The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles Review: Leveling Up

By Steph Kingston on

About Steph Kingston

Geekly's own International Woman of Mystery.


One of my favorite things going on right now is sequel books that are better than the first one. I don’t think it’s fair to call it a trend per say, maybe I’m just lucky in my choices or maybe there is some other reason. But whatever the cause for it, 2023 was a year of sequels that improved on their first book (which we talk more about in our Year End Wrapup 2023 of No Page Unturned). Yes, I am technically cheating by including Malka Older’s The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles as it doesn’t actually come out until 2024 but fight me, book police.

This the sequel to 2023’s The Mimicking of Known Successes, which was one of my standout books of the year despite not quite making it onto any of my top lists. It managed to make a novel set in space, notably cold and harsh, feel cozy and scone-filled. The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles continues that trend in a delightful way by emphasizing the incredible vastness of space, and in particular the setting of Jupiter, while still feeling intimate.

Picking up from the first book, we find Pleiti and Mossa still together (excellent) and recovering from the climax of their previous adventure, physically and mentally. I really appreciated that the traumas of the precious book weren’t just washed over in the name of making a series where you can start from any book. I understand that there are psychos out there who start in the middle of a series, but it always bothers me when characters only vaguely allude to or seem affected by things that happened previously, just in case some new reader started on book two. Older has seemingly eschewed that and it honestly felt like a breath of fresh air.

Aside from not just pushing the events of the first book to the side, Older has clearly figured out what made the first book work and has leveled up those elements. Cups of tea and delicious food abound, Mossa and Pleiti are extremely cute (though not without their wobbly moments), and the mystery is better this time around. Older also seems to have a handle on her world now and greatly expands it, with Mossa and Pleiti visiting the moon Io and taking a multi-day rail journey to the far sides of the planet. There are deeper descriptions of what building life around a gas giant entails, and references to 21st century media like Murderbot. We learn about the history of the settlements and the divides between groups. All while still keeping a tight 224 page count, which is impressive.

What worked: World building, cozy vibes

What didn’t work: difficult and confusing prose

Recommended listening: moody lo-fi

If the book has a “weak” spot, it’s in some of the prose. Now this is fully my opinion because I do think that there are people who would absolutely love this, but there are some really obscure words thrown around. I’m talking about spelling-bee level “Can I hear it in a sentence?” words that even I, as a heavy reader, don’t know. It certainly lends to the Sherlockian vibe but if you didn’t have an e-reader to look things up it would be really easy to get lost. I don’t remember so many 5 dollar words in The Mimicking of Known Successes so I appreciate Older trying something new but it didn’t quite land.

Something that has definitely polarized reviewers, but I personally enjoyed is that the bulk of the book is from Pleiti’s POV. Pleiti, bless her heart, is a bit of a mess. She’s an awkward, neurodivergent scholar who recently underwent a significant trauma while also picking up a relationship with her ex. So she’s kind of all over the place and feeling extremely vulnerable at times, which can occasionally be frustrating. But as somebody with a partner who can, like Mossa, sometimes be hard to read I really empathized with her internal monologue and anxiety.

The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles comes out February 13, 2024 and would make for an excellent cozy read in what is in my opinion one of the worst months of the year. Get some scones or a nice bowl of laksa, curl up and get cozy with it.

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