Review: The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Lady Astronaut #2
Also by this author: Ghost Talkers
Published by Tor Books on August 21, 2018
The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth.But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their "Lady Astronauts" on such a dangerous mission. The problem with that is the need for midjourney navigation calculations. The new electronic computation machines are not reliable and not easily programmed. It might be okay for a backup, but there will have to be a human computer on board. And all the computers are women.
The Fated Sky is set a number of years after the end of The Calculating Stars. A colony has been established on the moon, and they are working to develop a colony on Mars. I continue to really enjoy this series. Kowal creates very intriguing characters, keeps the pace moving well and just writes very readable and compelling stories.
If you missed reading the first one, I highly recommend you go check it out. It is an alternate history set in the 1950s and the gist is that the earth is dying, and the space program is working to find a place to relocate the human race to ensure our survival. It turns out women are critical to this as they are the ones with the math skills required to complete the complex calculations.
Elma is working as something like a glorified space bus driver, piloting a shuttle for the moon colony and plans are in full swing to get the mars colony going. The team selection for this mission is a big deal and more than just skill definitely seem to come in to it, which causes tensions between friends and teammates.
I enjoyed Elma’s relationship with her husband. They continue to be such a strong, respectful and loving couple. Though having her husband be upper rank on the project can sometimes cause complexity. She wants, and really needs, to share things with her husband who is a wonderfully supportive and calming influence for her, but at the same time, she is also talking to a superior. But I think the husband role trumps all else.
Parker was certainly not my favorite character from the first book. In fact, he annoyed me to the point of just making me dislike reading him at all. But his character gets a bit more humanized in this one. While he is still a jerk (I mean really, he can’t just evolve into a completely different character), we also get to see a different side of him that make him seem a bit more vulnerable and while maybe not be fully compassionate, he does seem to be on his way. I did enjoy seeing this redemption of character for him. People are complex and I think this book has moved him from what felt closer to a caricature to a, while not entirely likable, at least relatable on some level, character. He is not just a jerk, there is more to him, it just takes a bit of getting to know him better.
This series continues to be about more than just space travel and saving the human race. It is also an examination of discrimination and how ignorance and lack of awareness can perpetuate it. The push for gender equality is still there, but it is racial equality that seems to have the largest disparity and therefor takes a stronger focus. Elma learns in this book just how much she has to learn about how the world works.
The ending to this one is fantastic and even though I am happy to hear there are two more books coming, this gives a clean and satisfying ending to the duology. I really enjoyed both of these books, so was happy to hear that two more are planned. Definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about strong characters working to not just save the human race from a dying planet, but also from our own prejudices and assumptions.