Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

My book for January was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The book won several major science fiction awards, including: 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novel; 2019 Locus Award for Best Novel, and; 2019 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Rather than science fiction looking into the future, this is an alternate history in the past. Set in the early 1950's, a meteorite strikes Chesapeake Bay and wipes out the Eastern Seaboard. In the aftermath, the heroine of the story calculates that the resulting climate change will make the planet uninhabitable. This threat accelerates efforts to colonize space.

Looking at the list of Hugo and Nebula award winners in the last couple of months, I read the synopsis of this book several times and was frankly not interested. Casting around for something to read at the last minute on the flight to Burbank, I downloaded the first chapter for free. I found the first chapter compelling and was hooked. Unfortunately, except for the beginning and the end, much of the rest of the book fell flat.

The plot uses the sexual and racial prejudices of 1950's. While there is no doubt that these biases were real, the way that they were worked in the story felt odd to me. Additionally, I cringed at the descriptions of sex between the heroine and her husband. I will admit that I am generally not a fan of alternate histories. I don't recommend this book.

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