The Fated Sky: A Lady Astronaut Novel (Lady Astronaut, 2) Paperback – August 21, 2018
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"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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Praise for The Fated Sky
“An immersive world that will stay with the reader well past the final page.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The Lady Astronaut series might be set in an alternate past, but they’re cutting-edge SF novels that speak volumes about the present.”―The Verge
“An alternative look at the midcentury space race led by an intelligent, well-meaning, but flawed heroine.”―Booklist
“From dangers on Earth from wild protestors, to the dangers of a three-year trip to Mars, the tale is an exciting, yet well-researched tale. Excellent.”―Philadelphia Weekly
“This is by no means just for Sci Fi lovers.”―Caroline Bookbinder
“This was a fabulous sequel.”―Marzie Reads
Praise for The Calculating Stars
“This is what NASA never had, a heroine with attitude.”―The Wall Street Journal
“In The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal imagines an alternate history of spaceflight that reminds me of everything I loved about Hidden Figures.”―Cady Coleman, Astronaut
“Readers will thrill to the story of this “lady astronaut” and eagerly anticipate the promised sequels.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Kowal’s book was revelatory for me, because here is a version of history where men eventually, finally, listen to women.”―Tor.com
“A fine balance of integrating historical accuracy―including mid-twentieth-century sexism, racism, and technology―with speculative storytelling.”―Booklist
“Readers will be hooked.”―Library Journal
“An engrossing alternate history with a unique point of view, The Fated Sky dramatically demonstrates the technical problems with going to Mars―but the technical problems are the not the only ones. Never backing down from vital issues of race and gender, The Fated Sky confronts the human issues of space travel in a United States made increasingly desperate by a massive meteor strike. Plausible, convincing, and ultimately moving.”―Nancy Kress, author of the Hugo Award-winning "Yesterday's Kin"
About the Author
- Item Weight : 11.6 ounces
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765398949
- ISBN-10 : 076539894X
- Publisher : Tor Books (August 21, 2018)
- Product Dimensions : 5.54 x 1.09 x 8.17 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #147,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The setup is promising: Imagine a universe in which Dewey does defeat Truman, helping accelerate the fledgling space program; and a good thing too, because a meteor hits the Eastern Seaboard and wipes out virtually all of the government, creating a massive greenhouse effect that will render the planet uninhabitable within decades. Time to colonize space!
...but that's about it with the setup, because the series quickly devolves into an Ozzie-and-Harriet "housewife in space" first-person narrative. The author doesn't seem to know what to do with the main character, so she loads the character with all sorts of "character": She's a WASP pilot from WWII (though none of that expertise really shows up once she's in space); oh, and she's Jewish; oh, and a specific Jewish sect; and her husband is absolutely perfect; and they have PG sex virtually every chapter; and she suffers from debilitating anxiety for which the cure is incessant recitation of prime numbers. Bless her heart!
Even in alternate-universe world, this character wouldn't be qualified for space. But oh, she make a killer Chocolate Chess Pie when she's in the kitchen of the rocket headed off to Mars!
Even this nonsense might warrant a complete read-through if the alternate universe concept wasn't simply abandoned for the Peyton Place narrative. Just one example: The book mentions Eisenhower as a rare survivor after the meteor wipes out millions, including virtually all of the government, in 1952. So, he's alive and kicking. Within three chapters, he's forgotten and never brought up again, even though in our universe, he was a two-term president and with his military chops, he most certainly would have been at the apex of power in the alternate universe. The author was apparently too busy giving us yaw/pitch/roll coordinates every other chapter.
Some of the narrative moves the plot forward, and the two-book series ends with the heroine on Mars. And that's it. Lots of blissful ignorance once the author establishes that Earth is doomed; there is no way even in this alternate universe that tiny footholds on the moon and Mars are going to save humanity.
Instead, it's mostly a series about how wonderful it would have been if women had been allowed into NASA in the 50s. Kind of a vanity "what if" thought exercise committed to paper in a fiction form. You may find it mildly interesting.
As someone who lived through 1961 (well before Koval was born) I was constantly amazed at her attention to detail, whether it's in Elma York's kitchen, the painfully difficult math, or racial and social tension. It's all seamlessly woven into the story and never trips up the narrative. There were a couple of things that brought me up short, thinking "not in '61" but, yes, you could have a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land on board your ship to Mars.
As long-time SF readers, some of us may have become jaded by countless tales of interstellar empires, but The Fated Sky is a reminder that getting into space is hard and it's magical.
Fated Sky has the same gritty realism as Calculating Stars had. The second book is focused on getting to Mars, not just getting to the Moon.
Fortunately, the author had a lot of resources to call upon when writing this book.
She was able to get extensive personal help from two actual NASA astronauts in particular: Kjell Lindgren and Cady Coleman. Also Ms. Kowal was able to adapt an actual transcript from Apollo 8 for one of her spacecrafts. (All of the above is why the book felt so realistic.)
The people dynamics were just as spot on.
Ms. Kowal has a mixed crew (not only black, white, Asian but also men AND women). Plus, after the Meteor and conditions kept getting worse on Earth, there were more and more "Earth First" protesters who wanted the space program cancelled and all of its funds spent on more Earthly matters.
Yes, it is Alternate History but it was still the 1950's and the 1960's so there were racial tensions as well as sexual tensions (paternalistic attitudes towards women, such as assigning laundry and cleaning tasks primarily to the women astronauts, etc.)
Plus, politics rears its ugly head.
In our timeline we had the United States and the U.S.S.R. running competing space programs. In the alternate timeline, it is an international effort but South Africa still had both Apartheid and was contributing heavily towards the space budget. So, yes, there is a white South African astronaut in the crew.
Top reviews from other countries
This is the second book in her alternative history sequence. The first chronicled the travails of mathematician and pilot, Elma York as she struggled to become an astonaut in an accelerated space race. That acceleration was caused by a massive meteorite strike and realisation of the fragility of life on earth.
I probably enjoyed the second book more than the first. Four years on, a base has been established on the moon, and Elma is beginning to get tired with her job as a high end taxi driver, ferrying people between earth orbit and the lunar surface. She longs to join the next big challenge, a mission to Mars.
What makes this book more appealing than the first is that Elma starts to flesh out more as a character. She starts as irritatingly perky as in the first book, but her actions start to have consequences for others, and the tone is consequently slightly darker. The relationship with her long term enemy, Stetson Parker becomes more interesting and nuanced. That said, the revelation about his wife rather illustrates Elma’s lack of emotional intelligence as the average reader probably guesses what is going on around the middle of book one. Having said that, perhaps Kowal has intentionally created an emotionally under developed geek. That would certainly be borne out by the continuing toe curlingly naff erotic dialogue with husband Nathaniel.
Like the Calculating Stars, the Fated Sky has a strong feel of Golden Age science fiction. Asimov, Heinlein or even E E Doc Smith’s Skylark series. That said, some elements of later authors start to creep in. This reminded me of Ben Bova’s solar system novels and some of the descriptions of the less savoury practicalities of spaceflight perhaps quietly echo Andy Weir’s Martian. The Fated Sky, is on the other hand,a long way from Kim Stanley Robinson's new age hippies on Mars sequence. The style here feels much more like the wholesome optimism of the fifties.
While being an enjoyable piece of retro hard SF, which is reasonably credible scientifically (with the odd blooper) it does nail its primary coloured contemporary liberal colours firmly to the mast. In promoting race and gender equality, including a sensitive, if largely off stage, portrayal of a gay relationship and having a very strong climate change theme at its absolute core, this is not a book likely to find favour with the current inhabitant of 1600 Pensylvania Avenue.
The alternate historical timeline diverges further from our own in this book and the characters manage to further push the boundaries of imagination towards feeling real.
This book steers head on to some uncomfortable but important topics here on Earth - racism, misogyny and diversity. All intertwined with the thrilling adventure of pushing onwards to Mars. There is also a great thread of storyline dealing with some of the more hidden figures of the era involved in the story. Two crew members who are "very close" and of course there is one character that is hinted at in the novel to be trans - and indeed the author acknowledges and confirms this character as Trans in the afterword, pointing out that people who are LGBT+ have always been around and that representation matters in all stories - even if the characters are hiding who they are because of the era and societal prejudices.
There's a lot to live about this book and the series. This book is amazing and deserves to win all of the awards.
Having said all that, there are some nice touches: Elma's use of baking to maintain her own (and the crew's) mental stability is nicely done, and the landing on Mars (and subsequent epilogue) are genuinely uplifting and joyous. It is also, in these anxious days of 2020, heartening to feel that humanity might co-operate to save itself when the chips are down.
There's certainly enough here to make me want to know what happens next ('The Relentless Moon', due in November 2020).
1950s sexism and racism continue to dog the so-called "lady astronaut" and her colleagues. The treatment of racism is interesting - and slightly awkward - in that it's not something the Jewish POV character faces directly but she's forced to confront it -- and recognise how she unwittingly benefits from privilege. It's therefore racism as experienced from the outside looking in. But with that caveat it's a very socially aware book and the sexism depicted continues to be dismaying in all the right ways.
This feels like a conclusion to the tale, but there's ample scope for a further sequel and I'd definitely be in line to read it.