Mary Robinette Kowal's science fiction debut, 2019 Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Award for best novel, The Calculating Stars, explores the premise behind her award-winning "Lady Astronaut of Mars."
Winner 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winner 2019 Locus Award for Best Novel
Winner 2019 Hugo Award for Best Novel
Finalist 2019 Campbell Memorial Award
Finalist 2021 Hugo Award for Best Series
Locus Trade Paperback Bestseller List
Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2018—Science Fiction/Fantasy
Winner 2019 RUSA Reading List for Science Fiction—American Library Association
Locus 2018 Recommended Reading List
Buzzfeed—17 Science-Fiction Novels By Women That Are Out Of This World
Locus Bestseller List
Chicago Review of Books—Top 10 Science Fiction Books of 2018
Goodreads—Most Popular Books Published in July 2018 (#66)
The Verge—12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels for July 2018
Unbound Worlds—Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of July 2018
Den of Geek—Best Science Fiction Books of June 2018
Publishers Weekly—Best SFF Books of 2018
Omnivoracious—15 Highly Anticipated SFF Reads for Summer 2018
Past Magazine—Best Novels of 2018
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On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.
Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
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Kowal's outstanding prequel to her Hugo-winning novelette "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" shows the alternate history that created a mid-20th-century Mars colony. In 1952, mathematician and pilot Elma York is on vacation with her rocket scientist husband, Nathaniel, when a meteor strikes Chesapeake Bay, obliterating most of the East Coast. Elma quickly realizes that this is an extinction event, and that the only option for humanity's survival is off-world colonization. In a compelling parallel to our own history, Elma, who is Jewish, fights to have women of all races and backgrounds included in the burgeoning space program, squaring off against patriarchal attitudes, her own anxiety, and an adversary from her past service as a war pilot. Kowal explores a wide range of issues including religion, grief, survivor's guilt, mental health, racism, misogyny, and globalism without sermonising or subsuming the characters and plot. Elma's struggles with her own prejudices and relationships, including her relationship with herself, provide a captivating human center to the apocalyptic background. Readers will thrill to the story of this "lady astronaut" and eagerly anticipate the promised sequels.
Stirring and surprisingly intimate
This is a stirring and surprisingly intimate exploration of an inspired “what-if?” scenario: what if a globally-scaled natural disaster accelerated our space program? The resulting story feels extremely authentic and altogether possible, grounded by the entirely relatable narrator, a genius but altogether human Lady Astronaut. It’s incredibly refreshing to encounter a character whose intelligence and courage don’t always protect her from her own anxieties, nor from the machinations of a fearful, male-dominated world; she is tested from without and within, and her journey feels totally believable. I look forward to the conclusion of her story in the sequel.
Alternate history, where fallout of meteor impact early in space program leads to climate crisis, making space exploration during Apollo more important and forcing early inclusion of women. I'm not entirely convinced by the details of the meteor's climate affects, which I think would happen much faster, but the novel captures the 1960s cultural atmosphere, detailed Apollo technology, and life within NASA from womens' POV. The story is very well told and I found it hard to put down.
Tightly plotted sci-fi with equal rights storyline
Extremely well written and enjoyable.