The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

TCS_MRK Rating: ★★★★★

I promise- this is the last time I’ll steal a blurb from goodreads.. maybe: “A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. 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—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.”

This was a group read with the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Club! I read it earlier than planned because it’s due back today but oh my gosh I want to sit here and gush for twenty paragraphs.

The first thing I want to say is that there are other short stories set in this alternate space flight history, and I believe they are all available online for free. I started with: The Lady Astronaut of Mars, and it was absolutely beautiful and a reminder that fiction doesn’t need to be long to be compelling. I do wonder if my reading of that boosted my enjoyment of this or if I would appreciate The Lady Astronaut more if I had started here. (If anyone has any insight- please leave a comment below!)

The research that went into this is amazing, and must have taken months, maybe even years. The result is a novel that fully immersed you in its world and its timeline. The history behind the book was treated with equal levels of importance as the science. The moods, the mindsets, the setting, all of it felt so incredibly authentic, and brought the world to life in a way that I don’t know if even a movie could do. The science is equally impressive and complicated, and while I appreciate it, I’m also not going to pretend I understood it. That is not to say the book was a difficult read- it wasn’t. I’m just not good at physics.

I enjoyed the plot. I wouldn’t call it action heavy- but it never feels boring or bloated. This was a very empowering novel. Elma’s struggle didn’t feel like a private struggle (although of course, it is at times) it felt like a struggle for all women. It made me grateful for the women that came before me, and got us to this point, and also angry that for all their hard work, these are struggles we still have.

I loved the characters. Absolutely loved them. Almost all of them. They all face their own private struggles and have their own flaws. I felt like I was picked up and inserted into this alternate timeline as some sort of mute observer. The relationships between them felt incredibly real- especially that of the relationship between Nathaniel and Elma, but also between Nicole and Elma, Elma and Parker, Eugene and Myrtle, the list goes on.

Ugh- there is so much more I want to say here, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers. I think this book is so important- and I sincerely hope it gets the recognition it deserves in the wider world.

7 thoughts on “The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

    • Not weird. Love you momma! Actually I do think you would like this book. It’s science fiction because of the alternate time line and the rocketry and physics- but I loved this book because of the characters and setting. You should definitely read it!

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