts mentioned how helpful, regular, and hilarious Chuck's blog posts were. So I subscribed to his blog. I then began to receive new posts usually daily and sometimes twice a day. In these blog posts Chuck is at times profane enough to make me cringe but always doling out incredible advice for writers and he is hilarious. I'm pretty sure I have laughed from every one of Chuck's blog posts. I was hopeful this funny writing would come through in this book, and it did. But what surprised me more were the amazing descriptive passages and metaphors. There was some beautiful writing in this book. A lot of the story wasn't funny, it was serious stuff, and Wendig does a solid describing the world and the characters. Sometimes I would stop and just soak in a line or two that he wrote like I often do when I'm reading classical literature. His prose went from beautiful, to stunning, to hilarious, to vulgar, all in the same chapter. The end of the book makes you really wish it was already out and I will be sure to pick it up once it hits the shelves.

The last thing I'll mention is that I read this book by listening to it on my long commutes. It's how I get most of my reading done. The narrator was one I've never heard before, but Nick Podehl is now one of my favorite narrators. The guy is good. He does different voices for different characters, and he does it well. My favorite thing about Podehl though is that he really gets into it. When the characters are screaming in anger you can't just hear it in Nick's voice, you can FEEL it. Also I've noticed even some of the best narrators are a bit reserved when it comes to lines of dialog that are being screamed. Not Nick. He belts it out. He must be backing off the mic or turning down the gain because you can hear that he's really screaming and it is awesome. I will probably go looking for another book to read specifically because he is the narrator.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for JTF
  • JTF
  • 07-03-2014

... Empyrean Sky takes flight from a long runway

Under The Empyrean Sky takes off screamin' - a "race" takes place with the protagonist and his gang against another scavenger team to reach for the (comparatively) big prize. In the midst of the action, Mr. Wendig clearly provides a good picture of the characters and the unique characteristics of this world of flotillas and heartland. These quick "brush-stokes" that provide a hasty sketch of it all do so through the story and action. The middle proved to be a bit more sluggish. while I had to wade through a bit of exposition, overall, Mr. Wendig tells a nice story in a richly detailed world with characters that grow on you.

As I typically do, I went between the Kindle and the Audible version (using that lovely Whispersync for Voice). Nick Podehl is one of the better narrators around. Before this book, I most recently heard him in Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles series. Mr. Podehl can move from concerned parent to whiny brat in the blink of an eye. He knows how to pace the tale and, no matter which character he voices, his articulation is spot on. Another nice narration under his belt.

For full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-yd

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Chris
  • Chris
  • 09-12-2018

Extremely pleasantly surprised

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
I think it was Amazon that may have recommended this book to me I’m not sure how I came across it but I am familiar with the author.

This is the first non-Star Wars story I have listened to by Chuck.

I sat down to spend an afternoon catching up on work and listening to a book and ended up only listening to the book from start to finish in one long stretch.

Everything was amazing, The performance of the story. The world that Mr. Wendig has built Really came alive for me. I can’t recommend this book enough. I believe it was listed as children’s or young adult but I assure you it deals with some dark themes, Self discovery, And some other rather adult content.


I Immediately bought the next book in the series.

Thanks very much Chuck

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Profile Image for gman01
  • gman01
  • 26-10-2018

Intriguing premise! Not self-contained.

Wendig gives us a frighteningly too-plausible future where genetic altering of agriculture has resulted in invasive super-crops and the resulting chronic-disease-ridden population forced to live off them. If all this sounds a little too familiar, then you're probably sensing the potential power of this tale. At the same time, this book falters in a few aspects. Identifying with the main character is difficult. His flaws are not particularly outweighed by his positive traits so it's hard to care about him. He's also facing such a hopeless scenario it's hard to seriously root for him. There doesn't appear to be any plausible paths for him to take towards anything I would consider a genuine victory. Sadly, this book also fits the new popular model of every fiction story being made into a series at the expense of the self-sufficiency of each individual book. While interesting and well-crafted in it's delivery, this story fails in delivering a coherent, comprehensive story by itself. It feels more like the backstory or prologue to a good book. Or maybe the first chapter of a larger story. So if you want to read the whole series, I expect this is a good starting point. If you want a satisfying, self-contained story, look elsewhere!
BTW: I listened to the Audible audiobook and the narrator Nick Podehl deserves an award for his excellent pitch-perfect delivery. I'd happily listen to more audiobooks performed by him.

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Profile Image for Jesslyn H
  • Jesslyn H
  • 22-10-2018

I went back again and again...

EDIT: 7/16/2015 - Guess that 5 star rating was worth it - 3 reads in 3 years. Reading t again so I'm super fresh for the final installment.


EDIT 3/28/14 - I was horrified to discover that I hadn't purchased this book for my Kindle but had only borrowed it from the Kindle Lenders list. I've rectified that lack, gotten the audiobook and have pre-ordered the sequel, Blightborn as well.

EDIT 10/21/13 - I am now thinking that I should have given this book 5 stars and am changing my rating. Why? Because I cannot get it out of my head! I keep wondering about the next installment and going to see if there is any info on it. I read this book in August and now--in October--I'm still as anxious to get my hands on some more. Thats a great feeling and perfect example on how much the book affected me.


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This book was quite good and I added the series to my auto-buy list. For those who tried to compare this to The Hunger games--I ain't buying it. The only similarities IMO are YA and dystopian.

The Hunger Games didn't have the cruelty, darkness or desperation in this book. And the POV shifts were smoothly done.

I am more than eager for the next books in this series. Well done Mr. Wendig.

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Profile Image for Jstu
  • Jstu
  • 09-11-2016

not bad

i enjoyed the narrator but the book itself wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. it had some interesting parts but most of it was boring and didn't hold my attention very well.

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  • J. N. Bowling
  • 30-09-2015

Jeez in crow!

This is my first book by Wendig. I really enjoyed it. It's a unique spin on the dystopian future, sci-fi genre, and the characters are developed richly and deeply. You can't help but care about them, all of them. I'm looking forward to starting the next ones in the series.

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  • S. Pike
  • 10-09-2015

good dystopian future of the epa

liked it will check out the sequel. imagine a future where the EPA devroth movement was successful,