Friday, April 12, 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), by Mary Robinette Kowal (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2018

Elma York was a WASP pilot during the Second World War, ferrying planes of all sorts to where the US military needed them to be. When in 1952 a meteorite hits off the east coast of North America, wiping out Washington DC and other major cities, she and her husband Nicholas are on vacation in the Poconos, far enough north and inland that they escape the worst effects.

Nicholas is recruited as an engineer in the project to respond to the disaster. It takes longer for Elma, because it's the 1950s, but her PhDs in physics and mathematics land her a job in the project, too, as a computer.

The meteorite is an extinction event--large enough that its consequences will first cool the planet for years, and then cause a runaway greenhouse effect. Elma and Nicholas on what fairly quickly becomes an international effort to colonize the Moon and Mars. Viable human colonies must be established off Earth.

It would be easier if more people understood that the warming at the end of the meteorite winter isn't a good thing. Or if so many weren't so resistant to exposing women to the dangers of space. If they didn't, after they finally accepted some women astronauts, they didn't continue to resist the idea of non-white astronauts.

The meteorite has changed the world, and it hasn't. Elma, Nicholas, their friends, and their colleagues, are confronting many of the same social forces we confronted on our timeline. Kowal does a lovely job of making this real and believable, trying, and yet hopeful. Elma has all the right impulses and intentions, and yet is every bit a product of her time, and makes mistakes with the best of intentions. She learns, she grows--and so do many of those around her.

Yet neither is that the sole focus of the story, and there's a lot of fun, adventure, challenge, and progress. I just really, really enjoyed it.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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