If you asked me to describe The Mimicking of Known Successes by genre, I’d say it’s a queer science fiction cozy mystery that isn’t quite solarpunk, but I’d almost describe it as solarpunk-adjacent. It’s also a nice, brisk read that doesn’t break 200 pages, so if you’re also looking for a mystery that fits those criteria that you’d like to read when heading out for Thanksgiving (or other upcoming holidays), it’s a good book to pick up.
The book is set in a somewhat unspecified future, where Earth is (at present) uninhabitable, and humanity has set up shop on a series of ring-shaped habitats built in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, linked by floating trains. When a researcher disappears off of one of the platforms, Investigator Mossa sets to find out the classic question “Did he fall or was he pushed?” Mossa brings her ex, Pleiti – a researcher working on studying the genetic banks (and small selections of cloned wildlife) from pre-catastrophe Earth in order to put a plan together for how to re-terraform Terra – onto the case, as the victim was a fellow researcher.
The majority of the story is told from Pleiti’s perspective, allowing her to serve as the Watson to Mossa’s Holmes. I’m not describing her as the Lewis to Mossa’s Morse (despite the story being around a college), because Pleiti isn’t a detective herself, and Pleiti (unlike Lewis) is an academic. Also, because the Inspector Lewis series soured me on Inspector Morse as a whole.
Pleiti and Mossa have tremendous chemistry – which makes sense considering they used to be a couple, with Pleiti almost feeling like a Tsundere-light – she absolutely still has feelings for Mossa, but she can’t quite bring herself to show them, so she ends up showing it by being argumentative. It’s like late route Rin Tohsaka from Fate/Stay Night.
That said, if you want really hard SF (either physics or biology) this book might not work for you. I’m not saying you should turn your brain off, but if you want serious scientific rigor, this book will not provide it. Instead, the focus felt more like it was on the mystery, with the speculative fiction side of things serving as a way to introduce some novelty to the story.
I’m very glad I read this book for the Sword & Laser book club. There’s apparently a sequel on the way, and I honestly think I’d enjoy that.
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