Review: The Calculating Stars

Series: Lady Astronaut: #1

I cam to The Calculating Stars by way of the Writing Excuses podcast. I’ve read all of Brandon Sanderson , most of Howard Tayler’s [Schlock Mercenary]( mercenary) series, and Dan Wells ’s Partials and I Am Not a Serial Killer series and loved them all. The one outstanding author? Mary Robinette Kowal .

I was not at all disappointed.

The Calculating Stars starts out with the end of the world. An asteroid wipes out the east coast . Millions dead. The world is going to die, slowly. (Climate change writ obvious). The only solution: get off the Earth. From that rather fertile ground, we get main character Elma York, a calculator in the alternate reality space program, looking to be the first Lady Astronaut.


It’s hard to convince people that catastrophic weather changes are coming on a nice day.

You’d think that it’s a sci fi story, chock full of space missions and technology, and while there’s certainly a bit of that, that’s not really what the story about. To my surprise, it’s really mostly about the pervasive sexism, racism, and antisemitism of the 1950s, overcoming boundries, and exploring mental health issues. It’s not at all what I expected, but it’s perhaps exactly what I needed? It’s a fascinating sort of story.

The one main thing that I felt missing was a larger view of how the world changed as a result of the events setting this world apart from our own. We see the small scale, but what’s happening in the greater world? It actually works for the story, since they’re things that I don’t know if York would care about. But I want to know.

I’m really curious to see how the world diverges more in the sequels. I do expect perhaps just a little more spaceflight though. :D