In 1952 a meteorite fell to earth, destroying most of the east coast of the United States. The resulting cataclysm made much of the earth inhospitable. But unlike the dinosaurs who faced a similar event a millennia ago, humans find ways to overcome such devastation. In the U.S., this has called for an increase in space exploration.
Elma York is a WASP pilot and mathematician. Her skills and background have earned her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition which is hoping to put a man on the moon. But despite her qualifications, Elma faces discrimination just by being a woman. Who cares that she’s more qualified than many men in the coalition? It isn’t right to send women on such a dangerous mission, is it?
Elma and a group of other, mostly equally qualified women (some are clearly more qualified for their model-like appearance to appease the journalists) who persist and fight for their rightful place in the aerospace industry.
I haven’t always been a fan of alternate history novels, but Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut book is really outstanding. She manages to capture all our current biases and discriminations, brings them right into our faces, and shows us how it could wind up if we acted better. Really, just … wow.
The early pages, with the meteorite strike, sets the tone and quickly lets us know this is alternate history, but from that point on, it could easily be the story of our current timeline (just speeded up a bit).
Elma’s story is so much like that of many women’s stories of piloting in WWII or even in today’s military. A good friend of mine has told me that the reason she went in to the Air Force as a nurse was to be considered for the space program, then just starting to get serious, and how devastated she was that they weren’t going to seriously consider her because she was a woman.
I enjoyed the characters, the situations were incredibly believable, and the plot of women fighting for acceptance was powerful. Everything about this book really made it a very enjoyable read. I look forward to getting in to the next book in the series.
Looking for a good book? The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal is powerful alternate history novel of women fighting for their place in the aerospace industry which desperately needs to help mankind by exploring space, the moon, and beyond.
I received this book free from the publisher as part of a promotion.
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The Calculating Stars
author: Mary Robinette Kowal
series: The Lady Astronaut Universe #1
publisher: Tor Books
paperback, 431 pages