The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Tom Doherty Associates,, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780765378385
0765378388
Branch Call Number: SCF KOWA
Characteristics: 431 pages ; 21 cm

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IndyPL_SteveB Aug 05, 2019

An award-winning science fiction novel with some science and some fiction, but with very little “science fiction.” It’s an alternate history of the space program, set in the 1950’s and with an early feminist twist. This is more of a political and suspense novel and you don’t have to have ever read a science fiction novel to enjoy it.

A surprise meteor strike wipes out Washington, DC, taking out the entire government and most of the eastern seaboard. Elma and Nathaniel York, newly wed and each with a PhD in physics, were on their honeymoon in the mountains and were able to survive. The Yorks and others determine that this meteor strike could, in the long run, cause so much climate devastation that it could turn into an “extinction event.” The government determines to ratchet up the space program rapidly in case the human race needs an escape plan.

Within that framework, the novel is told in realistic fashion. Sexism is a part but also racism. The space agency leadership is determined to keep the potential corps of astronauts as white men, even though there were both Black men and women who could have qualified. Elma is an experienced pilot and a scientist, so she fights especially hard for acceptance into the program.

This book will be enjoyable for anyone interested in the Space Race, but also to anyone who enjoys a good novel about women in science. There is a sequel, *The Fated Sky*, which moves to the 1960s and a Mars Mission.

IndyPL_SteveB Aug 05, 2019

An award-winning science fiction novel with some science and some fiction, but with very little “science fiction.” It’s an alternate history of the space program, set in the 1950’s and with an early feminist twist. This is more of a political and suspense novel and you don’t have to have ever read a science fiction novel to enjoy it.

A surprise meteor strike wipes out Washington, DC, taking out the entire government and most of the eastern seaboard. Elma and Nathaniel York, newly wed and each with a PhD in physics, were on their honeymoon in the mountains and were able to survive. The Yorks and others determine that this meteor strike could, in the long run, cause so much climate devastation that it could turn into an “extinction event.” The government determines to ratchet up the space program rapidly in case the human race needs an escape plan.

Within that framework, the novel is told in realistic fashion. Sexism is a part but also racism. The space agency leadership is determined to keep the potential corps of astronauts as white men, even though there were both Black men and women who could have qualified. Elma is an experienced pilot and a scientist, so she fights especially hard for acceptance into the program.

This book will be enjoyable for anyone interested in the Space Race, but also to anyone who enjoys a good novel about women in science. There is a sequel, *The Fated Sky*, which moves to the 1960s and a Mars Mission.

RomanceAddict Jul 25, 2019

Review excerpt: "The main thing you need to know about 'The Calculating Stars' is that it has a slow pace. The other thing you need to know is that it is feminist and nerdy. This alternate-history novel by Mary Robinette Kowal tells a story of women who worked as computers for the US Space Program and who fight to become astronauts. Much of what happens in the book happened in real life (see: 'Hidden Figures' and 'The Mercury 13'). However, in this version of history, a natural disaster accelerates the space program and gives a different outcome to the astronaut-training program."

https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/the-calculating-stars-by-mary-robinette-kowal/

Hillsboro_ElenaG Apr 17, 2019

This book may be an alternate history, envisioning a world where a meteorite smashed into the Atlantic Ocean in the 1950s and wiped out the entire US Eastern seaboard, causing global climate shifts that could cause the earth to be uninhabitable by the year 2000 and catapulting the space race into overdrive...but it's also based on the true story of the women computers and would-be astronauts who were involved in the space race that actually happened, giving it the feel of really well done historical fiction. It's sort of like The Martian meets Hidden Figures, and I loved it.

JessicaGma Jan 03, 2019

I mean the year is still young, but this was a FANTASTIC book and will be my favourite for a while. It really caught the 1950s well, and the struggles of Elma to be all she can be despite her anxiety, and the zeitgeist of the time. Extremely interesting, so if you liked the Martian and Hidden Figures, pick this one up.

s
Stargirl_0
Nov 07, 2018

Very engrossing, detailed piece of historical fiction that kept me rooting for the main character, as well as others in the story. Loved her writing style and use of 50s vernacular, customs, and norms which allowed me to stay in that time period and not be interrupted by now.

l
LibrarianSmiles
Oct 22, 2018

Science fiction meets Hidden Figures in this engrossing alternate history of the race to colonize the Moon.

d
Dtrasler
Sep 10, 2018

This was an awesome book. The protagonist is brave, resourceful and determined, but she also makes mistakes and has to admit them. The author does an astonishing job of showing the obstacles some people have to overcome to be considered for opportunities that are handed to others on a plate. It would be easy to scoff and point to the book being an alternate history, except it's all too clear that it's also, in many ways, the world we still live in.
This is a great book, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in science or math or space to try it.

m
mammothhawk229e
Aug 30, 2018

Just finished science fiction book of the year. It has everything. Three dimensional characters that grew. New premise. Lots of twists & turns. Politics. Easy flow. See the big picture on other countries. Changes in alternative history from accelerated civil rights, less violent decolonization, food riots, cold war detente, & earlier international space station with launch site moved from Florida to Brazil.
Thoughtful afterword by author on why President Dewey instead of Truman to fit new premise to Hidden Figures.
Worthy companion book to Hidden Figures & Mercury 13.

j
jldavis94
Jul 30, 2018

This is an amazing ride. I can't say too much, because I don't want to give anything away, but the hero is a woman with spunk and a disability who is a computer (not the IBM kind) for the space program. This book has twists and turns and diversity and was very hard to put down at night to sleep. I highly recommend it if you like space and/or amazing female heroes.

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andreareads
Jul 31, 2019

When I came up alongside him, he put a hand on the doorknob and suddenly smiled as if we were the best of friends. The speed with which he turned on the charm left me chilled.
Parker threw the door open, holding it for me to walk through. Of course he would hold the door and smile, now that there were witnesses.

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andreareads
Jul 31, 2019

You’d think that at some point the grief would stop. I put my hand over my mouth and leaned forward, as if I could somehow fold over the pain and keep it from escaping into the world again.

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