The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma and Nathaniel York are a happily married couple living out their lives as employees of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in a slightly altered version of the 1950’s. Everything is running as normal when an asteroid strikes the coast off of Washington DC.

Lucky enough to have escaped the explosion, the couple make their way through the devastation to what remains of NACA, only to find the situation worse than they had imagined.

In the midst of this, Elma, mathematical genius and former WASP pilot in WWII, struggles against an all too familiar 1950’s patriarchy to become an astronaut. Elma’s struggles collide with 1950’s sociopolitical turmoil and international disaster, one question dominates her mind.

In the quest to leave Earth, when will women get to go?

I could question where to start at the beginning of each post, but honestly that’s half because so many books I’ve read lately are so good I want to say everything at once.

The Calculating Stars grips you from the beginning and never lets go. All of the characters in this book are deep and complex, and in ways that make the book better.

The main antagonist is unfortunately believable (His believability is great, of course, he’s just a massive mysoginistic jerk, especially when it comes to Elma.) And there is a variety of racial diversity in this book that is extremely relevant. Like, for instance, how a black or Taiwanese person might have a more difficult time becoming an astronaut than a white woman. Elma herself is forced to confront her own internalized racism throughout the book as a result of this.

The book is also extremely well researched, to the point where Mary had a chance to visit Nasa and had an astronaut helping her with terminology and making sure everything was 1950’s accurate in all things space (A fact which, as I understand, Mary is eminently pleased).

The Calculating stars is an excellent book in all of the right ways, tackling issues of Race, Gender and climate change while showing powerful healthy relationships, both friendship and marriage. As well as a diverse, complex cast of characters and a compelling plot that keep it moving. If any of this peaks your interest at all, I recommend you pick up this book.


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