This cover does so much to tell you about this story, and it's gorgeous. 10/10
The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older is a scifi mystery novella. Older has an earlier award winning series of novels, the Centenal Cycle Trilogy, as well as other short works. The Mimicking of Known Successes has gotten a lot of buzz, including most anticipated book lists, so I figured it was worth looking into.
On mid-far future Jupiter, platforms serve as "land" since the planet is a gas giant, and the platforms are all connected by trains. When a man goes missing at the end of a train line, investigator Mossa is tasked with finding out what happened. She turns to her college ex, Pleiti, who studies ancient earth ecosystems in the hope of developing one to help repopulate the earth, when the time comes. The missing man is an unpopular colleague of Pleiti, so she helps Mossa navigate the university's politics in the search. However, as they keep digging, the find far more than they bargained for. In the mystery, and in their relationship.
This novella was packed full of worldbuilding, though it never felt like too much and was always relevant to the investigation. Though there wasn't much time for deep dives into the characters, I still got a good sense of who they were and their history. Mossa was Holmes-y, making connections quickly but lacking in social awareness, though not as rude as Holmes is often portrayed. I found the concept of Pleiti's job interesting and the mystery also kept my attention.
I do have one big quarrel, which is that I found the solution to the mystery unsatisfying. I won't spoil it here, but part of a good mystery to me is feeling satisfied at the end that the entire explanation makes sense and was right in front of you if you'd just been as clever as the detective. I didn't get that.
This book is for you if you were ever a Holmes/Watson shipper, if you're looking for genre blending between mystery and sci-fi, and if you're looking for a sapphic subplot. It's not for you if you want a novel-length read, if you need to be able to solve the mystery about the same time the detective does to be satisfied, or if you're looking for a more real-world mystery.
Have you read The Mimicking of Known Successes? What did you think of that ending? Let's discuss in the comments!
The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz (they/them) is a far-future sci-fi focused on the people making a distant planet more earthlike over a long period of time. It came across my radar when I was searching for Newitz's older book, Autonomous, but the library had this one instead. Newitz has three novels, several short stories, and non-fiction books and articles, many with a climate or cli-fi theme. They have been nominated for and/or won several prestigious awards.
The book focuses on members of the ERT, a cross between park rangers, scientists, and colonists who are in charge of the terraforming process. There are essentially three novellas in the book. In the first, Destry, a member of the ERT, accidentally discovers a hidden city on the planet and must find balance between her corporate overlords and the people who should be extinct. In the second, Sulfur deals with the fallout of Destry's choices while also planning public transit. In the third, a sentient train must help with a disaster that shapes the planet's destiny.
This book had a lot of ideas in it, to say the least. It certainly didn't have any slow pacing, which kept me from being bored. I liked that the environmental group had so much power and the science was well written.
On the other hand, this book's pacing was killer. I felt like I barely got to know characters before their time was up, and there were so many names I got lost often. There was also a huge helping of weird, with things like talking, flying moose and a train falling in love with a cat. It got to be a too much for me.
Overall, this book is for you if you want three related novellas, if you like weird sci-fi/talking animals, and if you are looking for far-future cli-fi. It's not for you if you want a single novel with the same characters throughout, if you do not like talking animals, or if you don't want sex scenes.
Have you read The Terraformers? What about Newitz's other novels? Let's discuss in the comments!