Under the Empyrean Sky

Bk. 1. 368p. (The Heartland Trilogy). Skyscape. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4778-1720-9; ebook $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4778-6720-4.
Gr 8 Up—In the Heartland, the corn has been genetically modified until it can be left to its own devices, leaving those who work the fields with few tasks but harvesting the crop that funds the flotillas, which hover high above the land and house the elite ruling class, the Empyrean. Cael and the others in the Heartland toil endlessly to keep the corn and the mysterious illnesses that accompany its growth from their lives. When Cael's sister sneaks onto the flotilla, the consequences for her and her family on the ground are severe. And after Cael's first love's family wins the lottery to be relocated to the flotillas, he knows he has to go after her. Through all these trials, Cael realizes that the only way to save the Heartlanders is to challenge the idea that corn must be king. Wendig convincingly illustrates the kind of culture and environment that might be the result of today's agricultural practices and genetically modified industrial crops. The dystopia that arises from this projection is believable and chilling, but it never overpowers the stories of the characters that live in this world.—Anna Berger, formerly Literature Consultant, Piper City, IL

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