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The Fated Sky: A Lady Astronaut Novel by…
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The Fated Sky: A Lady Astronaut Novel

by Mary Robinette Kowal

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1577112,364 (4.3)18
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I started on The Fated Sky the day after finishing the first book in the duology. Together, they are among my favorite reads for the year.

In this alternate history, an impact off the American eastern seaboard in the early 1950s killed millions and is starting to cause radical shifts in the planet's climate. Elma York, pilot and rocket program computer, has been involved in the efforts to get humanity space-born along with her husband, lead engineer Nathaniel York. A decade after the cataclysm, their efforts have led to the formation of a space station and base on the moon, but the ultimate goal is Mars.

This journey isn't simply a matched wits battle of scientific innovation and technology, but of humanity's own innate criticism and cruelty. This is the 1960s. The Civil Rights movement is underway. Racism and sexism plague the space program, even after Elma sets off on her journey with an intrepid crew. This is, at times, an uncomfortable read, as it should be. But it's also a beautiful one. This is science fiction full of ingenuity and genuine characters. These books brought tears to my eyes more than once. The Fated Sky is also an incredibly tense read. I cared deeply about these people and I needed them to be okay. To my shock, that even included Stetson Parker, a man I truly loathed and wished death upon in the first book. He evolves here to be an even more complicated and sympathetic character.

I could talk about the authentic feel of the science and jargon, and how multiple astronauts and NASA personnel vetted the material, but I want to end this review talking about the true backbone of these two books: the marriage of the Yorks. It is probably one of the most realistic depictions I've ever read, and I've read a lot. It reminded me a lot of my own marriage. My husband is an engineer like Nathaniel and in a similar crisis-management kind of job, so the resemblances and quirks felt eerie at times. Even though Elma was the one in the most peril, I felt downright panicky over Nathaniel at times, too.

In all truth, I think these two books are now up there as among my all-time favorites. ( )
  ladycato | Dec 29, 2018 |
I'm sorry this is done because I want more. I want to know about life on Mars. I want to see how Elma and Nathaniel's marriage changes in this new environment. I just want more. ( )
  BillieBook | Nov 20, 2018 |
It's well done, but the real conflicts come from racism and sexism, and really, who needs the same shit I lived through in the 50s, 60s, 70s up through right now for entertainment, and the hard SF aspects haven't any wow for me. ( )
1 vote quondame | Nov 10, 2018 |
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal is the sequel to The Calculating Stars, which I read and reviewed immediately prior. The Fated Sky takes place a few years after the end of The Calculating Stars and continues to follow Elma in first person. This review will contain some spoilers for the first book, but not more than if you’ve already read "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" novelette.

This was an interesting sequel. It follows a very similar overall structure to the first book but rather than striving to get into space, the goal posts have shifted to Mars. Various social problems from the first book still exist to create barriers for Elma and some of her friends. While the extreme sexism has been loosened up by the passage of time and the obvious need for (female) computers to calculate orbits and trajectories, the racism has been ramped up a notch. This was, of course, a problem that existed in the first book and that was highlighted through Elma’s friendship with Myrtle and others. But now, with the introduction of a pro-apartheid South African character, everything feels worse. This book highlights a lot of the racial problems from the 60s and, in doing so, is not a comfortable read. Elma tried to do her best but, as we are often reminded, she is still a white woman. (And the laundry in space thing made me angry.)

I didn’t comment on the science when I reviewed the first book because there wasn’t anything that jumped out at me as being wrong or suspicious. In this second book there’s a little bit more to comment on, though nothing especially dire. I am a little sceptical about the use of human computers, although it’s probably more or less possible for what they’re doing, in a terrifying sort of way. The one aspect of that which particularly made me raise an eyebrow was using a sextant to sight on starts to get their position. Not because there’s anything wrong with the method but because I couldn’t help thinking that if they missed their launch window and had to delay the mission, they would have to retain to sight along a different set of stars. (They would also have time to do that, so it’s not exactly a huge problem, I just found it a little alarming.) the biggest issue, for me, was the washing machines, dryers and ovens they had aboard each of the ships going to Mars. The amount of energy those use! Especially back in the 60s when energy efficiency wasn’t a star rating on your white goods (I think). Wiki tells me they probably had solar power, even back then, but still! Think of the excess heat those machines produce! I suppose this is more an expression of horror than a complaint.

Anyway, The Fated Sky was another excellent read and I remain invested in this series. I am delighted that more books are on the way and I look forward to reading them when I can. (In the mean time I’m going to go back and reread the novelette that sparked this world.) It’s possible to read The Fated Sky without having read The Calculating Stars, but I think reading them in order will give a more enjoyable experience. I recommend this series to fans of science fiction, the development of space travel and the social history surrounding space flight development.

4.5 / 5 stars

You can read more of my reviews on ( )
  Tsana | Nov 9, 2018 |
4.5/5 stars
I just love this series. I love Elma, and Nathanial and how great their relationship is. I really enjoy the space exploration. I love the hope in this novel. There are so many things discussed and brought to life, but the hope is the one thing that really stands out to me. Overall, this next instalment in the Lady Astronaut series was great. I liked the struggles of everyone getting to Mars, and the realities of living in the States in the 60s - the racism, the sexism, and the inequality of minorities. Kowal does a great job incorporating these into her stories, and pushes Elma to check herself and realize she can't always help.

Such a great book and I recommend this series to everyone! ( )
  jdifelice | Nov 8, 2018 |
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Epigraph
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky
Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
What power is it which mounts my love so high,
That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose
What hath been cannot be: who ever strove
So show her merit, that did miss her love?
The king's disease—my project may deceive me,
But my intents are fix'd and will not leave me.

Helena, All's Well That Ends Well,
William Shakespeare
Dedication
For my niece Laura Olafson, who boldly goes.
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Do you remember where you were when the Friendship probe reached Mars?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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