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Monday
Oct152018

The Calculating Stars

This is alternate history sci-fi, taking place in the 50s and giving a whole new meaning to the space race after a meteor strikes the Earth in a possible extinction-level event. Instead of reaching the moon, the ultimate goal is Mars and space colonization due to fears that the Earth will very soon be uninhabitable.

And since it's the 50s and the main character, Dr. Elma York, is both a woman and an extremely gifted mathematician, sexism and racism are front and centre. While the meteor serves as a catalyst, these two social issues are the real villain throughout the book.

Elma's is a former WASP and her husband is the lead engineer working to get humans into space and give them all a future before Earth becomes inhospitable. Elma takes work as a computer with the IAC and strives to convince the men in charge that women belong on the astronaut teams.

But in addition to fighting the racism and sexism of the day, Elma has to overcome her crippling social anxiety. There are plenty of bumps and hiccups along the way.

There was a lot of cool space/rocket science stuff in this book, and Mary Robinette did some really excellent and extensive research in preparation for writing this, and that was easily one of my favourite things about it (even if some of the jargon got to be a little much). At first I didn't think I liked this book because all the ingrained racism and sexism was driving me absolutely crazy. But the end has a good pay-off to make up for that. Also, lots of hilarious rocket-related sexual innuendo. Hee!

While on the surface, this is a book about surviving an extinction event on Earth, it's really about social justice and friendships. It's a slower burn than I usually read but that doesn't mean it's boring. Highly recommend!

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