Well, this finally makes sense of Clay’s Ark. You can definitely read this by itself, but it is far stronger as the culmination of the preceding books. I’m genuinely astonished that this was actually her first published novel and that she then went backwards in the story. What a genius.
That said, this is not the strongest book of the series. The Clayarks are just ciphers, really, an enemy for the sake of an enemy; something for the characters to react against.
That also said, there’s definitely some interesting character work here. I especially love Amber, at working with the system but not within in. Teray got a bit wearing after a while.
With the background knowledge of Doro and Mary from previous books, it’s intriguing to fill in the gaps to see how the world at the end of Mind of My Mind could turn into the world here: the development of Houses, how people are seconded, and the attitudes towards mutes. Butler could so easily have written many more stories here, filling in those gaps, but it clearly wasn’t what she was interested in doing.
I was most sad to see Butler expecting there to be sexism and fear of bisexuality present in this future.