There was a moment in the story when I thought back to a conversation I had years ago with a much younger cousin who was still in his 20s. He began expounding on his desire to live somewhere that tested his grit, a place with “real” problems, like on the gritty prestige cop shows he watched. I didn’t point out all the very real problems that his home city of Austin faces, or point out that he didn’t need to look outside himself to find “real” problems that could use some attention. He was not sober at an early hour of the day and he wasn’t going to listen. I was equally annoyed and broken hearted. I thought a lot about that interaction while reading The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles, about how some people romanticize hardship as if living through it makes us more valid.
After the resolution of the previous mystery, Mossa and Pleiti are cautiously a couple, visiting each other from their respective home platforms. Pleiti is still processing the violence she experienced and the anxiety over the impact of [redacted]’s actions. Mossa arrives one evening with a new case – too many people are missing from Valdegeld to be within normal. She wants Pleiti’s help to see if there are connections between them that she is missing.
As readers, we spend a lot of time in Pleiti’s head. The actions of [redacted] are driving her to reconsider the accepted wisdoms of her course of scholarship – combing literature from Earth to replicate a pre-industrial, self sustaining ecosystem. As Pleiti has engaged with Mossa’s cases, she’s seen a darker side of her university – thoughtless romanticization protected by a powerful institution. Is Older moving Pleity to more thoughtful radical ideas about returning to Earth? There’s a tension in the books between looking backwards and looking forwards.
I have been fighting with myself about giving this four or five stars. On it’s own, there are bits of the mystery that felt anticlimactic, but I suspect in context with later installments I would be able to say, “ah, I see where this fits.” But I don’t have those later installments yet, and I can’t remember the motivation of this book’s antagonist. Mossa and Pleiti are always 5 stars, and Pleiti’s language is so delightfully cerebral. I hope there are more installments.
The Diverse Baseline Challenge, January Prompt B: A book by a Latine author. Pleiti doesn’t think deeply about how culture moved from Earth to the human habitations around Jupiter, but Malka Older did.
Irene Davis’ 2024 read Softer Challenge: Read out loud. This book was a joy to read out loud. I loved Pleiti’s scholarly language.
CW: Nightmares about past traumatic incidents, homophobia (challenged and countered on page), murder, discovery of a corpse, references to precarious nature of human habitations.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Tordotcom and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.