Book Review: The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
“Yes, I wanted to change the public perception about women and our ability to be astronauts, but I had not wanted to be a pinup girl for spaceflight.”
Excellent alternate history about a large meteor strike on the United States in 1952. Recasts the space race as one of survival, not politics. Plenty of techno-babble for the hard SF fan, but focuses on people as they clearly might have been. Some may quibble with the environmental timeline, but Kowal presents supporting arguments.
“I can tell these are your friends, because they’re excited about taking tests.”
Excellent, relevant cultural cues, from the names of politicians and celebrities to products and pop culture–like “Watch Mister Wizard.” A nod towards Hidden Figures.
“That’s what politics is. Stories.” “And the story that they want to tell doesn’t include black people?”
Addressed America as it was in the 1950s: not the fairy tale of WASP suburbia. Kowal’s characters are Jewish, black, Chinese, and of course women. Intimate scenes between protagonist and her husband border on soft porn–aren’t, but your mileage may vary.
“Why are people stupid?” “Hormones. And if men are going to be led by them I’m happy to do my part.”
Stetson Parker starts as a weakly-written, two-dimensional antagonist, but grows in depth and believability as the story develops.
“That’s what we did. We survived. And we remembered.”