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The Calculating Stars

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lady Astronaut (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3029010,857 (3.95)166
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 166 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Raced through this two days, and enjoyed it, but found it took itself a bit too seriously, with its thesis that the only thing that would give women and minorities would only get an equal share in the space race would be the impending end of the world. Everything was all researched and well done, but it didn't grab me. Potentially excellent gateway though for people who would never pick up SF. ( )
  adzebill | Jun 4, 2021 |
An interesting alternate history story that highlights and illuminates the history of early spaceflight. ( )
  wishanem | May 27, 2021 |
This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The audiobook is narrated by the author of the book, Mary Robinette Kowal. Her narration wasn’t perfect, but it worked really well for me. I especially loved how she managed to convey the emotion of her story.

I was skeptical in the beginning. I didn’t care for how she sounded when voicing male characters, and her reading of the news announcements at the beginning of each chapter seemed a bit over the top. It initially reminded me too much of the narrator for Three Parts Dead which I didn’t care for at all. I got used to the male voices though, and she did a great job of narrating the main character and the other female characters. I got to the point where I actually enjoyed her voice for the main character’s husband, Nathaniel, I think just because I really liked that character and had come to associate him with the way she narrated him.

Story
The Calculating Stars is an alternate history set in the 1950’s. A meteorite hits the earth and destroys a large portion of the US, and sets off a series of environmental changes that may eventually make the planet uninhabitable. The main character, Elma, was a former WASP pilot and is a brilliant mathematician. Her husband is an engineer. They argue that humanity needs to accelerate its attempts to get into space, with the hope of being able to establish colonies off planet before the earth is uninhabitable.

I was really interested in the story at first, and then a little disappointed before getting interested again. I had initially thought the beginning was more of a prologue, and that we’d accelerate more directly toward where the story seemed to be headed. I expected the meat of the story to be about (putting it in spoilers so that I don’t spoil what doesn’t happen) establishing colonies in space and I was really interested in reading about that. Instead, it’s a much more political type of story, dealing with the disbelief and misplaced priorities of some of the world’s leaders, and with a large focus on the prejudice toward women and minorities. I thought those things were done well, and they were realistic and believable, and eventually I settled down to enjoy the story the author actually wanted to tell.

Elma, the main character, is maybe a bit too good at everything she does to be quite believable. She’s even great in front of the camera, or in front of crowds, despite being so terrified every time that she’s often throwing up before or after it happens. I still enjoyed cheering for her successes, though. I did like that she had some prejudices herself. So often a main character set in a culture where certain types of prejudice are the norm is somehow the one person who is fully enlightened, somehow escaping all of the commonly-held beliefs of everybody around them, and that rings a little false to me. Elma was open-minded and willing to have her beliefs challenged, but she had misconceptions and prejudices of her own.

I especially loved Elma's relationship with her husband, Nathaniel. I enjoyed reading a book where the only romance was that of an established relationship between a married couple. I liked that they communicated with each other (for the most part) and respected each other and supported each other. If an author absolutely must put romance in their stories, I wish more of them would do it this way instead of using the same tedious, predictable romance tropes that most authors use. I’m worried though that the author might kill Nathaniel off in a future book to provide drama and “character growth” for Elma. I would be annoyed. I’m thinking of another series I read that also featured a nicely-written marriage that suffered that fate. But the sex scenes were horrible! Well, they weren’t really sex scenes, more like foreplay scenes, and they weren’t that long, but they seemed frequent. The rocket jokes were cringe-worthy. Hearing them read out loud made it ever so much worse.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, even though this wasn’t quite the story I had originally been hoping to get. I’m guessing it will go closer toward that direction in the sequels. This will be a definite “yes” for me on whether I want to continue the series someday. I’m actually not sure if I want to do that in print or audio. This was a nice, uncomplicated story, well-suited for audio listening (aside from the sex scenes), and an unusual case where I wondered if I didn’t enjoy it more in audio than I would have in print. ( )
  YouKneeK | May 1, 2021 |
So, this won the 2019 Hugo and Locus, and the 2018 Nebula? Well... I didn't hate this book but I did find it an average read, at best. The characterization is rather simplistic with cardboard stand-ins for friends and family of the (nearly) Mary Sue of a first-person narrator. At the end of the day, I didn't really care much about any of the characters. The emotional attachment to people and events just wasn't there, and the foregone conclusion of an ending just seemed trite instead of uplifting. I'll chalk this one off as a 2.5-star stand-alone and skip any sequels. ( )
  ScoLgo | Feb 26, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
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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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Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
For my niece, Emily Harrison, who is in the Mars Generation
First words
Do you remember where you were when the Meteor hit?
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

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Wikipedia in English

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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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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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Average: (3.95)
0.5
1 6
1.5 1
2 21
2.5 9
3 49
3.5 27
4 137
4.5 28
5 105

 

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