There’s plenty of similar things between the two early novels, but they are so different from each other that no-one could really blame the author for getting stuck in a groove.
Epitaph in Rust is an even-higher-concept novel than The Skies Discrowned – a post-apocalyptic but mostly functional L.A. where the mayor rules with the assistance of androids.
The protagonist gets dropped into the chaos of South California from a monastery, thus his exploration of the weirdness doesn’t feel totally artificial. The plotting is tight, and doesn’t sacrifice too many pages to exposition. Many things are just taken at face value, without explaining how they came to be or changed.
Epitaph in Rust is a rollicking ride, enjoyable and pleasantly short, with a couple of good passages and ideas hiding among the chaff. It is less of a boys own adventure novel than the debut, but a long stretch from the literary delicacies Powers has repeatedly offered in his later novels.