As soon as I read the blurb that this is gonna be a Holmesian f/f mystery, I knew I was gonna read it. And this was a quick delight.
This is a story that’s taking place in a far future on Jupiter, so the author drops a lot of information about this world and how humans came to be here from earth at various moments in the narrative, so it never felt info dumpy but we also only get little necessary information that moves the plot. The pacing was pretty quick and I really thought I was on the verge figuring it out all out when the final twist came completely out of left field, which was a fun surprise.
But the beauty of this book is definitely the two main characters. Mossa and Pliete are such a contrast to each other - Mossa being an investigator, definitely a more reserved workaholic, while Pliete is a bit more impulsive and livelier Classics scholar - but theirs is a very interesting dynamic. The initial hesitation and discomfort because they are meeting after many years but then the easy camaraderie and trust that gradually seeps is very well depicted and I loved their deepening intimacy as the story goes.
Overall, this was a very fun and entertaining murder mystery in a still developing sci-fi world, and some very sweet sapphic romance in the making. I finished it in one sitting and now I’m even more excited because this is gonna be a series. I can’t wait to meet our couple again.
**Please see content/trigger warnings at the end of this review**
This book has the bones of everything I like: a mystery (advertised as being Holmesian), set on another planet, future Earth and a sapphic romance. Talk about buzz words! There were a lot of interesting pieces, and I REALLY wanted to love it.
Unfortunately, the story didn't quite work for me very well. If they hadn't told me it was "Holmesian," I wouldn't have identified it as such, I had questions about how living on the (new) planet worked that weren't ever explained, and the romance was almost non-existent except at the very end (in fact, I spent most of the book thinking that it was an unrequited crush one of them had on the other in college. Not that they actually dated.). It just didn't quite come together for me.
Content/trigger warnings: violence, mentions of possible suicide and homicide
Holmes-ish character investigates a death, accompanied by ex-GF who isn't especially Watson-ish if you think of Watson as a bit dim.
It's not a good sign if while you're reading a science fictional murder mystery, you keep getting distracted by thinking, "Hold up: the planet where all these humans are living post-environmental-apocalypse on Earth sure sounds a lot like Jupiter, and it has a moon named Io, so why is the author calling it Giant?" (Like, if you're trying to avoid being West-centric, which I could understand, why retain the name Io?)
Additional and more serious distractions are afforded by the worldbuilding. The "Classicists" on Giant have as a long-term project the reconstitution of Earth's ravaged ecosystems, to which end a huge inventory of individual(?) members of Earth species is maintained. But, like ... all these species would have existed as part of ecosystems in the first place, so how are you keeping them alive in habitats suitable for individual species (and, it's implied, single members of the species)? Even zoos on Earth have trouble doing this with many species. How, on a planet where every inch of habitable space has to be constructed, are you supporting enough prey animals to feed your apex predators? (Or even your wee obligate carnivores, like domestic cats.) How do you propose to rebuild Earth's ecosystems without oceanic and other aquatic species, or alternatively where are you keeping the damn whales? What about the fact that many animals ranging from gorillas to corvids demonstrate socially transmitted learning about each other and their local environment,* and that even now, on our Earth, this is a problem for people wanting to preserve any given species -- because when you keep them in isolation and unable to express natural behaviors, their offspring no longer know what to do on, say, the savannah?
This book desperately needed input from an environmental scientist, if even I, a casual reader of natural history, found myself staggering from "But ..." to "But ..." to "But ..." so much that I could hardly spare attention for the relationship between the MCs or for the mystery.
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
*AKA culture -- see Wikipedia, "animal culture"
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was a fascinating little novella. I loved the combination of mystery and sci-fi, as well as the setting of a colony on Jupiter. This is a book that will fit nicely with other "cozy" sci-fis like those of Becky Chambers. I also loved the complicated sapphic relationship at the center of the story, which is what drew me to this book in the first place. Personally, the worldbuilding and setting was more compelling than the mystery, but I think it depends on the reader - I like sci-fi more than mysteries, so it makes sense I would prefer that part of the story. I only wish there was more of the worldbuilding about Jupiter and humanity's history included. All in all, I will be looking forward to the sequel!
What do you get when you mix a Victorian-era cozy mystery with sci-fi? This book.
The Mimicking of Known Successes was a super fun, cozy mystery set on Jupiter. We follow our main characters, Mossa and Pleiti, as they have to solve a case together - while also navigating being exes. With this only being a novella, I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to set up the world, but Older did a beautiful job of expertly crafting this futuristic world while still keeping to a vintage aesthetic. Older also manages to weave in the big questions without overly bogging down the narrative - change and the environment being the biggest one.
This releases today and I would highly recommend, can’t wait to see what Mossa and Pleiti do next!
I think I’m finally starting to appreciate novellas for what they are — it takes talent to write such an intriguing story that wraps up well in a short amount of time, and this one was a lot of fun. As usual, I felt a little bit adrift in jumping into this world, but the focus on the two characters and the mystery they were trying to solve helped to narrow my focus a bit. And then I thought the big solve was such a great insight — did I want to see where the story went next? Yeah, but that’s not what this is! It’s just a hint of the possibilities that are out there, and I loved it. Plus I was able to read most of it yesterday afternoon in my front porch rocking chair, and that’s hard to beat. Out today!
<i>Thank you to NetGalley and Tor for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>
<i>The Mimicking of Known Successes</i> charmingly blends a Holmesian-style cozy mystery with a film noir detective aesthetic, and then sets itself in a future colony on Jupiter after Earth is rendered uninhabitable. Mossa and Pleiti are endearing characters, and their former-lovers-turned-awkward-partners dynamic as they investigate the disappearance of one of Pleiti's colleagues had me genuinely smiling several times throughout the story. Mossa has all the wit and single-minded determination of Holmes without any of the same callousness.
And yet, while all of that remains true, I couldn't help but feel frustrated with this story. At its core, it is a mystery. At the same time, the brilliant world-building surrounding humanity's desperate flight to Jupiter, all the while leaving Earth in its ruinous wake, was far more compelling. Every time the text revealed more about the world, the plot would just as quickly be pulled back into a mystery I found myself less and less concerned about.
To complicate that already difficult balancing act, Mossa and Pleiti's love story never really hooked me either. It felt, at times, like I'd begun reading the second or third book in a series and missed the groundwork laid before. I wanted to spend more time just getting to know them both and learn their past before settling into their present. Flashbacks might have helped with this, but weren't featured. Their concern for each other was sweet, but ultimately felt shallow as I struggled to care with them.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book, and appreciated reading something with all the comfort of a nice warm cup of tea. I just hope that, one day, I can also read the book that solely focuses on humanity's struggle to survive on a colony on Jupiter and confront the sins of their past that is also hidden in that warm cup of tea.
If you're a fan of cozy mysteries with futuristic settings, this book is absolutely for you. If you enjoy speculative musings on the drastic consequences of humanity's attitudes towards consumption and the biological world, this book is also for you!
Many thanks to Tor/Forge and NetGalley for providing me with this digital advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own, honest thoughts about this book.
The Mimicking of Known Successes is a Holmesian murder mystery and sapphic romance set on a remote, gas-wreathed outpost of a human colony on Jupiter. When a man goes missing, lead investigator Mossa works to solve the case along with her former girlfriend and scholar Pleiti.
The first book in the series, Mimicking does a fantastic job of building this world piece by piece. While it wasn't explicitly clear how things worked on this planet for quite some time, you got little nuggets of how the settlement came to be throughout the book. It became a bit frustrating at times since this is a short novella and not a full length novel.
The underlying mystery throughout the book gets resolved in a satisfying way, but what the book does well in delivering a compelling mystery it lacks in engaging and developed characters. I found a lot of the interactions between the two main characters stiff and while this is a Holmesian story. Mossa's quirks and behavior do not make you as the reader endeared to her that you would towards her comparable counterpart.
Recommend if you're looking for an easy and short sci-fi murder mystery.
The concept and subsequent worldbuilding in this story are incredible and so creative. I couldn't get past the superfluous writing style and frequent run-on sentences. I feel this book was more like an early draft piecing together the story and characters and less like a published final copy. The characters were, again, a fantastic concept, but lacked dimension and likeability. Overall, I would have loved to read a more fleshed-out and edited version of what could be a beautiful and impactful story.
I received an eARC from Netgalley. The book will be out 3/7/2023.
The Mimicking of Known Successes accomplishes what it sets out to do by being a cozy sci-fi story, despite the tragic world building. Humanity now living on Jupiter after Earth has been destroyed by climate change (why Jupiter and not Mars? Well because Jupiter is cool as fuck). I liked how this discussed how humanity would react to this change and how detailed the world building was. However, the characters are lacking in personality and chemistry which made me not care about either the mystery or the romance.
TWs: climate change discussion, murder investigation.
In this story, we're introduced to Mossa, who is living on what seems to be Jupiter and is tasked with solving a missing persons situation. Thing is, it is pretty hard for people to go missing on a planet where everything has to be contained in a veritable bubble. As such, Mossa is perplexed, and heads to find her former partner, Pleiti, who is a historian of Earth. And from there, the story involves the two of them trying to figure out not just the disappearance of the man Mossa is tasked with figuring out, but some sketchy stuff happening at Pleiti's workplace too.
They're also trying to navigate their own relationship, as they clearly have some unresolved feelings. And the rest of the story is basically these two trying to figure out what is happening around them, but also what is happening between them, too. I liked the story, especially the intricacies of the world. It was pretty intriguing how much this society valued old Earth mores and history, and their goal was less to expand their colony on Jupiter, but to go "home" to Earth. I also really liked Mossa and Pleiti and their confused feelings. I mean, who can't relate to confused feelings, right?
The only real downside here is, it's awfully short, and I didn't feel like I had enough time to connect to either character as much as I'd have liked. However, it was recently announced that there will in fact be more books with these characters forthcoming, so I feel like I can forgive it much easier now, heh.
Bottom Line: It's crime solving and angsty romance on Jupiter, how could you not be here for it?
I went into this novella knowing little about it other than the description on Netgalley - I didn’t even know it was a novella until I was approved for it. But how could I resist a book about sapphic detectives on another planet? In this sci-fi mystery, when Earth became uninhabitable, humans began to settle on the rings of Jupiter. Flash forward however many generations, and a man is found to be missing from the edge of a platform. Did he jump? Was he pushed? Or was his fate something else entirely? Investigator Mossa is on the case, but she’ll need all the help she can get from university scholar Pleiti… her ex-girlfriend.
To me, the most compelling part of “The Mimicking of Known Successes” was not the mystery, but the relationship between the characters. I was drawn in by the amount of pining and “slow burn” between Pleiti and Mossa. Though the book itself and timeline within it were short, I felt very invested in them and the world they lived in. I was very intrigued with the logistics of living on a gaseous planet like Jupiter, and loved how the author used descriptions of their daily lives to normalize worldbuilding.
Again, I didn’t really care much about the mystery of the missing man himself until later on in the book when the stakes were raised, in which case the conclusion felt rushed. I would have liked to see the story flushed out more thoroughly in a full novel. Even though the main mystery was revealed, I was left with questions regarding the “how” of it all. Thankfully, it looks like there will be more books about Mossa and Pleiti’s adventures, so perhaps some of these questions will be solved in the future. If you are looking for a quick and enjoyable “cozy mystery”, consider investigating this book for your next read.
Thank you to Tor for providing me with an eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
The Mimicking of Known Successes is a new novella from author Malka Older, whose novel Informocracy managed to garner a bunch of nominations at awards (including a Hugo Nomination for Best Series). To be honest, I kind of hated Informocracy, which I found to be both ridiculous in characters and concepts and in themes. But Older's social media presence and other work on SciFi/Fantasy kept me interested in her, so I was willing to give her another try in this shorter work, a novella, that takes place in a different setting altogether.
And I'm really happy I gave it a chance, because the Mimicking of Known Successes is a terrific novella, one which carries interesting themes, a Sherlock Holmes/Watson-esque setup that I'm always a sucker for, and a pair of central neurodivergent protagonists with an understated lesbian romance that work incredibly well. The story takes place in a distant future in which humanity fled the Earth and now, living on platforms built around what is essentially a gas giant, where humanity struggles to survive while also longing for their home planet...and that longing leads to research into the old Earth's ecosystem back when it was healthy and functional, so that the researchers can come up with a way to restart that ecosystem for humanity's long-sought return. This setting makes for a fascinating backdrop to a mystery featuring neurodivergent investigator Mossa and her ex, Scholar Pleiti, as they investigate the disappearance of another Scholar. Really Really liked this one and would be surprised if it's not on my 2024 Hugo Award Nomination List.
Quick Plot Summary: A man is reported as arriving at a distant platform, the furthest east one could go, and then disappearing. Investigator Mossa arrives at the platform, expecting to find proof of a suicide by jumping to the planet below, only to find that the man was a scholar at Valdegeld University and that he was man incredibly proud of his work there. And so Mossa returns to the university she once attended and seeks the aid of her ex, Scholar Pleiti, in navigating the politics of Valdegeld and discovering what might've happened to the disappeared man.
Pleiti has accomplished much since she broke up with Mossa, now an established Classics Scholar looking into the ecosystem of old Earth and how it worked, so that they could one day return home and restore that ecosystem. She never expected to get invovled with Mossa again, but finds herself caught up in Mossa's singleminded determination to come to the truth, as the two of them discover a plot that involves the Institute charged with preserving old Earth species, another dead man, and perhaps that the two of them might fit together now like they didn't back then...assuming the investigation doesn't get them both killed first.
Thoughts: The Mimicking of Known Successes is essentially a riff on Sherlock Holmes and Watson stories to a certain extent, with Mossa playing the role of Sherlock and Pleiti playing the role of Watson - and Pleiti narrating all but the prologue from her own first person viewpoint. And it works extremely well in just that fashion, as Mossa tries to discover the truth of what's happened, comes to brilliant conclusions sometimes that need to be explained, and sometimes requires Pleiti to help her stumble upon the truth. But there's more than that here, and the combination is what makes this special. So for example, there's the relationship between the two protagonists - Mossa is clearly on the Autismm spectrum, with her struggling to handle anything other than her singleminded determination to find answers to her current investigation, even as she does still want there to be more with Pleiti...it's a type of relationship she struggles to express and for most of the book, Pleiti has to guess whether Mossa might even want that. Meanwhile Pleiti once broke up with Mossa because that singleminded determination left her feeling abandoned, but in the end here discovers that the two of them have both changed and that it might actually work out, with Pleiti herself being somewhat focused upon her own work to an extent that probably suggests her own level of neurodivergence. And the way the relationship plays out along the way is just done oh so so well.
And this gets combined with the story's ideas about science in this setting, where post destruction of Earth's ecosystem there are different sciences that have evolved to adapt: you have the prestigious classics, which seek to research the ways Earth's ecosystem, animals, plants and all, worked at one time in order to use those lessons to recreate a new successful ecosystem (the titular "Mimicking of Known Successes") and the "Modern", which instead studies the planet "Giant" upon which they now orbit and is disdained for it (presumably because it suggests giving up on Earth). And within the classics, there are questions the book poses, like are they really actually doing anything useful in all their tedious slow research and planning, and is there collection of animals and plants in both cells and in real life in the Mauzooleum really doing any good? Or are they just making excuses by putting off the concept that they're never going to be able to go back because they never will find the perfect mixture? These ideas are really interesting, and they work reall well amidst the story's mystery and romance, to combine for a novella that is its own tremendous success.
I'm not entirely sure I liked this much. The scope of the mystery seemed deeper than the book gave space for since it was treated like a cozy mystery novella instead of a sweeping sci fi novel. I did enjoy the world building and the ideas behind it but for once I don't think brevity helped. Too much was cut out and I barely caught onto the world before the book ended (which the world was neat! Living on giant tracks built like rings around Jupiter? Amazing.) I suppose if you treat it like a prequel novella it's fine, but I really wish there was more depth.
Side note, one thing that really bugged me was the prologue was in third person and the rest was in first person. It was unnecessarily confusing to do this especially without a chapter header saying whose POV we had switched to in Chapter 1. I spent far too long trying to figure it out.
This is a plot-forward science fiction novel that I wish we had more of. It's short and fun, but I came away from the book wanting more. The ending felt rushed, as did the relationship development. I can't exactly tell you how the plot was resolved, I just know that it was. The worldbuilding was intriguing and I liked the casual establishment of the world though I am confused as to how the system works. The plot was good, a murder mystery novel with just enough twists to keep the readers guessing. In conjunction with the science-fiction element, I had no clue where it was going because I didn't know how the world worked. Overall, it was a quick science fiction sapphic murder mystery that had a good message about the importance of biodiversity.
I was intrigued by the Sapphic Sci-fi Sherlock Holmes-esque feel. This was a good read, quick, and I loved the description of the world we were brought into. The only con i really found about this book was that due to word choice it was a little hard to get into, but considering most of the POV was a scholar it did make sense.
When a scholar disappears from a remote station on the platforms orbiting Jupiter, investigator Mossa is called in. It seems obvious that he has – like so many before him – simply stepped from the platform into the depths of Jovian atmosphere below. But, Mossa needs more proof and so, with reservation, she approaches another scholar, Pleiti, with whom she has shared some past – hinted at and further revealed over the course of the book. Pleiti becomes our narrator, our ‘Watson’ to Mossa’s Sherlock, as the pair traverse humanity’s most remote outpost in a post-apocalyptic future.
Pleiti and the missing man work in the university, where scholars of all disciplines work towards the common goal of one day re-populating the lost Earth, from microbes to flora to fauna, eventually recreating a habitat that can sustain human life. This orbital of Jupiter is a poor substitute – but, a wonderful setting! It’s stark and spare, yet fascinating; alluring despite the privations and dangers.
The Mimicking of Known Successes is marketed as a ‘cozy Holmesian murder mystery’ – just, set on (or rather, around) Jupiter! That sounded oh so appealing, and reader, I was not disappointed. It’s a short book – probably just a novella, really – and yet it feels full and complete in both world-building and the mystery. Indeed, the latter grows to be much bigger than the book’s length, or the story at first, led me to think it would become.
I’m not sure ‘cosy’ is the word I’d use for this, as that does suggest that there might be pets and scones and unrequited romance, but it’s not that at all – well, apart from the (sapphic) romance, which is a really lovely former-partners-working-together discovery of old feelings and new circumstances, but with a tender warmth rather than any of the usual tropes. For both the romance and the mystery, let me suggest gentle as a much better description than ‘cosy’.
Overall this was just a lovely book, on all fronts. The mystery is solved, the environment is sketched more than enough to make me want to explore further, and the characters are a wonderful mix of pragmatic and real and just a pleasure to spend time with. I am thrilled to see this is getting a sequel, and hopefully many more, and I’ll be delighted to revisit Jupiter, Mossa, and Pleiti when I can. Very recommended.
I tried to get into this one twice but it's just not for me, unfortunately. I loved the concept of a cozy mystery set in a colony on Jupiter, and the setting was definitely the best part. I struggled with the characters and the writing style, everything was just a bit too cold for me. I decided to DNF this one.
The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older, author of the remarkable The Centenal Cycle, is a many-layered book that becomes more and more interesting upon closer examination. On the surface, it is a very good mystery about the search for a missing man. It is also a fine relationship story about the investigator, Mossa, and her friend from university days, Pleiti. The setting is remarkable, for in this story humans have for centuries been living on a series of platforms constructed in the upper reaches of the atmosphere of Jupiter, here called Giant. And it is about human daring and imagination of what the hoped-for and long-delayed return to Earth might look like. At the same time, it is about the question of reconstructing a failed relationship or trying for something new. That’s a lot to pack into a short novel, but it succeeds brilliantly on every level.
To start with the mystery that drives the story, a strange man gets off a train on one of the most remote platforms in the atmosphere of Giant and soon disappears. In a prologue, told from the point of view of Mossa, we learn that she reluctantly takes the case, which is likely only to confirm a suicide. Since the unidentified man could well have come from the university, called Valdegeld, where her ex-lover Pleiti lives, she decides to seek her help. The rest of the story then switches to a first-person narrative by Pleiti, who has mixed feelings about the sudden visit of Mossa, but agrees to work on the case with her. They soon discover that the missing man is a scholar in Pleiti’s department, the pompous and self-centered Bolean Trewl.
I couldn’t get very far into The Mimicking of Known Successes without marveling at the engineering of human residence on Giant and the intrusive nature of its atmosphere, which pervades every scene. After a period of living on stations in orbit around the planet, people constructed a series of steel rings around Giant which provided the substructure for railroads and platforms on which cities and institutions could be built. Though people were initially protected completely from the atmosphere by impermeable atmoshields, they soon came to prefer a porous shield, supplemented by atmoscarfs, which everyone wears outdoors. These allow people to go about despite the frequent “eerie, unfurling howl of winds” and driving storms they have to live with. The strangeness of the external setting, however, is offset by the cozy, comfortable quarters at the university where many of the scenes take place and where a lot of tea and scones are consumed. It’s a strange contrast, but it works.
In a sense, The Mimicking of Known Successes is about human daring. Having expunged, apparently, the earlier drive to exploit and profit from all resources, which led humans to destroy the Earth, what should people be striving for in their dream and ultimate goal of returning to their home planet? Should it be a restoration of things as they had been, that is, the “known successes” of the past growth of life, or a going back to first principles to foster something different? That idea is also applicable to the relationship between Mossa and Pleiti. Should they try to rekindle the love they had in university days, which did not end well, or should they try for something new that is adapted to who they are now? That’s a beautiful blending of parallel themes in this deeply charming and involving novel. Highly recommended.
The book started out a little slow and I just couldn't get into the story. As the mystery picked up though I was decently invested. The past relationship between the characters was not very fleshed out and I think that definitely hurt the overall story.
This is primarily a mystery novella and the mystery felt realistic, It was easy to follow along as the characters pieced things together and a the reader could pick up a few clues that were left throughout the story.
The world building was pretty good and I know that it is a novella, but I do wish that we got to know the characters a little better.
Overall, it is a good book, perfect for a lazy day.