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The Calculating Stars

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lady Astronaut (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6051099,108 (3.93)198
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 198 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
I enjoyed the story and plot of this, but—even though expected and presumably accurate—the blatant misogyny and racism among the (all-white, all-male) leadership was at times hard to read. The concept on this one was great, and there were parts I definitely appreciated. However, I felt that it was a lot longer than it really needed to be, and this was very definitely heavy on the character building as opposed to plot. ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | Jul 15, 2022 |
I found the beginning very gripping but it dragged near the end. In the afterward she talks about it being two books instead of one, and it shows in the writing; in the beginning of the book we start out working hard towards book two, and then spend the rest of the book in the "becoming an astronaut" book one which I didn't like as well. Thanks a lot Brandon Sanderson.

Pros: really well researched, I especially appreciated the historical accuracy in language / communication.

Cons: ticks all the boxes of leftist ideals. Don't get me wrong, I agree with them, it just... really hits you over the head with them, pulls you out a bit. I think it would have helped if the main character had been more flawed. She seems out-of-her-time good. ( )
  mvolz | Jul 10, 2022 |
In 1952, Elma York and her husband Nathaniel are at a cabin in the Poconos when the meteorite hits, which is the only thing that saves them from being instantly killed like the rest of the population of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. When she runs the numbers, though, Elma is the first to realize that the offshore meteorite is an extinction-level event: it will plunge the world into a few years of winter, followed by an alarming warming trend that will eventually render the planet uninhabitable. Elma and her husband work for the space program, which has been relocated to Kansas, and which is immediately ramped up, as the necessity of colonizing the moon and Mars becomes evident. Elma works as a calculator, but her dream is to be an astronaut. She was a WASP pilot in WWII, and her credentials and capabilities are as good as any of the men in the space program -- but the odds are stacked against women ever being admitted to astronaut training. Is there any way for her to reach her goal?

This was an interesting end engaging reimagining of what the space race might have been like with an event like the asteroid to add urgency to the task of getting people into space. I loved the interactions between the characters and all of the detail included in the setting. Well-written and fun, if sometimes enraging at the chauvinistic attitudes that the female astronauts face. I was reminded of Hidden Figures and Almost Astronauts. If you like stories about space and women overcoming obstacles, take a look at this one. ( )
  foggidawn | Mar 26, 2022 |
I hope this is not really what it's like inside most women's heads. This reads like a case study in why women shouldn't be allowed in space, which runs completely contrary to the author's transparent motivation. Along with an unlikable, profoundly vapid and self-absorbed protagonist, pedestrian writing and thread bare world building made this a chore to skim. ( )
  wideblacksky | Mar 19, 2022 |
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal is an alternative history story that reads like two books in one. The first part of the book starts in 1952 as a survival story after an earth-changing meteor strike wipes out Washington DC and most of the Eastern Seaboard. The rest of the book deals with the race for space, and the fight to include women in the astronaut program.

Due to the horrific damage to the planet, it becomes imperative that humans reach and colonize space as there is a good chance that they will not be able to survive on Earth in the near future. Elma York is a physicist, a pilot and a human computer. Her husband Nathaniel is the lead engineer in the development of the rockets that will get humans to space. Together they are based in Kansas City, the new capitol of the USA, working toward launching a successful and accelerated space program. Elma and group of other women pilots are pushing to see women included in the space race. After all for humanity to survive both men and women will be needed.

I actually felt that the author was more comfortable writing about the technology than in developing the characters. While Elma had to fight sexism and racism as well as her own personal anxieties, she still seemed rather remote to me and therefore hard to root for. I did find the 1950s timeline very interesting as it seemed to intensify the attitude toward women and what was expected from them. The science made sense and didn’t come across as an info dump, but I can’t say I am a fan of the author’s writing style. This is the first book in a trilogy but at this point I doubt if I will continue with the story. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 16, 2022 |
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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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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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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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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: (3.93)
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