The Calculating Stars

Mary Robinette Kowal
The Calculating Stars Cover

The Calculating Stars: Rocket Punk


I know the author called it punch-card punk, but I couldn't resist - because the rocket is so central to this, a story set in an an alternate timeline where the space race got going in the 1950s. If you can call it a race without the Soviet Union, that is, but they are peripheral to the story.

No, the race here is between the male-dominated astronaut corps and the expectation of women - mainly relegated to being "computers" - that they should be allowed to join them. It's a great story, with a LOT of technical details about flying, rocketry and orbital dynamics - and told from the point of view of Jewish woman and former war-time delivery pilot, who has a near-crippling anxiety problem. This humanises a story that might otherwise be cliched in terms of terrible puns about rockets whenever she and her engineer husband want to get it off, and some pretty cheesy descriptions of that activity too - to the point that I think the author wrote them like that as a parody of 1950s-type writing.

I was enthralled by it, I loved the detail and the cameo appearances of actual astronauts - and I think it would make a great TV series or major film.