The Book Nook: First in 'Lady Astronaut' series sets stage for fictional tale about alternative spaceflight history

“The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

If our COVID-19 lockdown has you searching for something to read, I recommend the three-book “Lady Astronaut” series by Mary Robinette Kowal. It is new in our library (which is doing a tremendous job in providing services during these trying times) and stands out against some other offerings.

The book cover for “The Calculating Stars” warns us that this is an alternative history of spaceflight, so don’t get uptight about things that we now know aren’t possible. Remember – this is fiction.

Set in the early 1950’s, a cosmic cataclysm drastically changes the earth into a dying planet.

The only solution to saving mankind is to colonize space. Thus the race against time commences, with our heroine, Elma York, in the forefront. A former WAF (Women’s Air Force) pilot during WWII and a mathematical genius, Elma is there at the first and subsequent space launches. She and the other ‘computers’ – as in humans, mostly women – are intrinsic in providing fast and accurate calculations

during launches. (The book’s title is a double entente.)

Inevitably, the astronaut Corps is expanded and Elma begins her push to be included in that elite group. It’s an uphill battle, fighting sexual harassment, male chauvinism, and plain old everyday prejudice. Her husband, Dr. Nathaniel York, is in charge of Mission Control, but has no say over who becomes an astronaut.

That’s the basic premise, but it is also a promise to come in this adventure packed series.

The description of an astronaut’s point of view as earth orbit is achieved has you sitting on the edge of your chair in breathtaking anticipation of what is to come.

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