With any good story, it can be hard to manage to make the things that made it work function just as well again. That is, “sequelitis”. With a fresh start, you can do something different, but with a sequel, you’re stuck with certain story elements, and often the quality drops a bit.

With Ancillary Justice being such an impressive novel, does that happen here?

Well, yes and no. Ancillary Justice had some very specific things it went into, and that it had to say that gave it a lot of impact. This isn’t really true here; there’s some particular things that feed in from the first book, and continues to be interesting here. However, some parts, while present, aren’t really gone into, and I think a new reader would be confused. On the other hand, the first book took half of its length to come together, and get to the point where you finally find out what the central plot is.

Ancillary Sword is much more straightforward, and doesn’t need half a novel to sort itself out. There’s still plenty of mystery, but of the more typical form of digging into what the viewpoint character doesn’t know about the situation, than the fractured plot of the original.

The good writing caries over, and Breq’s voice is very clear, so the interest there is in full force. The overall theme here is more the collision of two (or more) cultures, in a colonial context (in the historical sense of one power coming in and ordering everything as it wants, and reshuffling everyone else without regard to their desires), and powers much of the plot. Overall, it’s not as good as the previous, because it doesn’t go into the ‘deep questions’ that SF can explore, but it is a much more even book.