Cael’s crew has come a long way since we first met them on board the Betty, racing Boyland’s crew to a scavenging site. At the end of Blightborn they’ve been scattered and we left Cael falling to earth from the flotilla Saranyu, sabotaged by the Sleeping Dogs. The beginning of Harvest shows us how his Blight rescues him, cushioning his fall and enabling Esther (aka the Maize Witch) to wrap him into a living cocoon to enable him to heal. Wanda decides she wants to become one of the Blightborn to be like Cael, so Esther infects her with the Blight, thus initiating the transformation of her character for the rest of the book.
We also find that Lane is in charge of the settlement that has sprung up in the ruins of the fallen flotilla, while Rigo is scratching out a meager existence as a beggar in a town on the border of the Heartland. Gwen and Boyland, with the others who escaped the flotilla with them, are hiding on a small farm, living on what they can grow from Balastair’s seeds. It’s a quiet existence that’s destined not to last.
The Empyrean is making its own plans. A new weaponized flotilla is under construction in secret, and a young Empyrean woman has spent the time since the fall of the Saranyu flotilla training a corps of killers. It’s her goal to take back the remains of the Saranyu and avenge all who fell with it – and that means eliminating Cael, Gwen, and all their friends.
The Heartland series is an action packed ride, and The Harvest doesn’t disappoint. The trilogy starts with a focus on Cael, his three friends and his nemesis, Boyland, in the first book, in the small town of Boxelder, and gradually expands to encompass more people, the wider Heartland and the Empyrean flotillas and society. In dystopic tradition, it’s a story of the oppressed rising up against a privileged elite, and it’s heroes are engaging, likable and flawed.
As a conclusion to the series, The Harvest plays out the implications of the Empyrean focus on genetically modified aggressive corn and of the Blight, and their creator’s role in the Empyrean-Heartland system. Each character is well developed across the trilogy, even some of the minor ones, each experience and choice having its impact, so it’s interesting to look back from the end of The Harvest to see how far Wendig has brought them.
There weren’t many negatives for me, but one is that I’d hoped to discover by the end of the series exactly why the Empyrean elite chose to live in floating cities, given the logistical problems and huge energy consumption that would entail, not to mention the very real threat of disaster. Unfortunately no explanation was ever given. The only other thing was that I felt the climax and resolution in The Harvest is rushed. There’s a final confrontation, then the moment arrives which will change the lives of every Empyrean citizen and Heartlander forever – and it cuts to an epilogue. As epilogues go its a nice touch, but I was a bit peeved not to see the effects happen, or at least start to happen, and only get a scene many years down the track.
Overall it has lots of elements to enjoy, including aggressive crops, cyborg technology, hoverboats on land and human/plant genetic melding to name a few. It also has doses of what it means to be a friend or be in love and how our choices and experiences impact on our relationships. The age-old story of exploitation of the oppressed by the powerful remains relevant more than ever with western society’s growing gap between the rich and poor and the continuing poverty in so much of the rest of the world.
The Heartland Trilogy is a good sci-fi action read and The Harvest generally finishes it off well – though if there’s ever a movie, I hope there’s a more satisfying final scene.
*I received an e-copy of this book for review through Netgalley