Hello Rebels, and welcome back to my life, AND welcome back to my first book review in a long long time.
Unfortunately, this is NOT the return of Five Minute Books. Those videos still take me way too long. This is Four Minute Books. With jump cuts. It’s not as good, I’m sorry!
Last week I read Under the Empyrean Sky by hybrid author Chuck Wendig, and it gave me happy pants.
I made a little unboxing video for it, and if you missed that on my Twitter, here it is:
Under the Empyrean Sky is a dystopian sci-fi novel. It’s also placed in the Young Adult category, but … I don’t know, there’s a lot of stuff in here I was like, “Whoah.”
Though I guess it’s definitely not more violent than The Hunger Games.
The story takes place in a futuristic America where the world has divided into two groups, the Heartlanders who live on the ground and work the land, and the Empyrean, who fly around on hovering cities and rule over everyone.
A quick note up front about the only thing that threw me a little bit out of this book.
In this future, America has been overtaken by mutant corn genetically spliced with venus flytraps and some other nasty plants. The corn is kind of alive and will eat almost anything it comes in contact with, albeit slowly.
Humans have to control the corn with all kinds of herbicides and other nasty, nasty ass chemicals, and that means a lot of them are extremely sick and have cancer.
I saw this as an obvious depiction of the company Monsanto in an extreme future, but I was okay with it. Then the main villain showed up, and her name is Agrasanto. Or, “the AGRIcultural company MonSANTO.” I literally LOL’ed.
But that tiny, kitschy little detail didn’t really detract from an EXCELLENT book.
This book is written in third person, PRESENT tense. I don’t remember the last time I read a book written that way.
For anyone not familiar with “the grammars,” that means you have sentences like, “Chuck rolls his D20. It’s a Nat 20. The minotaur’s balls catch on fire and it falls out the window.”
It’s happening NOW, but you’re not in the HEAD of the person it’s happening TO.
A lot of dystopian Young Adult books are written in FIRST person present tense, and sometimes that annoys me when I dislike the character. This book had a nice sense of immediacy but also gave me enough distance to be an observer, rather than forcing me to wear a skin that didn’t fit.
I’d heard a lot about the book’s author Chuck Wendig since his first appearance on the Self-Publishing Podcast (right after my second appearance on the Self-Publishing Podcast, but let’s not measure dicks because I’ve never found a big enough tape measure [and also Wendig is a tremendously successful hybrid author and I still, you know, have a Patreon page]).
From talk around the web and after following his blog, I got the idea of Chuck as a take-no-crap, attitude-laden roughneck kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and doesn’t take nothing from nobody.
That attitude TOTALLY comes through in this book, and if the rest of his many titles are similar, I will quite enjoy the Wendig catalog.
Young Adult love triangles are super dicey. Twilight was vomitous. Hunger Games was nuanced and complex. Divergent was …
But Empyrean Sky pulled it off for me, and I found myself rooting for the main character and his girl, while simultaneously realizing that things might not ever work out between them and that’s just the way it was.
They don’t call it a dystopia for nothing.
If you’re considering a first Chuck Wendig book to read, I would heartily recommend Under the Empyrean Sky.
I obviously bought the hardcover edition, and this book has Kindle Matchbook, so if you buy a physical copy online through Amazon, you can get the Kindle ebook as well for just a dollar more. I have them both.
Thanks for watching, Rebels, and I’ll see you tomorrow. Byyye.