The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
The year is 1952 and a meteorite has struck Earth. In the aftermath, the majority of the eastern seaboard of the United States has been destroyed, including the nation’s capitol of Washington D.C. However, the shock of the meteorite was felt around the world and is not threatening an extinction-level event. As a result, a space race to colonize the moon and Mars starts.
Elma York is a mathematician and a former WASP Pilot from the war. Due to her experience, she becomes a human computer for the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC). Her husband, Nathanial York, is the lead engineer in the space race project. Elma is not content just being a computer, she loves flying and wants to get into space and become an astronaut.
Elma paves the way for lady astronauts to be included into the space and colonization programs, but some of her closest friends are denied entry into the program because of the color of their skin. Elma fights for equal opportunities but is met with hostility and question at every turn. But, her determination opens the door for women in space and the expansion of the colonization program. In a beautifully written story by Mary Robinette Kowal, readers become immersed in an alternative version of history and the fallout and rebuilding of society.
This is usually not the kind of book I willingly reach for, but I am glad this book was recommended. In July, I had the honor of meeting one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss. Someone asked what books he was reading or what he would recommend, and he recommended this book. I was skeptical at first, but I do enjoy pushing my book comfort zone every now and then; especially when I am in reading a slump.
I loved this book! This is my first time reading a book by Mary Robinette Kowal and I think tat the writing was phenomenal and the story makes you question the progression of history. In a time where we are currently dealing with gender and race issues, this story approaches the prejudices head on. While most of the main characters are white, Elma forces a male-dominated field to accept lady astronauts on scientific grounds. However, while there is a victory for women in general, there is not a victory for women of color. The prejudices presented make you question the way society is ran and why so many women and people of color are still held back after a catastrophic event.
I highly recommend this book. It’s not “too outer space driven,” but it is also not a post-apocalyptic world. Instead, the United States, United Nations, and the rest of the world are faced with an alternative version of history. This book is classified as science fiction, but do not let the term scare you. It is grounded in fiction and there are some technical terms. But, you do not need a fundamental understanding of rocket science to enjoy this novel.