I am on a roll with second books in a trilogy! First Asunder and now A Million Suns have surprised me with their superior plotting and characterization, far surpassing their predecessors. (OK, perhaps two examples don't constitute being on a roll, but it is nice nonetheless.)
A Million Suns brings us a chaotic society on the ship. The inhabitants have been brought off phydus, the drug that kept them placated and mindless. Many people have fallen into deep depression, others are refusing to work, others are declaring that those who don't work shouldn't be fed. And almost everyone looks on Amy as a freak, some even making her fear for her safety. Under it all, rebellion simmers, and it's all Elder (who has refused to take the title of Eldest) can do to keep everything under control. And of course, he has to try and find a way to get the ship to Centauri-Earth before it all boils over.
Meanwhile, Amy has discovered a message from Orion, left for her before he was frozen for his crimes. It starts her on a trail of clues that lead to single shocking revelation near the end of the story. And of course, Amy is also reeling from the events of the first book, fearing for her life among a hostile society, and visiting her parents every day, coming closer and closer to waking them up each time.
Chapters alternate between Amy and Elder, but I found Elder to be a much more interesting character here than in the first installment. We get a much better sense of his personality and his struggles to make a unique identity for himself with the knowledge that he's a genetic clone of Eldest and Orion, men whom he both admired and despised. And because Elder's character is better developed, the romance between Amy and Elder works better, too.
I found the writing a bit smoother, too, with fewer choppy sentences and better transitions from one perspective to another. What really made me enjoy this book so much, though, was the plot. The twists were more unpredictable, and I really loved the puzzle aspect - Amy and Elder working together to figure out Orion's clues and what they mean, with a terrific payoff at the end. And I have to admit that I am very, very excited to dive into Shades of Earth, since it means we'll be reading about *SPOILER* the people landing on the new planet! I am excited to see what Revis imagines for this planet. What will the aliens (if any) be like? What about the plants and animals? The climate? What surprises will Revis throw at her characters that I never could have seen coming? I love stories about people from our Earth landing on a new, unfamiliar but life-supporting planet, because the possibilities are so broad and exciting. *END SPOILER*
If you were tepid about the first book for any of the same reasons as me, I think you'll enjoy A Million Suns far more. It's more exciting, better written, and a great read for those of us who enjoy a killer plot. Readers who have enjoyed other recently-published accessible science fiction, such as Marissa Meyer's Cinder or Amy Kathleen Ryan's Glow (another space opera), should find this very much to their liking.
Book borrowed from my local library.