I always figured that was just foreshadowing the Lone Power's tricksiness, almost getting locked in the planet's kernel forever and all.
I know your reading schedule is kind of full already, but if you want more of that sense of the grandeur and loneliness of the planet, the Red Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson just can't be beat. It really makes the location come alive like nothing else I've ever read.
Many years ago, I was the author of the LiveJournal spiritrover account. (My 15 minutes of internet fame!) That left me with a rather odd and specific emotional attachment to MER-A. It was a weird thing, feeling resentment at Opportunity's string of easy discoveries. Spirit was always the underdog, starting with her software problems in the first 2 weeks, and I loved her for it.
I was, of course, absolutely thrilled when she showed up in this book! I posted about it at the time, saying it was my unofficial cameo in the YW universe. Diane Duane herself responded -- and didn't contradict my premise. So I now consider my officially unofficial cameo. :)
And, yeah, the XKCD comic broke my heart too. That's why I stopped writing spiritrover. I just couldn't face writing about her inevitable slow decay in first person. Too painful, and a complete narrative black hole.
Yeah, this bugs me too. No one has EVER translated a written language without knowledge of the underlying spoken language.
The problem is that we're trying to find a definition that lets the Earth be in the category as Jupiter, while excluding bodies like Pluto and Ceres*, and that's just silly. The solar system obviously has 4 planets, plus some random rocky crap. Only provincial apes that happened to live on one of those rocks would even consider another taxonomy.
* Ceres also used to be considered a planet, but for some reason no one gets all emotional about that!
It's so hard for me to evaluate how I want them to end up. I first read SYWTBAW in 1988. Nita starting to deal with those feelings/expectations in DW was a very real model for my own growth at that age. I've been waiting for them to get together for the vast majority of my life now! But at the same time, yeah, heteronormative pairings are so trite and expected. Maybe they could date for a bit, then realize they want to be very close friends? That's equally as rare to portray positively. I really don't see how a relationship can't be at least explored at this point, while being true to the characters.
Va nqqvgvba gb gur varivgnoyr Onefbbzvna vzntrel, V'q ybir gb frr Fcvevg ZRE-N vapyhqrq fbzrjurer.
V serryl nqzvg guvf vf orpnhfr V hfrq gb oybt svefg-crefba nf Fcvevg onpx va gur qnl, naq jnf *fb* rkpvgrq gb frr ure fubj hc. Vg'f nf pybfr nf V'yy rire pbzr gb orvat va n LJ obbx. :)
"Ne ego si iterum eodem modo uicero, sine ullo milite Epirum reuertar."
(Er, that's Latin, not rot13. Mild spoilers for Plutarch, I guess...)
It might not be a designed feature, so much as an inherent aspect of the technology. E.g., my car technically also has a self-destruct mode that I hope I'm never forced to use. :)