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The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette…
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The Calculating Stars

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lady Astronaut (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8846416,622 (3.94)143
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. 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. Elma's drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.… (more)
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» See also 143 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
This was great. A very intriguing alt-history of how one of those 1950s "colonize the solar system" futures might have plausibly come to be. Love the characters, even the antagonists. Well worth it. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | May 23, 2020 |

A few years ago I watched Hidden Figures, a play on words for a group of mathematicians who were instrumental in the space program. However in the early sixties, racial and female prejudice abounded. For these math geniuses were black and female.

In Mary Kowal’s story, which was being written before this film came out, there is a similar premise. With the Earth in trouble due to a meteor taking out a large chunk of the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington DC, a group of women, called “computers” (those who compute of course) worked on orbital vectors, etc. to get man into space – in 1952!

Alternate reality with Dewey not Truman president. At least he was until the meteor took out Washington. And the story centers around Elma York, genius math computer, who works at The International Space Agency in Kansas with other women. When the meteor hit, the black folks were left the fend for themselves and she made it right to help them get rescued. When Parker, the first man in space, gave her a hard time about “no women in space”, she worked to make that a reality.

There’s tons of prejudice in this book but it’s put across like it’s the expected thing in 1950s culture, and it was. The book has great dialogue, mild love scenes and some exciting space launches.

Really enjoyed this. Mary Kowal wrote the story The Lady Astronaut in which this book is a prequel, and The Fated Stars, my next one to read.

You’ll never put this down!
( )
  James_Mourgos | May 19, 2020 |
I had never read Mary Robinette Kowal before. I admit, I’m a little green-eyed at her. She’s one of those people that can’t seem to fail at anything they do. She’s an art director, she’s a theater producer, she’s a puppeter working with Jim Henson Productions. One day she just decides “now I’ll be a writer” and immediately gets book deals and awards and becomes president of SFWA. Meanwhile, I’m writing novel after novel, trying to get published, throwing darts in the dark hoping I word vomit out something well-written and marketable.

But I digress. This is about the book. The Calculating Stars is good. It’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” plus “Hidden Figures”, with a little “The Right Stuff”.

Basic plot: in 1950, a meteor hits the Earth. In fifty years, it’s going to cause enough climate change to bring out an ice age, so if we want humanity to survive, we better get our butts into some moon colonies. The Space Race has become less about “beating the Ruskies” and more about getting the hell out of Dodge. This means lots of problem-solving and mathematics. Which might make you think it’s like The Martian, with tons of math and physics that makes it feel like a school assignment. But it’s not.

A large part of the theme is advancing feminism in a world where we need all the smart people we can get and cutting out half of them is not a wise idea. My favorite part is that it’s not like the “Strong Female Protagonist” like Captain Marvel or Erin Brockovich or Miss Congeniality. A dame who’s got no flaws (except stubbornness) who don’t need no man. This character’s married, in a happy relationship, and they’re both working together. That’s refreshing to see.

The expected trapfalls of stories like this is present though — the chauvinistic male general who disregards anything a female says, the hotshot cowboy who thinks women can’t fly, the woman who acts as anti-thesis for feminism. Characters get a little archetype-y, but they stay likable, because it’s not just “one girl against the world”. There are helpers and hurters, and each is distinct enough. We’re talking about a single character POV with a problem that’s on a global scale. Is that a little too much to shove into one book? Maybe.

I bought in. Some people might criticize it for characters that are too much like stereotypes. Or a main character whose biggest flaw is “stage fright”. When people could die by rocket explosion, and there’s only a few years to get to the “moon colony” stage of the space program, and the tension is supposed to come from public speaking? Seems like her Big Problem is being a progressive woman in a myopic world.

It has hindsight glasses on. But that didn’t make it less enjoyable for me. Especially because, like The Martian and The Right Stuff, all the science seems right, but doesn’t get in the way of the story-telling. I’ll be reading the next in the series. ( )
  theWallflower | May 18, 2020 |
The story is interesting. An alternative universe where a cataclysm starts the world on a path to going to space about 15 years earlier than it actually happened. The technical parts, with flying and a new version of NASA work well, but the main character is overwrought most of the time, and for someone in her chosen profession it doesn't work for me. Way to much time is spent describing her mental and emotional issues for my taste. I am a pilot and my wife suffers from the same disorder so I feel like I have a good grasp on these issues. Other than her anxiety, the main character is very close to a Mary Sue, she is brilliant, beautiful and spunky, and has a perfect 21st century husband in the mid 1950s. Overall I enjoyed a lot if it and it kept me turning the page. ( )
  Kardaen | Apr 24, 2020 |
A curates egg. Marred by toe curling sex scenes. ( )
  P1g5purt | Apr 1, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Robinette Kowalprimary authorall editionscalculated
Manchess, GregoryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stafford-Hill, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my niece, Emily Harrison, who is in the Mars Generation
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Do you remember where you were when the Meteor hit?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. 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.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
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Mary Robinette Kowal is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Mary Robinette Kowal chatted with LibraryThing members from Sep 13, 2010 to Sep 26, 2010. Read the chat.

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