The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars

Lady Astronaut Series, Book 1

eBook - 2018
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c
ChrisMcMil
Sep 18, 2020

The background premise (major meteorite strike in 1952) is interesting but is not adequately expanded upon. The early and accelerated space race that ensues is not even remotely credible as an effort to "colonize space" in the time-frame anticipated. However this book is really focused on social issues of the time (sexism and racism) and does I think offer a fair treatment of those. I can believe that it also captures the spirit that existed at NASA in the early days of the cold war space race, with its reliance on "human computers". However I am quite surprised that this book won the Hugo award.

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gopetersons
Aug 30, 2020

This was a book with a promising premise, and ties to KC, which I was enthused about. However, the book doesn't do much with either of those things. It is not well written, there are way too many head scratching moments, and the dialog is wholly unbelievable. The characters don't make sense. There are many cringeworthy sexual discussions by main characters. I really wanted to like this book but it just doesn't deliver.

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booknrrd
Aug 17, 2020

In the early 1950s, a meteorite strikes Earth causing cataclysmic damage and plunging the world straight toward an extinction event. Non-communist countries from around the world unite in a space race to save humanity. A female pilot and NASA calculator, who first predicted the coming extinction event, dreams of becoming an astronaut and has all the necessary qualifications except she is a woman. Can she change the minds of those in charge?

An engaging alternate history that is well-paced with just the right balance of science, social issues, and compelling characters and situations to keep the reader turning pages late into the night. I loved it, despite my intense dislike of "space" books.

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xiccarph
Jul 07, 2020

I finally got around to reading this series, after keeping on the back-burner for a few years. Yes, they move at a slower pace than a lot of today's speculative fiction. Much of the content will seem quaint to any reader who didn't start their scifi journey reading old paperbacks and library binding classics from the golden age when they were teenagers in the pre-1990s.

I decided to enjoy these as deliberate celebrations of that original scifi style, and they are great! Think of them as scifi that might have been written to be serialized in a Good Housekeeping magazine in an alternate history where WWII ended the same but differently, Washington DC is destroyed by a meteor strike, and the UN handles spaces exploration . Yes, the sex scenes are bit golly-gee, and almost entirely heterosexual cisgender (at least in the first book). And, the anxiety/medication subplot feels a bit out of place, but mostly because it comes across as a feminine issue, rather than a personal issue. While Kowal addresses racial issues in a way that wasn't in most golden age fiction, it still feels a bit out of step with where we are now in 2020.

JCLHebahA May 11, 2020

Another great speculative alternate history from one of my favorite authors. Hits the right blend of crunchy sci fi (Kowal did a ton of research with NASA, and it shows) with the softer, human aspect well represented with a sympathetic heroine. Bonus: Kansas City is integral to the story as the nation's new capitol after the meteor destroys Washington D.C.

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Jaseryx
Apr 17, 2020

I was over-hyped on this one. For 'feminism meets the space race', it was so, so, so much of a picture of the inside of a woman with a severe anxiety disorder's mind. What got me to read the series was the fantastic premise, of which roughly 1% of the book mentions. I wanted to read about the fallout of the meteor hit on human society, I wanted to read about a woman conquering the space race, both things I thought were the main antagonists of the story. Nope, the main antagonist is her fear of public speaking and not being a 1950's good wife. It was like she was living two lives. All her actions and random events took her down the women are strong path, but all her thoughts hold her back from that path. It was hard to read someone do that to herself. Oh, and many awkward sex scenes.

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Everyoneelses
Apr 04, 2020

I can only describe this book as a mutant child of "The Hidden Figures" and "Twilight" that should not have been allowed to live. I wanted to claw my eyes out while reading that. Do yourself a favour and skip on reading this one.

RyanR_KCMO Nov 08, 2019

As an alternate history this book was fantastic. The main characters development was glacial but inspiring and rewarding. This is a great book for anyone who wants to be frustrated with how idiotic the treatment of women was in the 1960s or is curious in the cringy way that two scientists/engineers engage in sexy-talk.

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Tony_Jeffers
Oct 04, 2019

Love those alternate history stories. Check out the grapic novel based on the hit 1970s TV show: "SPACE 1999" while waiting for this one. Available from SPL

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NedSu
Oct 04, 2019

While its premise of alternate history and extinction event meteorite strike is science fiction, the story of astronauts is decidedly based in fact. The author acknowledges a debt of experts who proofed the details, but she told the story and plot in her own way. It is a great collaborative work I gave up fact checking and anachronism checking because it was all accurate. The protagonist was a delight to read, and all the ancillary characters were well written and integral to the part. At around 400 pages, it was a fast read, and has me thinking about the whiteness of the NASA program, and how I never questioned it myself. That. Is what sets this novel apart- a fun read with history that cause you to think.

IndyPL_SteveB Aug 05, 2019

An award-winning science fiction novel with some science and some fiction, but with very little “science fiction.” It’s an alternate history of the space program, set in the 1950’s and with an early feminist twist. This is more of a political and suspense novel and you don’t have to have ever read a science fiction novel to enjoy it.

A surprise meteor strike wipes out Washington, DC, taking out the entire government and most of the eastern seaboard. Elma and Nathaniel York, newly wed and each with a PhD in physics, were on their honeymoon in the mountains and were able to survive. The Yorks and others determine that this meteor strike could, in the long run, cause so much climate devastation that it could turn into an “extinction event.” The government determines to ratchet up the space program rapidly in case the human race needs an escape plan.

Within that framework, the novel is told in realistic fashion. Sexism is a part but also racism. The space agency leadership is determined to keep the potential corps of astronauts as white men, even though there were both Black men and women who could have qualified. Elma is an experienced pilot and a scientist, so she fights especially hard for acceptance into the program.

This book will be enjoyable for anyone interested in the Space Race, but also to anyone who enjoys a good novel about women in science. There is a sequel, *The Fated Sky*, which moves to the 1960s and a Mars Mission.

IndyPL_SteveB Aug 05, 2019

An award-winning science fiction novel with some science and some fiction, but with very little “science fiction.” It’s an alternate history of the space program, set in the 1950’s and with an early feminist twist. This is more of a political and suspense novel and you don’t have to have ever read a science fiction novel to enjoy it.

A surprise meteor strike wipes out Washington, DC, taking out the entire government and most of the eastern seaboard. Elma and Nathaniel York, newly wed and each with a PhD in physics, were on their honeymoon in the mountains and were able to survive. The Yorks and others determine that this meteor strike could, in the long run, cause so much climate devastation that it could turn into an “extinction event.” The government determines to ratchet up the space program rapidly in case the human race needs an escape plan.

Within that framework, the novel is told in realistic fashion. Sexism is a part but also racism. The space agency leadership is determined to keep the potential corps of astronauts as white men, even though there were both Black men and women who could have qualified. Elma is an experienced pilot and a scientist, so she fights especially hard for acceptance into the program.

This book will be enjoyable for anyone interested in the Space Race, but also to anyone who enjoys a good novel about women in science. There is a sequel, *The Fated Sky*, which moves to the 1960s and a Mars Mission.

RandomLibrarian Jul 25, 2019

Review excerpt: "The main thing you need to know about 'The Calculating Stars' is that it has a slow pace. The other thing you need to know is that it is feminist and nerdy. This alternate-history novel by Mary Robinette Kowal tells a story of women who worked as computers for the US Space Program and who fight to become astronauts. Much of what happens in the book happened in real life (see: 'Hidden Figures' and 'The Mercury 13'). However, in this version of history, a natural disaster accelerates the space program and gives a different outcome to the astronaut-training program."

https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/the-calculating-stars-by-mary-robinette-kowal/

Hillsboro_ElenaG Apr 17, 2019

This book may be an alternate history, envisioning a world where a meteorite smashed into the Atlantic Ocean in the 1950s and wiped out the entire US Eastern seaboard, causing global climate shifts that could cause the earth to be uninhabitable by the year 2000 and catapulting the space race into overdrive...but it's also based on the true story of the women computers and would-be astronauts who were involved in the space race that actually happened, giving it the feel of really well done historical fiction. It's sort of like The Martian meets Hidden Figures, and I loved it.

JessicaGma Jan 03, 2019

I mean the year is still young, but this was a FANTASTIC book and will be my favourite for a while. It really caught the 1950s well, and the struggles of Elma to be all she can be despite her anxiety, and the zeitgeist of the time. Extremely interesting, so if you liked the Martian and Hidden Figures, pick this one up.

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Stargirl_0
Nov 07, 2018

Very engrossing, detailed piece of historical fiction that kept me rooting for the main character, as well as others in the story. Loved her writing style and use of 50s vernacular, customs, and norms which allowed me to stay in that time period and not be interrupted by now.

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LibrarianSmiles
Oct 22, 2018

Science fiction meets Hidden Figures in this engrossing alternate history of the race to colonize the Moon.

d
Dtrasler
Sep 10, 2018

This was an awesome book. The protagonist is brave, resourceful and determined, but she also makes mistakes and has to admit them. The author does an astonishing job of showing the obstacles some people have to overcome to be considered for opportunities that are handed to others on a plate. It would be easy to scoff and point to the book being an alternate history, except it's all too clear that it's also, in many ways, the world we still live in.
This is a great book, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in science or math or space to try it.

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mammothhawk229e
Aug 30, 2018

Just finished science fiction book of the year. It has everything. Three dimensional characters that grew. New premise. Lots of twists & turns. Politics. Easy flow. See the big picture on other countries. Changes in alternative history from accelerated civil rights, less violent decolonization, food riots, cold war detente, & earlier international space station with launch site moved from Florida to Brazil.
Thoughtful afterword by author on why President Dewey instead of Truman to fit new premise to Hidden Figures.
Worthy companion book to Hidden Figures & Mercury 13.

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jldavis94
Jul 30, 2018

This is an amazing ride. I can't say too much, because I don't want to give anything away, but the hero is a woman with spunk and a disability who is a computer (not the IBM kind) for the space program. This book has twists and turns and diversity and was very hard to put down at night to sleep. I highly recommend it if you like space and/or amazing female heroes.

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sloeblack
Jun 02, 2018

Lady Astronaut series, #1


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