Under the Empyrean Sky was a thrilling and exciting ride, full of memorable characters and memorable places. While most definitely not flawless, Under the Empyrean Sky is extremely entertaining and enjoyable.
While the book wasn’t especially unique, Wendig used some more commonly used tropes and elaborated on them. He, however, forgot to explain lots of these tropes, and they seemed nonsensical and random. There were a few things that just didn’t really add up in the book such as the Hunger Games-esque lottery where life couples are chosen. I’ve never really understood these, and in this book less so. What’s the point in the government choosing your partner if it’s totally random? Is it to break moral? Is it because they could? Was it the aliens? The world may never know.
Cael is a memorable character with a very defined personality that you don’t often see in YA literature. He’s not a perfect nor always likable character, but I thought he was written fairly well. He wasn’t the best protagonist but he wasn’t a bad one either.
The secondary characters were, while not nearly as well developed as Cael, also relatively enjoyable and interesting characters. I had issues with the similarities between Cael’s two friends. They often seemed to be the same character. Pop, Cael’s father, was a surprisingly well done character. It’s not often that fathers – or parents in general – are given the time of day in YA and I’m always really happy when they are!
My biggest complaint with Under the Empyrean Sky was its rampant misogyny. Women were portrayed as weak and never mentioned without talking about a man. Women were docile and it often seemed like their only merits were their attractiveness. Attractiveness is a deciding factor on whether a woman is good or bad, such as with the two main female characters. One of them, Gwennie, was described as attractive numerous times, and was considered to be the ‘good’ one. In constrast, Wanda was the ‘ugly’ one and therefore the ‘bad’ one. Under the Empyrean Sky definitely does not meet the Bechdel expectations.
Wendig’s writing was the novel’s strength. It was incredibly unique and defined. The colloquial way of writing that Wendig uses is rarely something I like but it fit very well with the themes and characters of Under the Empyrean Sky.
While not perfect, Under the Empyrean Sky is an enjoyable and fun read. It’s often irritating, but I can see many people enjoying it.