I actually finished this a few days ago, but wanted to reflect on it a bit before writing this review. I was a little disappointed with this after The Calculating Stars, and at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it might be.
First things first- plot summary: Elma goes to Mars. That’s it. This was a large part of the problem for me. Having already read The Lady Astronaut of Mars, the ending was kind of a foregone conclusion. There wasn’t any kind of intense battle for women’s equality. (I mean there is, but not one that’s preventing her from getting on the Mars ship.)
One of the things I loved about The Calculating Stars, was how authentic it all felt to the time period. TCS brought the 50s to life. The civil rights movement. Women fighting for equality in the workplace, Elma’s battle with anxiety, etc. It was all done naturally and woven into the story in a way that felt effortless.
There is an odd scene at the beginning of The Fated Sky that felt VERY forced to me. The dialogue delivered, the actions taken, the entire chapter just immediately took me out of the sweep-you-away narrative I was expecting. It was kind of down hill from there. Don’t get me wrong- I wasn’t expecting Elma to suddenly forget all her ingrained prejudices, Miltown to solve all her anxiety problems, etc. I just wanted it to feel like a more natural part of the narrative.
Sticking a South African Astronaut in the crew and having him be the bad racist guy just seemed too obvious. I think it was important that TCS recognized that ingrained prejudices exist. That they are not uncommon. That people don’t necessarily have to be bad people to have that built into their head, and that we can recognize these short comings and we can work to improve them.
Secondly- the characters and their relationships with each other. We had a huge sprawling cast of Lady astronauts to follow in TCS and I adored their relationships. I cared about all of them. I wanted to know what happened to all of them. Stuck on a spaceship for three years, we’re stuck with a pretty limited cast and I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them half so well. Elma isn’t really friends with any of them and even says so. The punch-you-in-the-gut moments didn’t have the same impact they would have had if those moments had happened to the same characters in TCS.
The good thing about The Fated Sky was Stetson Parker’s story line. His was far and away the most interesting to me and I appreciated that we were allowed to glimpse these other aspects of him.
There is much more action in The Fated Sky. The pace was quicker. There are more life-and-death moments. And I know some of my fabulous buddy readers enjoyed this book much more because of it.
TCS doesn’t feel quite complete without seeing Elma off to Mars therefore I still recommend this for fans of that book.