Man-Eating Corn in Under the Empyrean Sky

Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig



Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Author: Chuck Wendig
Published: July 2013
Publisher: Skyscape
Pages: 368 {Kindle edition}

Originally posted on Goodreads

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

To view spoilers, click on the provided link & you’ll be redirected to the review on Goodreads where the spoiler is hidden at the same point in the review

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

Hm. This had potential but really did not work for me in the end. The concept of this dystopian world where some people, the poor, live on the ground and the wealthy live in flotillas that float in the air, was cool but it wasn’t executed in a way that had me hooked. Mostly this was a case of not finding myself caring about the characters and a plot with far too many things happening that were only half explored or unnecessary.

Under the Empyrean Sky

Well, this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s such a shame though because I really thought I was going to love it! For starters, let’s appreciate how wicked that cover is. I absolutely adore the colour scheme and it’s definitely giving me the vibes that this is a book I will love. Alas, it was not to be.

I thought that this book would be a wicked Dystopian that had this painful imbalance between the rich – who live on “flotillas” which are basically cities that float through the sky – and the poor – who live on the ground in what are essentially slums with The Corn. Before I go any further I want to mention that there is language in this book – so if you don’t like language then this isn’t for you. Not to mention I thought the language was entirely unnecessary and I didn’t appreciate it.

The corn concept had me super intrigued from the beginning but in the end I was really underwhelmed by its presence and purposes within the narrative. Firstly, let me start by saying that it’s made out to play this huge role in the book – it doesn’t. It’s hinted that the corn is alive and grows fast and consumes things but for the most part it doesn’t seem anymore threatening than normal corn. Which was a greatly missed opportunity (Day of the Triffids, anyone?).

Nonetheless, the story is about a young boy, called Cael, and his friends. They scavenge on their (hover) ship for junk and other bits and bobs that they could collect and make use of. Their life is very hard. The world they live in is experiencing severe poverty as the Empyrean people (those on the flotillas) take everything from them – including food. As far as I understood, they rely on food to be provided by the Empyrean because they can’t eat the corn that’s taken over everything.

The corn is biologically altered. It’s passive-aggressive, seemingly with a mind of its own, and it can survive the wasteland of a place the planet has become. It’s really hard for the Hearrtlanders to tame it as it just grows everywhere.

Cael dreams that he’ll be able to really make something of himself and buy his way up to he comfy life on one of the flotillas. There’s quite a lot going on in the story but that’s the basic premise. If you ask me, I think it sounds like a good idea of a story but it fell a bit flat and here’s why.

Why This Didn’t Work for Me

Firstly, the BIGGEST problem that I had with this book was my lack of feeling anything for any of the characters. I wouldn’t say they’re underdeveloped, but they’re sure as hell not real. I never found myself emotionally attached to any of the characters or particularly upset as to what happened to them. This was what really dragged the book down for me because it made me just want to get to the end of the book to know the ending and move on. If I don’t care about my characters, then it’s really hard to care about the book.

Me trying to convince my brain that I care

I thought Pop’s character was very wishy washy, as well. He never (just about) stands up to his son and the struggle that is meant to be their relationship seemed wrongly out of the limelight and mostly a boring aspect of the book. Cael is immature and unwilling to listen to what his Dad has to say which makes sense in that he’s angry at him for not standing up for the family . . . but then again it’s not as if Pop is doing nothing. As far as we’re aware, Pop is injured and physically unable to do harder work although it is stated that he does WANT to. He’s clearly tired, his wife is bedridden with tumours that seem to have mutated her body, and he’s still working. Which made me feel that the tense relationship between father and son wasn’t explained well. Cael was too angry at Pop all the time for all the wrong reasons. It didn’t make sense.

The relationship between Cael and Gwennie was shallow. I didn’t believe it and I never would have guessed there was anything between them if it wasn’t mentioned on every. single. page. On top of this, I really disliked the backwards love triangle of Boyland (Cael’s archenemy) also liking Gwennie. That was weird and felt like an after thought. I did not understand the flip in Gwennie’s character either when she goes from being Cael best friend and serious girlfriend to “oh it has to be this way” when she’s stuck with Boyland – you see, they get Obligated at 17 (I think) which is where they’re paired off with the others their age. And Gwennie is Obligated to Boyland and just, ugh.

Which sort of leads me to my next point: there was far too much that was introduced into this book and not finished off or explored more. The Obligation problems felt like they were trying to take centre stage – except we know this book is about Cael being angry at the corn/Empyrean/teenage angst so it can’t be a romance, not really. Then of course we can’t forget the father-son problems. Nor the political issues both within the town and the Empyrean’s general existence. And a few friendship hiccoughs – and the friends themselves having issues (more of that in a second). AND THERE’S MORE. However, that last thing I can’t discuss with you non-spoilery people.


So just to quickly duck back to his friends. Lane was probably my favourite but such a weirdly constructed character. There’s one moment in the book where we get some serious hints that Lane is not what he seems. So here I am going oh goodness is he bad? Is he secretly a monster? WHAT IS IT. It was not what I thought at all. The revelation comes right at the end in the most random manner that almost works but just seems unnecessary and inconsistent with his character. Which was a shame. Rigo was an interesting character in that he was desperate to make his Dad proud, who was an abusive drunk, but at the same time he also fiercely hated him. I wasn’t really sure what to think of that whole situation – nor the fact that not a single person made a comment on how unhealthy Rigo’s situation was. No-one.

That’s what I have to say about THAT

Things That Were Good

The blurb hints towards a story that sounds great. If we’d had more direct focus on this storyline alone I think this would have been a really good book. And I liked how it ended – as in, the final line. I liked how it tied in nicely and it almost convinced me that I want to read the next book. Almost. This book had too many chefs and not enough cooks when it came to plot lines which is a tragedy because the potential for an epic sci-fi adventure was really there.


I didn’t enjoy this book, overall. My main thought was how weird everything was the whole way through. Like I said, there was some real potential for this to be a great story but it just didn’t quite hit the mark on most accounts – but the fact that I was willing and interested to read until the end won it 2 stars.

View all my reviews


 Perhaps instead . . .

If you like your sci-fis packed with science and sassy, awesome characters, The Martian is for you.

If you like sci-fi plots that are fascinating and hook you from the get-go, From a Distant Star is for you.

If you like seriously dystopian worlds with characters so real you could touch them, An Ember in the Ashes is for you.

 Have you read Under the Empyrean Sky?

What did you think? Share your thoughts below!

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~

3 thoughts on “Man-Eating Corn in Under the Empyrean Sky

  1. Okay I am DYING at your GIFs. Your GIF game is on point 😂 Also, since we’re talking about corn, every time “flotillas” was mentioned, my mind replaced them with “tortillas”. Because really, corn would make more sense with tortillas, no? Yeah, I would not be able to with this one either. And you are right, the cover is SO pretty, it totally would have sucked me in! Sorry that this was such a mess for you, but fabulous review, you made me chuckle 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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