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The Mimicking of Known Successes, by Malka Older

Review copy provided by the publisher.

It is extremely hard to combine a science fiction story and a mystery so that the emphases and the pacing and everything else comes together for both, but Older has done it here. Centuries out from an environmentally devastated Earth, settlers on (well, above–and that is significant as well as scientifically obvious) Jupiter

Mossa is an Investigator. Pleiti is a Classicist–combing through examples of old Earth literature for details about ecosystems–what plants were eaten by what animals and so on–in hopes of an eventual Earth restoration. They were close in college but haven’t seen much of each other snice–until a mysterious disappearance brings their orbits back together. Crime follows upon crime, in the very most science fictional of crimes–it all came together to my great satisfaction, the world building holding the mystery arc just so.

That said, this novella also features a love story–a “we broke up but maybe that was a mistake” love story, specifically. I am a really tough sell for that shape of love story (in my experience and observation, most of the time people break up it is for at least one quite good reason), and I didn’t find myself believing in this one. But on the other hand, I found it entirely plausible that people would try anyway, so onwards I guess.

I can easily imagine this being either a stand-alone where Older has said everything she wants to say about this setting and these characters or the kind of mystery series where each one stands reasonably alone but is doing somewhat different things. Either one would work with what we see here.

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