The Calculating Stars

Mary Robinette Kowal
The Calculating Stars Cover

The Calculating Stars


This novel uses an alternate history to explore female astronauts, climate change, and international cooperation. At times a little heavy handed, it is still a well researched and interesting story - and the first part of a duology.

In this timeline, a meteorite wipes out Washington DC and a chunk of the east coast. This near extinction level event also kick starts a race to establish a human presence off planet - culminating in a trip to the moon much earlier than it happened in our history. This alteration naturally changes other things, and it is interesting to see which change and which stay the same (unfortunately, abuse of race and privilege). Told only from the perspective of the main character, news reports at the top of each chapter give the reader glimpses into the wider world, and some events also make into the narrative.

The author really knows this world, and has written short stories set here also. The main character is strong, well written, and also female. The anxiety, while humanizing, seems a bit overdone. The relationship with her husband is also well written, with double-entendre's hinting at more behind closed doors. The male lead astronaut, her main foil, is a caricature for much of the book, but not all. I would have appreciated more science, more knowledge of this world - and I wonder that there isn't a bigger drive to repair what went wrong. That impetus was well evident in the 50s and 60s, looking only at the end goal, and could have worked here - but it isn't in the scope of the main character's world I guess.

After thinking about this for a few days, I think the overall rating is 4 stars (out of 5), and I plan to read the sequel soon. The audio book versions are narrated by the author.