The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel

This inspiring sci-fi (432 pages) was published in July of 2018 by Tor Books. The book takes you to the US space program. David read The Calculating Stars and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

buy is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.


The Calculating Stars

A Lady Astronaut Novel

Mary Robinette Kowal

This story of hope and determination begins with a disaster. It’s 1952, and a giant comet has hit the Chesapeake Bay. Washington, DC, is destroyed, the Secretary of Agriculture has just been promoted to President (as everyone is dead), and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard is — bad.

The meteor strike also creates a climate catastrophe that starts a ticking clock: In about 50 years, the Earth will be uninhabitable to humans. All the water in the air will create a miniature Ice Age. Then, there will be a sharp increase in temperature due to the greenhouse effect. Eventually, oceans will boil, and most life will go extinct.

But all is not lost because this is the story of Elma York, a pilot and mathematician who works for the International Aerospace Coalition. And they’re going to save humanity by putting a man on the moon.

One of this book’s many charms is how the author neatly ties real history into the narrative. It’s historically and scientifically accurate: There are fascinating glimpses of rocket science in 1952. The intuitive leaps and how scientists made them are thrilling and may make you feel better about humanity. It’s also socially accurate: Our heroine Elma desperately wants to be (and, frankly, deserves the opportunity to be) an astronaut. But there’s a whole slew of sexism and bigotry standing between her and the moon.

This is a satisfying emotional ride, and it’s not hard to sympathize with Elma as she strives to fight past her demons and the societal norms that would keep her on the ground. There’s also a lot of hope in this story, a reminder that it’s never a bad thing to reach for the stars.

Do you remember where you were when the Meteor hit? I’ve never understood why people phrase it as a question, because of course you remember. I was in the mountains with Nathaniel. He had inherited this cabin from his father and we used to go up there for stargazing. By which I mean: sex. Oh, don’t pretend that you’re shocked. Nathaniel and I were a healthy young married couple, so most of the stars I saw were painted across the inside of my eyelids. — Mary Robinette Kowal

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.