A certain amount of pressure is placed on an author’s second novel, especially when the first novel gains the level of attention and acclaim of R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War. A second novel, whether it be the second ever or the second in a series, is expected to be better written than its predecessor. A second novel is expected to have a better understanding of plot, of its characters, and of its readers’ expectations. A second novel is expected to improve upon the first in every conceivable way. This is easier said than done for most authors, and is easier to accomplish in the beginning of a career, where there is still learning to be done. The longer an author writes, the more series, they craft, the greater the risk of sequelitis setting in. Sometimes, the second story is worse than the first. The Dragon Republic, R. F. Kuang’s second novel, is a sequel done absolutely right.
Readers will be forgiven for believing that all science-fiction originates in the West. Since the inception of the genre, American and English authors have dominated the field, telling the stories we all know. Jules Verne was a pioneer with The War of the Worlds, William Gibson created the modern vision of virtual reality with Neuromancer, and George Lucas will go down as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time for creating the universe of Star Wars. But science-fiction does not belong to the West alone. The Three-Body Problem, written by Liu Cixin, is a work of Chinese science-fiction. Part one of a trilogy, the novel is not just a good read, but an important one as well.