I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In The Mimicking of Known Successes, Pleiti is a scholar living on the human colony on Jupiter and researching ecosystems from Earth. She’s not expecting to see her ex, Mossa, but soon she learns that a colleague of hers has gone missing and Mossa needs her help to find him. They decide to investigate together, despite it being slightly awkward. Soon, though, both Mossa and Pleiti realize that there might be a lot at stake, even possibly the future of Earth.
This was an interesting novella! I quite liked the concept of how humans might be able to colonize Jupiter. The platforms and railways between them on the gaseous surface of this planet were really cool. I also like how they added tension to the story, as with such limited space, there’s an underlying worry that what is established may only be temporary. Especially in terms of Pleiti’s research, because she frets that the university’s space will not always be funded as other needs arise. It’s an intriguing setting.
On the other hand, I wasn’t that compelled by the actual mystery. The man Mossa is looking for isn’t all that pleasant, and I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough to care. Still, the setting and the inherent uncertainty of how he could have vanished and why was enough to keep me reading. I also wanted to see how Mossa and Pleiti—perfectly pleasant characters, though nothing mind-blowing to me—continued to grow closer again after their long time apart. And I did like the exploration of how both women have and haven’t changed, and the way their romance once again got a chance to blossom. I feel like there could have been more depth and development on this, but that it was limited a little by the short length of this book.
Also possibly stunted by the page count was the aforementioned setting. I really wanted to know more, and to get more into the culture of Jupiter. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this, and was left feeling kind of unsatisfied. Also, and this is a minor note, I don’t know if it is just how Older writes always or this was a deliberate choice for this book, but it reads a little like the two main characters (actually, most of the characters) have swallowed a thesaurus. Their dialogue feels almost pretentious, and it kind of distracted me sometimes. This isn’t a huge thing, but I did find myself very conscious of some word choices that gave the dialogue an odd, old-timey, stilted feeling.
In the end, The Mimicking of Known Successes wasn’t bad, but I was left wanting a bit more. The fascinating setting was underdeveloped, and the mystery was slightly lackluster to me, but I liked what we did have of both, and the main characters were fine. I think either there needs to be other novellas written in this universe, or this book should have been longer. Either way, not a bad book.
The Mimicking of Known Successes will be published on March 7th, 2023!