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The Mimicking of Known Successes

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The Mimicking of Known Successes is a short, but evocative story of a potential mystery in a strange new setting. Overall, I enjoyed this novella. The setting was unique, and the world-building Older used to explain how humans colonized a gas planet was interesting and thoughtful. I appreciated the descriptive nature of the writing, although at times it felt almost too formal. (Given the narrator's profession as an academic, I suppose that makes sense.) The plot was perfect for the length of the novella and the pacing was excellent. I find that sometimes novellas can feel rushed or unfinished due to their length, but that wasn't the case here. The characters were interesting and the existence of a previous relationship helped give them an unusual depth in a novella. I enjoyed my read of The Mimicking of Known Successes and look forward to picking up the sequel.

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The world is incredible: humans have left Earth and moved to a ringed gas giant and have developed a society there while also studying the “classics.” But unfortunately, the writing trips over itself; it’s clunky without actually conveying very much information. Too much was left unexplained even after feeling I was trying to make my way through a textbook. The characters also had hints of an interesting backstory, but those hints weren’t fleshed out at all. Instead, I felt like I was told to care about these characters without it being earned.

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I wasn't too sure about this going in but the book just clicked with me. It wasn't so much the plot or the characters but the setting this time, which is unusual for me. But there was something about the windswept, stark platforms with trains clattering through on rail systems that circled the planet (or a moon?) of Jupiter, the ease with which a scholar could order tea and scones delivered to their room, the gaslights always blazing to keep the rooms warm, the colored fogs that blow through streets, the care and attention given to animals, the whole aesthetic just struck me and made me want to read more.

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I was hoping the queer romance would overcome my apathy towards mysteries, but the central storyline just wasn't compelling enough for me. Character development felt thin, and I found myself wishing the book hadn't bitten off more than it could chew for its novella length, and had spent more time building out the characters. The book was overall cozy, but I was hoping for something a little less anemic.

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Humans have made it across the galaxy after we ruined Earth, but we still have time to go to college, commit crimes, fall in and out of love, and use public transportation. There is fun worldbuilding in this slim novel, but it never overwhelms the characterization or the plot.

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I am sorry for the inconvenience but I don’t have the time to read this anymore and have lost interest in the concept. I believe that it would benefit your book more if I did not skim your book and write a rushed review. Again, I am sorry for the inconvenience.

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When I first started I had no idea there was a sci fi aspect in it so I was generally surprised when I showed up but I still enjoyed it.

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I'm obsessed with Jupiter, but by Jove, I wouldn't want to live there!

Malka Older did an amazing job building out the setting in this scifi novella – showing what it would mean to live in orbit around the first and largest planet to form in our solar system. Jupiter is a gas giant, so there's no surface to stand on, only extreme wind and lightning storms, and intense atmospheric pressure that would crush a human body. Imagine standing on a platform above that chaotic death pit... That's where the story finds us. An eerie, stormy backdrop for this otherwise cozy Holmesian mystery and sapphic second chance romance.

I love the parallel themes that Malka has set up! The foggy setting of Jupiter mimics the foggy setting of Victorian England that Sherlock Holmes called home. The main Watsonian character's second chance at a romantic relationship parallels her work helping society get a second chance at living on Earth. So much packed into a novella to enjoy!

And I will continue to respectfully admire Jupiter's glorious extremes from afar (and fight like hell to keep the chance we've got on Earth right now).

Thank you to Tordotcom Publishing, Malka Older, and the B2Weird Book Club for the gifted copy. Can't wait to read the sequel – The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles – coming out February 2024!

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Malka Older's "The Mimicking of Known Successes" is a thought-provoking journey into the realms of mystery and science fiction. Set against the backdrop of a remote, gas-wreathed outpost on Jupiter, the novel introduces readers to the enigmatic Investigator Mossa, whose quest to find a missing man leads to a captivating narrative filled with intrigue and unexpected twists.

The story unfolds in Valdegeld, the home of the colony's erudite university, where Mossa's former girlfriend, Pleiti, is deeply immersed in researching Earth's pre-collapse ecosystems. The narrative seamlessly weaves together Mossa's investigative prowess with Pleiti's dedication to aiding the larger effort for a possible return to Earth. The dynamic between the characters and their shared history adds a layer of complexity and emotional depth to the unfolding mystery.

One of the strengths of Older's writing is the vivid and immersive world-building. The gas-wreathed outpost on Jupiter and the erudite university in Valdegeld are intricately described, creating a rich backdrop for the unfolding events. The author skillfully combines elements of mystery with a touch of hard science fiction, engaging readers with a plausible and well-thought-out vision of the future.

The characters, particularly Investigator Mossa and Pleiti, are well-developed and relatable. Their motivations and the intricacies of their relationship add depth to the narrative, making it more than just a sci-fi mystery. The exploration of themes related to the future of life on Earth adds a layer of significance to the plot, elevating it beyond a mere investigative tale.

The pacing of the novel is well-managed, keeping the reader hooked with a twisting path of discoveries. The plot unfolds organically, revealing layers of complexity and raising questions about the consequences of humanity's actions. The stakes are high, not only for the characters but also for the future of Earth, creating a sense of urgency that propels the story forward.

While the novel excels in many aspects, there are moments when the complexity of the scientific concepts introduced might be challenging for some readers. Additionally, the ending, while satisfying, leaves room for interpretation, which may be both a strength and a point of contention for different readers.

In conclusion, "The Mimicking of Known Successes" is a captivating blend of mystery and science fiction, masterfully crafted by Malka Older. With its well-drawn characters, intricate world-building, and a thought-provoking exploration of humanity's future, the novel stands out as a compelling and intellectually stimulating read. Fans of both mystery and science fiction genres will find this book to be a rewarding and enriching experience.

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This cozy sci-fi mystery reunites two former flames, a detective and a scholar at Jupiter's elite university, when a man disappears from an isolated platform. Older throws you straight into the worldbuilding, which is jarring at first but soon becomes par for the course. I grew to love Mossa and Pleiti and can't wait to read more of their adventures.

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An interesting world with a great couple at the centre and an interesting mystery. I'd be interested to pick up more books in this world.

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A man has gone missing at a remote station on Jupiter where the human race has landed after ruining Earth for inhabitation. Did he step off into space or was he pushed? Investigator Mossa has been sent to find out what happened.

Mossa enlists the help of her former girlfriend, Pleiti. Pleiti has stayed at the university where the two met, now as a researcher into Earth's former ecosystems in the hope that one day humans can recreate the Earth as it was and return. There is still tension over their breakup but Pleiti agrees to help and soon is caught up in Mossa's work.

Someone doesn't want the answers found. Mossa is attacked at the planet's only zoo by a carnivore who has been set loose and it's obvious some of the people they are talking to are lying to them or at least not telling the entire truth. Can the two women find out what happened?

This is the first in Older's science fiction series. The two women are very different yet they have a strong attraction to each other and can almost read each other's minds. Humans have made a mess of things on Earth and are desperately trying to find a way to get back and reestablish life as it was. The book is reminiscent of Victorian mysteries and readers won't quickly figure out the mystery. This book is recommended for both science fiction and mystery readers.

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a sci-fi novella with a missing person in space?!!! sign me up! I enjoyed this novella and you should read this too.

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I really enjoyed this take on a Sherlock Holmes-style tale. We have our aloof, thinking ten steps ahead but doesn't bother to explain it investigator and the long-suffering, loyal, good-at-research and academia companion. The mystery is satisfying, but their relationship and all the subtle emotional undertones are where it's at.

I love a good alternate, modern, queer take on Holmes, and so naturally I greatly enjoyed this. The expected dynamic between 'Holmes' (Mossa) and 'Watson' (Pleiti) is there, but shifted to be more obviously queer. All of the relationship progress is very subtle and in teh background, but I love when authors do that so it worked for me.

The worldbuilding is incredible. We have a world of swirling gases, tram cars and platforms rising out of the fog. It's eerie and beautiful and has a gaslamp sort of feel to it. Even in this alien setting, a university is a university and the politics and daily life of an academic are captured perfectly.

The audiobook performance is understated and fits well with the world and the characters. It was a very enjoyable way to experience the story.

I look forward to more stories in this series.

*Thanks to NetGalley and TorDotCom for providing an early copy for review.

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This novella effectively captures a Holmesian feel in its parameters and tone, but in some ways that strength is also its underlying weakness. The two main characters did not feel like unique beings; they felt like slight variations of Holmes and Watson. Similarly, the characters felt gender neutral rather than female – which is not a problem for a queer romance, except for the explicit descriptor applied to the novel as ‘sapphic.’

The world building also could have been improved. The setting of Jupiter is clear and does influence the world, particularly the motivation of the criminals, but the rest is almost too familiar. Or, put another way, the conventions of being on Jupiter and its consequences are touched on, but don’t feel fully explored. Maybe a longer work could have added more detail, or maybe that’s just something I personally would have enjoyed.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to the free advanced digital copy of this book.

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Malka Older’s The Mimicking of Known Successes is a lovely cozy mystery and sapphic romance in a tonally nearish-future SF setting. If, like me, you struggled a bit with author Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle trilogy (I admit I haven’t made it past the first book, Infomocracy), please consider giving this novella a try. It was one of my favorite things to read this year.

One of the reasons I had stumbled during Infomocracy was the multiple characters and POVs – sometimes I’m good with that, but I started reading it in 2019, not a great year for me to be challenging myself during leisure time. But TMoKS starts with a tight-focus third-person narrative focused on Mossa, a professional detective, and switches to a first-person narrative from Pleiti, a scholar, so it’s a lot easier to track what’s happening (although intentions and motivations aren’t revealed for quite a while).

Also helping with the ease of reading is that although this is science fiction, the tone feels like gaslamp Victorian/Edwardian-style fiction, minus the racism and sexism (there’s still some degree of classism, though, at least with some characters being arrogant about their academic status). Humanity has moved to Jupiter after wrecking the Earth’s environment, with a series of platforms in the upper atmosphere of the gas giant that are connected via a rail system. So as Mossa and Pleiti follow leads from platform to platform, it reminds me a lot of various Sherlock Holmes mysteries where he and Dr. Watson move about tEngland via rail. Also, Pleiti’s university quarters provide tea and scones by the fireside as a welcome warm-up for the pair in Chapter 1, so the mystery is literally cozy.

It is also pretty hot in places! Mossa and Pleiti are ex-flames from college, who had a bad breakup. The two have very different interests, competencies, and personalities, but the heat is still there; at least we see that on Pleiti’s side before too long. And when one of them is injured, the other helps bathe the wound clean and has to struggle to keep her mind, emotions and voice under control… Fortunately, frustrations are eventually resolved satisfyingly – but I definitely want to see this relationship continue to progress in future stories.

As for the mystery, I love how it spins up step by step (with a few twists and turns along the way) from a missing person to a case with much broader implications. Some SF mysteries are basically just present-day puzzles with a technological gloss, but the futuristic setting here is integral to the mystery and to people’s motivations, and the complex details of the worldbuilding (from simple elements like an atmoscarf that helps one breathe outside, to vital plot-spoilery ones) really immerse the reader into the story.

Incidentally, the title comes from humans on Jupiter trying to figure out how to recreate Earth’s environment – Pleiti’s Classics discipline actually centers not so much on interpreting literature as on using literature to infer whole working ecologies, such as cataloging plant life in (implied) Watership Down. It’s certainly not cozy to imagine the devastated Earth, but I’ve been reading some other “cozy catastrophes” lately, where the coziness lies in survivors starting small and building futures together, and this fits that description.

Older has said that she set out to write a comfort read, and I believe she succeeded masterfully. Worldbuilding, mystery, characters and romance combine delightfully in this novella. I eagerly await the sequel in February 2024, and, fortified by this lovely story, I may even return to the Centenary Cycle.

The Mimicking of Known Successes, available here from Barnes & Noble, has a sort of subtitle these days: “The Investigations of Mossa and Pleiti Book 1.” Yes, that means there is a follow-up coming! The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles is available now for preorder. I am definitely looking forward to reading that!

Content warnings: Violence, death, past background environmental catastrophe, sexy scenes (not graphic).

Comparisons: C.L. Polk’s Even Though I Knew the End (noirish f/f romance-fantasy-mystery), Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit (mostly cozy m/m romance-SF with some mystery), P. Djeli Clark’s A Master of Djinn (steampunk-mystery with f/f romance).

Disclaimers: I received a free ARC of this novella from NetGalley. IIRC, I may have had a few very brief exchanges with Older on social media.

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This short sci-fi mystery is billed as a sapphic Holmes and Watson story and delivers very well on that premise.

Although, at first, this is Holmes (Mossa) and Watson (Pleiti) if Watson was simultaneously sexually attracted to Holmes and had had enough of his shit!

The main mystery plot is centred on a missing academic and a possibly-unconnected dead homeless man, but the real meat of the story revolves around the issue of returning to Earth at some point in the future, with Pleiti basically taking the same approach in both her professional and personal life of attempting to replicate the actions of the past but with a more successful outcome.

The futuristic society of platforms and aircars, above Jupiter’s toxic surface, feels well-constructed and the society inhabiting it feels only too believable and not as far in the future as I would hope.

While a little bit dry and literary in style at times, the whole story concept is interesting and well-executed, and definitely worth a try for Conan Doyle fans looking for a bit of sapphic sci-fi with their Sherlockian sleuthing.

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Very well-realized setting with a lot of fun details; I loved the high tech world (gas giant colony where people live on platforms at habitable altitudes and wear atmoscarves to filter the air for them) with low tech daily life (gas heating, no wireless communication as a result of the dense atmosphere). A kind of gaslamp noir sci fi vibe.

It was billed as a sapphic romance, which it isn’t really. Sapphic, yes, romance, ehhh. It’s about two women who used to be close friends and romantically involved, working together to solve a mystery/crime/conspiracy and re-forging their relationship in the process. But it’s just not steamy and didn’t really have me invested in their romantic recoupling. I think it honestly would have been more interesting if it was just about two adults learning how to be friends again while working together after a years-ago falling out. I really liked the two main characters and their respective hangups and quirks and competences, and their relationship was interesting even without the romance aspect.

Weird pacing/reveal at the end, I didn’t totally buy the evil plot; it just seemed a little clunky and hard to hide such a big resource-heavy undertaking. I feel like such a mission would require many more people, expertise, planning than the couple of conspirators that were revealed.

It didn’t come together perfectly but it wasn’t too rough around the edges either. I would definitely read more from this author and will keep an eye out for the next book in the series.

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Long drawn out, mystifying story of seeking unmotivated resson for death off a railway platform .. even the 'victim' wasnt very appealing .. not being prepared to understand the contexts, or even which first person was talking, I could see distant echoes of sherlock Holmes and Watson.. but I was completely befuddled and stopped! I must have missed something ..

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