The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Publication Date, July 3, 2018 by Tor Books.

Summary: On March 3, 1952 at exactly 9:53 am, much of the eastern coastal United States was obliterated by a meteorite. It landed in the water just off the coast of Maryland. The initial impact and fallout were sufficient to destroy Washington, D.C. and about 500 miles of the surrounding area. Earthquakes and tidal waves were felt world-wide. The enduring repercussions would be planet altering.

Elma and Nathaniel York were vacationing in a cabin in the Poconos when the meteorite struck. Nathaniel, a preeminent rocket scientist with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and his wife, Elma, a mathematician, quickly realized the true nature of the explosion. They knew they had to make it to Elma’s small plane and to a military base to the west. They had to put their own grief aside over lost friends and family to do what they could to help.

Elma’s mathematics proved that earth was headed for a potential extinction event. The fledgling space program kicked into high gear in preparation for colonizing the moon and other planets to ensure the survival of humanity. Nathaniel became the face and voice of the program, informing and coordinating the leaders. Elma worked with the other women as a “computer”, doing calculations, programming and telemetry, a job that men considered beneath them.

Elma and her fellow workers dreamed of more than being just computers. They wanted to go into space. They met all the requirements that the exclusively white male astronauts did. But even a chunk of the planet getting blown up didn’t budge the immovable forces of misogyny and bigotry.

Comments: I saw this title mentioned on Library Journal’s July Book Pulse and jumped on it. I love hard SF and I have such a hard time finding recent books in that genre. The novel also adeptly deals with the topics of racism and sexism of the 1950’s. (Problems which unfortunately continue to persist).

In the author’s Acknowledgements and Historical Notes, she names the people who gave her technical advice and the numerous publications she used as sources. The Calculating Stars is a well-researched Alternative History novel. It is the first in a two part “Lady Astronaut” series. The second book, The Fated Sky, has an expected publication date of August 31, 2018. I eagerly look forward to reading that one!

5 books plus!

5 out of 5 books