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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.

384 pages, Paperback

First published August 21, 2018

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About the author

Mary Robinette Kowal

239 books4,888 followers
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut Universe and historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers. She’s a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, several Year’s Best anthologies and her collections Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

Her novel Calculating Stars is one of only eighteen novels to win the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards in a single year.

As a professional puppeteer and voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), Mary Robinette has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures, and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve. She records fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi.

Mary Robinette lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,586 reviews
Profile Image for Brandon Sanderson.
Author 389 books211k followers
August 31, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and so was excited for the release of the sequel, The Fated Sky. As I suspected it might be, it was that kind of book.

You know, that kind of book where you start reading at midnight, knowing full well that this is a very bad idea, and finish at 5:00 AM, knowing you will be sorry for having gotten no sleep, but not at all sorry for having read the whole book at once? The Fated Sky was that kind of book for me.

You know that kind of book where you read the last word and can’t quite believe it is a work of fiction because you really want it to be real? The Fated Sky was that kind of book for me. Well, I don’t really want a meteorite to fall to earth and cause a cataclysmic climate change, which is what happens in an alternate-history 1961 during The Calculating Stars. However, if this were to happen, establishing a colony on the moon and sending an exploratory mission to Mars is exactly what you’d want to happen, right? Kowal describes these events in a convincing and realistic way, but I found that the “hard sci-fi-ish” details were fascinating, rather than boring to me as such things sometimes are. I think this was because of the balance between setting and character.

You know that kind of book where several days after finishing it, you find yourself thinking about the characters, wondering how they are doing and wishing you could stop by and say hello? The Fated Sky was that kind of book for me. Dr. Elma York is a pilot, wife, mathmetician, and astronaut, and she juggles all these roles in such a familiar and engaging way, she feels like a friend. Plus, she gets to go to SPACE! After reading about that, I want to be a Lady Astronaut too! Seeing how Elma and her husband, Dr. Nathaniel York, deal with a long, long, long-distance relationship was one of my favorite aspects of the book. Another character, whom I profoundly disliked in the first, book, became someone I really sympathized with, as Elma got to know and understand him better.

It seems that that even when people are dealing with the likely end of life as we know it, they still have to deal with their biases, quirks, and blindspots. Mary Robinette Kowal has created a story that makes Apollo-era space travel and the true-to-life characters that undertake it equally fascinating.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
August 22, 2018
The worldbuilding aspect deserves mention because this is a full continuation of all the events in the previous novel, one where a meteorite destroys a good portion of the United States and where the nineteen-sixties become a backdrop for a big push off the planet due to rampant heating and eventually boiling oceans.

What makes the novel special is the luck and quirk and the actions of the women to get themselves equal access to the whole project. It's not just a space race. It's the survival of humanity. It's not like people are going to clone themselves out in space. :)

This novel picks up with the Mars project well underway. Nice touches, or perhaps themes, constantly brings back the inequality issue in both race and sex. And since this is a very valid concern for today as well as the 60's, but the 60's are at enough of a remove, it actually comes off as more charming and calm while being quite realistic. There's no bra-burning here. No nasty tweets, either. One might say this is a perfect combination of subject and platform just distant enough to give us all some great perspective.

What makes this better than most others is Kowal's writing. I'm invested in the characters, I want to know what happens, and it always straddles a great fine line.

Oh, and it's a great adventure, two ships going to mars, lots of complications, and a few really big and wonderful heart-to-hearts.

Anyone have a problem with a certain male from the other book?

Ah, well, I LOVED the redemption arc here. That's just me. I'm also male, but I hope that doesn't matter. Reasons and better understanding can go a VERY long way to transforming a dick into someone who might still be a dick, but at least he's not SO much of a dick. Oh, and respect goes both ways for the characters. That's a big bonus. And a lesson.

We're all in this together even if we're all jerks. :) :) Am I talking about the battle of the sexes? Maaaaaybe?

All said, I'm quite impressed and very happy to read this novel. It can possibly be read without the first but I would never recommend it. Characters are most of the fun here.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,019 reviews3,436 followers
May 24, 2020
This is the second book in the Lady Astronaut duology (my review for the first installment can be read *here*) and thus continuing the story of Elma and her quest to get to Mars in order to save humanity from the consequences of a meteorite strike that hit Earth about 10 years ago.

This second book opens in 1961 and progresses over a couple of years (less than the first). Elma has been shuttling to and from the Moon but that doesn't mean that the space program has become any easier or any less political.
On top of the usual media madness and risky science, the "Earth First" movement has become more and more prominent and violent, as is evidenced by a certain event right at the start of this book.
Since Elma is still the poster girl that secures funding, she is shoved into the Mars program. This brings several complications, not least because of the on-going racism on the planet (a team member has to be dropped in order to make room for Elma and it's not a white person).

Where the first book was about gender equality first and foremost (getting women into space), this was more about racism. Both books had the science but here, we didn't get to that part until the second half of the book.
I thought the author was very good at highlighting not only the basic problem of racism, how it must have been in the 50s and 60s, but also the problem of being white and not wanting to be part of the problem. As usual, I thought Elma was too meek, too much of a doormat, constantly apologizing instead of standing her ground. Then again, that did change eventually.
However, I really didn't care for the hypocrisy. I mean, it was an utterly realistic way of portraying the issue, but I honestly despise people (in this case people of colour) who get up on a high horse and attack any white person just for being white. Nobody chooses their skin colour and just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm responsible for racism - on the contrary, if a white person wants to help, you shouldn't spit in their face (it's like feminists attacking men for holding the door open because it supposedly means that they think women are too weak or stupid to do it themselves - I actually heard one say just that, I'm not kidding).
Yes, Elma was incredibly and even annoyingly naive sometimes and therefore had to be made aware (causing me to do one or two facepalms) but the way she was treated in some situations was simply unacceptable. Especially since certain people knew about her mental health problems and used that knowledge, showing them to be quite despicable themselves.

The author highlighted the domestic problems nicely, too. To me, it was important to not just come up with a solution (going to Mars) and then focusing completely on packing up and leaving. It wouldn't be that easy after all. Of course there would be protests. Of course resources would have to be re-allocated despite shortages, resulting in riots and whatnot. Or course ignorance would hinder progress. It's typical human.
Thus, while the books are somewhat typically optimisitc when it comes to the science and exploration bits, the author firmly grounded the story once again, making it also very realistic.

One thing many are mentioning is the redemption arc of a certain character and while I agree that some things can be forgiven because of his background, I disagree about most of it.

So you see, the author has a wonderful way of making you contemplate serious and complicated issues in a wonderful way and rewards the reader with a suspenseful race against the clock to get to Mars so humanity has a chance once the Earth becomes uninhabitable.

There is still quite a gap from the end of this book to the events in the short story (see my review for that *here*). Apparently, the author plans on filling the gap with at least one further book.

By the way: once again, I read the audio version narrated by the author herself and once again, she was very good, making the reading experience more special with the way she brought each character to life.
Profile Image for Sarah.
689 reviews161 followers
September 30, 2018
I actually finished this a few days ago, but wanted to reflect on it a bit before writing this review. I was a little disappointed with this after The Calculating Stars, and at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it might be.

First things first- plot summary: Elma goes to Mars. That’s it. This was a large part of the problem for me. Having already read The Lady Astronaut of Mars, the ending was kind of a foregone conclusion. There wasn’t any kind of intense battle for women’s equality. (I mean there is, but not one that’s preventing her from getting on the Mars ship.)

One of the things I loved about The Calculating Stars, was how authentic it all felt to the time period. TCS brought the 50s to life. The civil rights movement. Women fighting for equality in the workplace, Elma’s battle with anxiety, etc. It was all done naturally and woven into the story in a way that felt effortless.

There is an odd scene at the beginning of The Fated Sky that felt VERY forced to me. The dialogue delivered, the actions taken, the entire chapter just immediately took me out of the sweep-you-away narrative I was expecting. It was kind of down hill from there. Don’t get me wrong- I wasn’t expecting Elma to suddenly forget all her ingrained prejudices, Miltown to solve all her anxiety problems, etc. I just wanted it to feel like a more natural part of the narrative.

Sticking a South African Astronaut in the crew and having him be the bad racist guy just seemed too obvious. I think it was important that TCS recognized that ingrained prejudices exist. That they are not uncommon. That people don’t necessarily have to be bad people to have that built into their head, and that we can recognize these short comings and we can work to improve them.

Secondly- the characters and their relationships with each other. We had a huge sprawling cast of Lady astronauts to follow in TCS and I adored their relationships. I cared about all of them. I wanted to know what happened to all of them. Stuck on a spaceship for three years, we’re stuck with a pretty limited cast and I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them half so well. Elma isn’t really friends with any of them and even says so. The punch-you-in-the-gut moments didn’t have the same impact they would have had if those moments had happened to the same characters in TCS.

The good thing about The Fated Sky was Stetson Parker’s story line. His was far and away the most interesting to me and I appreciated that we were allowed to glimpse these other aspects of him.

There is much more action in The Fated Sky. The pace was quicker. There are more life-and-death moments. And I know some of my fabulous buddy readers enjoyed this book much more because of it.

TCS doesn’t feel quite complete without seeing Elma off to Mars therefore I still recommend this for fans of that book.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
September 27, 2018
Okay...that was cute. I thought Calculating Stars was sweet, and I cheered for our heroine. But this one works much better as a book, I think. More action, more adversity, more emotion...it lacked a few of the charms of the first book, but I found it more powerfully written.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things to love:

-All the space stuff. I really just enjoyed the crap out of all the stuff I learned about what happens on spaceships (pun intended). I felt weightless when they were in zero-g. As with the first one, the realism felt, well, real. Very little info-dumping, just tons of great scene-setting.

-The questions of internalized prejudice. Folks struggling with their roles away from society felt very honest. So that I don't devolve into spoilers, it felt like the first time I asked myself if I wear makeup and grow my hair long for me or for others. Do I like cooking or do I take joy in being praised for filling an ideal? There's a lot of this in the book and it felt very authentic.

-The emotion. Again, I won't mention anything. But there were a lot of moments that resonated with me much more strongly in this book. I loved seeing all the astronauts be human.

-The tension. Hot dog! Book 1 kind of skipped along with a little mild frustration the worst of the drama. This one has drama in spades. (And fewer dramas related to sex! Double win!)

-Elma's discomfort. Elma, brilliant as she is, is not perfect, and I was glad that the author did not try to make her The Best At Everything. Elma messes up and reaps the consequences.

-Tackling the tough issues. Sci-fi often glosses over the difficulty of race, religion, gender, queerness and the rest by just...ignoring all of it. And then telling us "but not in a eugenics sort of way." *Skeptical face.* This book does not. Once again Mary makes it a firm point that people are people and have always been so. We're not fixing humans immediately, but her solution isn't just a cowardly "well...we could always try genocide." No, no. She says screw that. Let's fight about it. Let's fight about it everywhere until it's nowhere. And I am here for that fight! The revolution will not be televised! Because it'll be on Mars, and we don't have satellites set up for visual yet!

-The end. Aw, so sweet! I love closure at the end of books.

Things I wasn't crazy about:

-The social politics. I know, I just said I loved that. And I do. I loved that it was present. The actual way it manifested rang a little false to me several times. And sometimes issues were just...dropped. I realize they're not the focus of this book, but sometimes, from a purely conversational standpoint, things would have been followed up on.

-Dialogue. It was spotty. Some of it was great and had me laughing or misty-eyed. Some of it I didn't understand. I felt like I was missing a few words to understand the barbs or get the jokes.

Really, I have very little to say against this book. I think it addressed all of the issues I had with the first book (which were still minimal, all things considered) and really polished the parts where Kowal shines. Excellent follow up!
Profile Image for Evelina | AvalinahsBooks.
880 reviews446 followers
July 11, 2020
My long awaited sequel of The Calculating stars (review here) turned out to be just as amazing as the first book! After closing the last page, I was just as devastated as the first time round that I have to leave the world of this story. The Lady Astronaut books remain the kind of story you don't really want to leave.

The biggest theme in this book is racism – especially when you're talking about relocating the human race and having to pick who goes and who stays. This was presented wonderfully. Another thing I loved was the Parker redemption arc! This book, as well as this series, is VERY recommended. Read the full review here:

Triggers: expect anxiety to be talked about, also death by violent accident, death by disease. Anger, racism, something I could call bullying. Violent attacks. Hostage situations. Having to deal with a dead body and how soul crushing that can be. Loss and sorrow, of course.

I thank Tor Books for giving me a free copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the book for free does not affect my opinion.

Read Post On My Blog | My Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,185 followers
December 14, 2018
Elma York is probably my favorite character that I encountered in my 2018 readings, first in the short story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”(https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), and then in "The Calculating Stars” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). I couldn’t let the year end without reading the conclusion of her story, though I anticipated it might be an emotional goodbye. Then I saw that Mary Robinette Kowal has TWO MORE NOVELS about Elma in the works and I squeaked loud enough to startle the cat. This is not goodbye after all!

“The Fated Sky” opens a few years after the end of “The Calculating Stars”: a small colony has been established on the Moon, and the first probe just touched down on Mars. Elma is stationed on the Moon, as a pilot, but she hasn’t changed and her ambition and desire for adventure make her crave more than what she sees as a glorified driver gig: she wants to go to Mars! And while the powers that be are not so hot on the idea of sending a woman to the Red Planet, they may not have a choice, as the mission requires careful mid-journey calculations – and their most talented computers are all women… But can Elma reconcile the prospect of this very dangerous mission with how much she misses her husband – and with their desire to start a family?

Obviously, if you have read the short story that started this series, you have an inkling of how this situation will unfold and evolve, but the novels expanded on that beautifully. Kowal does a wonderful job of crafting an alternate history of the United States that includes all the problems the country had to face and interweave her sci-fi vision through it: the first book explored sexism and racism through Elma’s eyes, and while we face those issues again in “The Fated Sky”, the world building solidifies as she brings issues specific to her universe, such as the Earth First movement. The way she explores the relations between Elma and her colleagues of different backgrounds I found to be done with realism and sensitivity. Her use of era-appropriate science also makes her story very immersive: her afterword contains lots of information about her sources, which was fascinating.

Her characters are well drawn, extraordinary but also realistically flawed: Elma wants to do right by everyone and is very upset by the injustices Leonard, Florence and Helen face, but her attempts at helping and supporting do not always have the desired results, and she struggles with her good intentions and their possible consequences. While this installment did not make me like Stetson Parker, I liked that we got to know his background a bit better – if only so we can understand his often less than exemplary behavior.

A very good sci-fi novel, very human and moving. I am so excited about a sequel next year! 4 and a half, rounded up.
Profile Image for MadProfessah.
370 reviews165 followers
April 23, 2020
“The Fated Sky” is the sequel to a book I mostly enjoyed: “The Calculating Stars” but that enjoyment was leavened with some qualms and niggling concerns. While I liked getting to know the main character Elma York and was thrilled with the prominence of mathematical concepts like the Fibonacci series and prime numbers, there always seemed to be “something off” about the ethos of the first book. The concept of the series is very clever: suppose the Space Race started a decade earlier due to an external animating force caused by a cataclysmic event which makes the necessity of humanity colonizing the solar system more urgent. This time shift means that the social tensions based around race and gender that actually happened in our 1960s and 1970s occur in the book’s timeline of the 1950s in the context of the Space Race.

Elma is a white Jewish woman who is something of a mathematical savant. She and her husband Nathaniel get jobs with the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC). She becomes a celebrity as the “Lady Astronaut” and thus is given leeway to break barriers and violate cultural mores without repercussions someone of her status would be expected to suffer.

In the first book it was somewhat titillating to see these issues addressed (even awkwardly and ineptly) in the context of a speculative fiction novel but on further reflection I don’t think the overall result is positive and this becomes increasingly clear in the second book.

The problem for me with both “The Calculating Stars” and “The Fated Sky” is that in most social situations the reader is more aware of the racial or cultural implications than Elma is. This device of Elma’s cluelessness is one that the author uses to demonstrate the illogic of discrimination and animus repeatedly to the reader.

I would argue that while the author uses the device effectively she also repeats and frequently reinscribes racist and sexist tropes (inadvertently, I think) while trying to illustrate how wrong these are to the reader.

In “The Fated Sky” there are numerous examples of this problem. For example, Elma is on a ship to Mars with 4 men and 3 women when she finds a (used) condom. Of course she assumes that one of the men (probably the captain, whom she has a very difficult relationship with and is a known philanderer) is forcing himself on one of the other women (both of whom are women of color). It doesn’t even occur to her that it could be evidence of sexual activity between two of the men! But there are numerous problem with this scenario. 1) (why) would 2 (presumably straight) men having sex on a 3-year space journey be using condoms? 2) why would an allegedly intelligent astronaut not know to not throw a condom away in the toilet? 3) why would the author later kill off one of the gay characters in a freak accident? Does the author not know about the vicious trope of the doomed homosexual who always dies before the end of the story? Despite revealing society’s homophobia through Elma’s cluelessness the author has reproduced it through her treatment of the two male characters who loved (in multiple senses of the word) each other.

There are (many) other examples of how the author does this in “The Fated Sky” with both gender and race (Elma is sometimes quick to notice and call out patriarchal/sexist behavior but then some of her favorite and most lauded activities involve her prowess in the kitchen!)

Overall, I was very dubious about reading the second book in the series after reflecting more on the deficiencies of the first (which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel) and the high average Goodreads ratings of both books but I decided to give it a try despite just misgivings. I will not make that mistake with the third book!
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,212 reviews3,212 followers
July 22, 2021
4.5 Stars
This is one of the few instances where the follow up novel was even better than the first book in the series. While I enjoyed the Calculating Stars, I preferred this second novel because it focused more on the science fiction future than the historical aspects of the plot. Once again, the story was incredibly compelling with a heavy focus on gender and racial discrimination. Likewise, I continued to love the cast of characters, who were all well rounded and complex..

I read this as an audiobook, which was read by the author and was absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend this historical science fiction series.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,563 reviews2,938 followers
December 28, 2018
Again this was a very enjoyable read much like the first book in the series but this one seemed to have higher stakes right from the start. We follow the same cast of characters, namely the Lady Astronaut, as she is blasted into Space on a mission to Mars. It's the first mission there and all sorts could go wrong, but they are astronauts and they should be trained on how to fix it all... 4*s
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,140 followers
March 31, 2020
Even better than the first. Maybe since we have more space in it.

I liked the conversations Elma had with Florence and Leonard about racism. Never, ever, explain someone else's experience.

Now, I don't get most of the techno babbles but it was not too hard to immerse myself especially since Kowal had such a flowing narrative.

I still applaud her research into making this series. After looking at her references, I am happy that I have some in my TBR already. Space makes a fun read, fiction and nonfiction both.
Profile Image for Pujashree.
434 reviews40 followers
February 17, 2020
In the continuing saga of Mad Men in Space, the Lady Astronaut goes to Mars and this time, learns about...racism! Mary Robinette Kowal continues to do a fantastic job with the audio narration which gives it a very radio play-esque feel. Some real-life NASA heroes make throwaway appearances as the fictional timeline starts to catch up with the real timeline of the space program, such as Gus Grissom and Katherine Johnson, but don't you worry, it's still very much the Elma York Show! While I enjoyed Elma's coming of age as a woman, fighting the sexism of the time and demanding her place in The Calculating Stars, her new fumbling education in, what my friend called "Allyship 101", was less charming. It may be a very illuminating read for some; as a non-white reader, I felt rather impatient at times with Elma's naivete and defense of it. Unicorn Husband extraordinaire, Nathaniel, dropped some points too in his casual dismissal of systemic racism. Once the action moves to the Ally-ship (*snrk*) to Mars, I enjoyed it a lot more, and even clapped dangerously on my commute when they land, and hearing from the first human on Mars, which was NOT Elma, but someone who actually deserved to be the first. Could have done without the epilogue, which seems almost entirely there to end the book on a win specifically for Elma, because of course, who cares about a fitting victory over systemic racism; it's all about the Peggy Olson of Space!
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,093 reviews167 followers
August 10, 2021
5 GIANT stars to this brilliant book which took me on a journey to Mars!

I'm such a NASA geek so I love astronauts and space travel and space and gravity or no gravity or low gravity or any thing related to any of this. I love the moon and Mars and colonizing planets. I love the science of it all! Mary Robinette holds nothing back at explaining the science! Did I understand it all? Heck no! But I got enough to get the gist.

Elma York was a computer in book 1, The Calculating Stars, but became a lady astronaut. The series takes place in the 1950's and 1960's and is an alternate history following a meteor strike on earth which causes an apocalyptic event. The world is coming to an end and humans will need to take to the stars, and other planets for humanity to survive.

In this series, because of the timeframe, women are still considered homemakers only, and the racism back then is atrocious.

But the science!! The science is amazing! Dr. Elma York is a brilliant character and I want more! Thank goodness the author is writing two more books continuing this series. I have a book hangover right now and was delighted to find 3 short stories set in the Lady Astronaut world. Those only whetted my appetite for more, so I'll be first in line for the next books!!
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
October 3, 2018
And, we're off to Mars!
This novel felt tighter and flowed better than book one. It's 1961, and humans have colonised the moon. Elma's been ferrying people back and forth between the moon and earth. NASA's been preparing, in the meantime, for a trip to Mars to investigate it for a future colony. Because of a growing opposition movement on earth (Earth First), NASA's budget's and the Mars endeavour are in jeopardy. Elma's parachuted into the already months-long training program, much to the disgust and anger of a number of her teammates who've been training very hard for this opportunity. Having the Lady Astronaut attached to this project does the trick (while also turfing a non-white team member because yay racism), and training resumes with her new teammates treating her with resentment and coldness. Elma, of course, doesn't fully appreciate the frustration and anger of her brown and black colleagues and new teammates, and makes successive ham-handed attempts to win them over.
Eventually, two teams blast off for the red planet. Because still racism, there are three ships sent, one with an all-white team, the other with a mix of races team (Elma's on this ship) and a ship containing supplies. There's adversity aplenty on the trip, not to mention Elma's continued bad relationship with Stetson Parker, who is, of course, the Team Leader.
Mary Robinette Kowal had me reading rapidly, enjoying every minute of this book. Though I could kind of appreciate her humanization of Parker, I don't buy that a bit of crying and talking about his wife redeems the man. I still don't like him.
Elma continues to grow and learn while functioning primarily as the team's Computer on board, and baker of pies. I particularly loved how Elma coped with stress during the long trip to Mars by baking. As someone who bakes to relax, that trait made me smile. And I also liked how the team and Elma grew into a cohesive, tight group.
I'm really thrilled that Kowal will be writing more books in this alternate history, and the only thing that bugs me about this is that I have to wait to read the next books.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
August 29, 2018
Continuing on from one of the best books I've read this year (The Calculating Stars), we have ... one of the best books I've read this year.

Events have moved on from the first mission to the Moon and on to planning for Mars. Elma Wexler is spending half her year living on the moon base and piloting missions there, but is contemplating giving it all up as she has hit yet another glass ceiling. When she again demonstrates her grace under pressure, she gets put on the crew for the first mission to Mars working again with Stetson Parker. But a mission to Mars with 1960s technology is far from trivial and possibly deadly.

This is more of the same from the first book in terms of early space travel science fiction and does a wonderful job with 1960s-era racism and sexism as well as dealing with mental health and religion with groups of people in close proximity for literally years.
Profile Image for Steve.
945 reviews141 followers
September 17, 2019
Part two, and very much a (near) seamless continuation of, and fully consistent sequel to, part one, The Calculating Stars. I read them pretty much (but not exactly) back-to-back, and ... given that they're both relatively quick reads, I could easily imagine folks buying the two-book set and treating the work as a single, large tome.

I can't imagine reading the second without the first, nor can I fathom an argument for reading them out of order....

Frankly, I really can't think of anything to add to this review that didn't apply to the first book, which I reviewed at greater length: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... . That may reflect my lack of imagination, but ... well ... that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. It's more of the same, and, depending upon what you thought of the first book, that's either a good or a bad thing. Obviously, I enjoyed both.
Profile Image for Jenny Baker.
1,286 reviews194 followers
December 2, 2018
The more novels I read from Ms. Kowal, the more I'm impressed with her writing, stories, and characters. Her endings always make my eyes water. She does a fantastic job narrating this series, so if you're planning to read this, I highly recommend the audiobook.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
October 11, 2018
Thirteen (13) w-bombs. THIRTEEN.

And I still gave it all five stars.

I am plumb wore out and need me some shut-eye. I'll be back tomorrow or something.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,731 reviews260 followers
November 7, 2021
The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut Universe #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal is an outstanding sequel. Kowal's world building is some of the best I've had the opportunity to experience. It was marvelous to get back into this universe and meet these characters. I love this author's style when it comes to historical sci-fi/ alternate history. If you haven't started this series I can't recommend it enough. I can't wait to see what's next in The Relentless Moon!
Profile Image for Justine.
1,157 reviews311 followers
February 28, 2020
While I preferred The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky is still a worthy successor.

The story is very different in many ways, but some things haven't changed in the years since the meteor struck Earth and the world undertook to accelerate efforts to explore and colonize space. All of the same social problems remain: sexism, racism, discrimination based on gender and sexual identity to name a few. The question becomes whether in the pressurised environment of sure environmental and economic collapse, and in the microcosm of life aboard ship, these difficulties will overwhelm the larger scientific and human agenda.

I like the way Robinette Kowal writes, and was quite drawn in to the characters and their interactions. This is basically a book about people trying to push past the negative human feelings and flaws in themselves and in others in order to reach a goal that seems far away and sometimes impossible. It has its ups and downs, but overall I was left with the same feeling of optimism that permeated the first book, and so looking forward to the next, The Relentless Moon.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
502 reviews69 followers
September 23, 2018
I really wished I could like this more, but I find Kowal’s writing annoyingly juvenile. Elma bites her lip as much as Anastasia in Fifty Shades and the rocket launch sexy euphemisms between Elma and her husband are nauseating. And when I wasn’t rolling my eyes at that I often felt I was reading woke Twitter, where letting the characters speak like organic human beings was sacrificed in Kowal’s eagerness to educate the reader on the social and racial injustice of not only that time but today.

However, there were many moments of intensely fascinating space walks, descriptions of living conditions aboard a spaceship, the problems that can arise, communication in space, etc, that kept me glued to the story and me forget time and my complaints. Readers less sensitive to form and writing style than me will probably take great pleasure in what is clearly a well researched story - and history - of early space exploration.
Profile Image for Rob.
853 reviews539 followers
November 12, 2018
Executive Summary: I liked this book more than The Calculating Stars in some ways, and less in others.

Audiobook: Ms. Kowal once again does a great job narrating her own book. She does all the little things that adds that element that makes doing the audio worth it.

Full Review
I liked The Calculating Stars so much that I bought this book even before I had finished listening to that one.

This one gets more in the fiction part of the sci-fi and feels much less like historical fiction than its predecessor. It's for that reason that I enjoyed the space elements a bit more.

It also ramps up the social commentary a little and to me that felt forced at times compared to the last book. In particular the opening scene felt a bit over the top. Then again that is maybe the action being over the top rather than the social issues aspect.

The first book felt a lot more "slice of life" amid a global crisis (with cool science). This book felt a little more "let's add some good action sequences for the inevitable movie adaptation" (with cool science).

Without getting into spoiler territory I will say this is simply more of what we got in The Calculating Stars with higher stakes. I don't mean that in a bad way. I really liked that book and was happy to get more.

Overall, it was still a very enjoyable sequel and I'm already looking forward to the next one.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews131 followers
August 27, 2018
Once again, Kowall has done a meticulous job with her research, creating a very believable and detailed portrait of a mission to Mars .... in the early 60’s. This didn’t make five stars merely because I was a bit put off by the jump forward in time and I was expecting a more concrete resolution to the books. I kept expecting there to be more even as I neared the end. And perhaps there will be, I don’t know. I do know that I’d read it if there were!
Profile Image for Dana Stabenow.
Author 99 books1,954 followers
July 15, 2022
The Martian told first person female with less science and more humanity. We will bring our baggage with us into space, whether we go there voluntarily or are driven there by a meteorite strike as happens here, but we will power through those problems and we will survive. Definitely comes under the heading of a feel-good book, and it's hard sf all the way which makes me very happy.
Profile Image for Stephen.
456 reviews53 followers
January 3, 2021
The Fated Sky continues the story of the Elma York, the Lady Astronaut, taking her from the moon to the first Mars mission. Kowal’s writing feels more assured in this book. While the story is foremost a great adventure—the launch, technical problems en route a la Apollo 13, crew conflicts, a communication blackout, and finally Mars—Kowal continues to raise important questions appropriate not only to the book's time frame but also today.

In The Fated Sky racism plays a larger role, first via an Earth First movement that feels that money spent on the space program is wasted when poorer, particularly black and brown citizens, are struggling with little aid to recover from the meteor strike in book one. This group rationally fears that even if the space program is successful and people begin to colonize the stars, they will be left behind, stranded on a damaged earth, as they've been left behind historically since well before the strike. Elma struggles to reconcile her belief in the space program—that it is for all mankind—with recognition that it depends on the politics of demagogues, misogynists, elitists and racists who populate politics in every era. Elma ties herself in knots trying to be both the face of the program she loves and advocating for those being treated unfairly. The narrative and her struggles read quite real. (Kowal notes in the afterword that the Earth First narrative derives from actual protests of NASA’s Apollo program. Interestingly,
...many people believe that Project Apollo was popular, probably because it garnered significant media attention, but the polls do not support a contention that Americans embraced the lunar landing mission. Consistently throughout the 1960s a majority of Americans did not believe Apollo was worth the cost, with the one exception to this a poll taken at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969. And consistently throughout the decade 45-60 percent of Americans believed that the government was spending too much on space, indicative of a lack of commitment to the spaceflight agenda. These data do not support a contention that most people approved of Apollo and thought it important to explore space.)
More overt racism is also introduced in the form of one Valentin De Beer, astronaut from apartheid South Africa (remember the story takes place in the early 1960s—Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities in 1962, the same year Elma and crew begin their journey to Mars). The Mars crew is diverse. Men, women, two African Americans, a Latino and a Polish American. Why is the racist De Beer on the mission? Kowal chooses the simplest reason, the same reason stupid things happen every day—money. In exchange for funding, South Africa demands he fly, with an all-white crew. The space program short of funds agrees. (In the book, there are three ships making the journey to Mars, two crewed and a unmanned supply ship. De Beer's ship is all white, the second ship—Elma's—is multi-ethnic.)

In terms of addressing these issues, Kowal more or less chooses not to. The Earth First story line is largely presented via a series of news reports that introduce each chapter. It’s clear where Kowal and Elma’s hearts lie, but in this book bad things happen, people are arrested, things escalate and remain precarious until the end. This narrative is explored more fully in the third book in the series that I’ve not yet read. De Beer, is challenged, loses some privilege, but is never really disciplined. More formal punishment by mission commanders was warranted. He remains a cancer in the mission. Kowal gives hope in the end, making the landing crew mixed race and the first foot on Mars non-white.

Regarding character growth, Elma remains charming, but it doesn’t feel like she’s learned much from the misogynism and racial issues she tackled in book one. In The Calculating Stars she was a crusader. Here she too often seems clueless an issue exists and/or that it's not her place to step in until confronted by a crew member. She's lost some of her grit and is too eager to please. Stetson Parker on the other hand grows a lot, from same old condescending jerk at the beginning of the book to a mission commander worthy of respect at the end. The rest of the crew, is hit and miss. Some have life and personality. Others not much.

A thread I particularly liked is Elma's missives to her husband Nathanial on Earth. For example, the poignant Nathanial to Elma: "Everyday I think of you and all the ways in which you might die in space. Please don't." These help highlight the tenuous tie between the crew and Earth, millions of miles away, radio delays extending to 10s of minutes between message sent and received, and by the time the crew arrives back, three years in the void of space. Similar missives between other crew members and their loved would have helped to flesh out their characters.

The science is again top notch, written with the assistance of real scientists, engineers and astronauts. The short "mission log" elements highlight the challenges of navigating tens of millions of miles without getting too techy.

On my buy, borrow skip scale: Another strong buy and on to the next one.

A bit of history. To date there have been 49 missions to Mars, the first incredibly in Oct 1960 by the Soviet Union. It failed to launch. As did three of their next four attempts. The fourth suffered communications failure en route.

NASA's first launch in Nov 1964 also failed, Less than a month later, a second achieved a successful flyby 15 Jul 1965.

After many more failures by both the US and USSR, the Soviets finally achieved orbit in Nov 1971. They followed with the first lander on Mars in Dec 1971. It sent a 70 line incomplete image of the surface before communication was lost 14 seconds after transmission start. The US did not land on Mars until Jul 1976 with Viking 1 and 2. Both transmitted pictures and data, Viking 1 yielding the first complete image transmitted from the surface:

After Viking, it took 20 years to lander a rover capable of exploring the planet surface. The Sojourner rover landed July 1997. Seven years and several failures later Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2007, Curiosity followed in 2012. Earth last touched the surface of Mars in 2018 with the InSight Lander.

To date no human missions have been attempted. In fact, humans have not left earth orbit since Apollo 17's last mission to the moon in 1972. The next attempt will be in 2024 as part of the Artemis program.

Artemis intends to send people back to the moon to develop and test technologies to enable a manned mission to land on Mars sometime in the 2030s. Elon Musk (SpaceX) and others have talked about sending people to Mars sooner than this. Unmanned missions by SpaceX are possible i the 2020s, but a privately funded manned mission is highly unlikely before 2030, if at all.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews80 followers
October 1, 2020
'“When you got assigned to the Mars mission, there was general consensus that our relationship might cause me to have confused priorities relating to the mission.”
“Clearly they don’t know you.”
“No, they do know me. I would sacrifice everyone on both ships to keep you safe.” He pushed the bra strap to the side, followed it down to the cup, and then dipped inside it to cradle my breast.
“I need you not to make exceptions for me.”
“I try not to, but it’s not actually possible.”'

A worthy successor to The Calculating Stars, but with a very different feel to it. I wept in parts, and shook with sympathetic anxiety and rage in others. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, I found it particularly interesting to read about Elma’s fumbling attempts to help her black colleagues, and their gentle (and not so gentle) rebuffs.

Three years after the events of The Calculating Stars, Elma is a glorified bus driver on the moon, thinking of packing it all in to have kids. But with growing pressure to cut funding, despite the increasingly volatile weather, the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC) needs the Lady Astronaut to step up and be the face of the first manned-mission to Mars. Facing three years away from Nathaniel, locked in a small ship with people who resent her very presence, Elma must dig deep into her mental reserves if she’s ever to get home, whole and sane.

I think part of the reason I love these books is because I identify so strongly with Elma. We both appear strong and capable on the outside, calm in a crisis, but on the inside we have our insecurities and anxieties that we work hard to overcome and do our best to hide. Elma’s fiery and can’t help but want to fix the injustices she sees, but slowly learns that she’ll never truly understand another’s experience and can’t always fight their battles for them. And when she realises she’s made a mistake, she’s gracious where I’d be angry in an immature effort to hide my embarrassment. I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.

I found the politics and psychology of life aboard ship fascinating, particularly having recently read Do You Dream of Terra-Two? which was laughably juvenile by comparison. Like the first book, we saw struggles for female equality, but more so than the first book, we saw struggles for black equality too. And as we know from real life, these struggles aren’t easy, and nor are they pretty. Some of my favourite bits of the books, were the sections showing the ever-changing relationship between Elma and Parker, determined female and condescending male, crew and commander, confidante, ally and rival.
'“Tell Clemons the this is exactly why we should have put the laundry on the women’s duty roster. If you’re going to send them into space, at least take advantage of their areas of expertise.”
Right. He was an asshole. I closed my NavComp book and slid it back into the slot. “I assume that means I am Go to head back to the kitchen? Where I belong.”
Parker rolled his eyes and toggled off the mic to Mission Control. “It was a joke, York. Lighten up.”
I saluted. “Confirmed lightening up.”'

He’s sexist but, like Elma, I couldn’t help but hold out hope for him and, unlike DeBeer, it seems he can and will learn.

On two occasions, I couldn’t help but weep in the face of events. At other times I raged with Elma against the injustice of things, shook with shared anxiety and felt sick at the horror (or ickiness) of it all. But I also laughed with her over Terrazas Flash Gordon impressions, swooned under Nathaniel’s attentions and sat in awe as they touched down on the red planet. In Elma’s place, I’m not sure I could have made the decision to go, but I understand why she felt she had to, for herself and for others. I respect Nathaniel even more for encouraging her to do so.
”I don’t want you stuck on Earth, wishing you were in the stars. That’s no sort of marriage.

I’m hoping we’ll see more of their life together on Mars, if not in The Relentless Moon then in the fourth book pipped for 2022.

Well written and compelling, I sped through this book, despite (or maybe because of) the emotional-rollercoaster it had me on. Kowal could be writing absolute gibberish in the science sections of the book and I’d be none the wiser (and nor would I really care). It’s great reading and I can’t wait to see how Kowal’s going to resolve the apocalyptic situation on Earth. On to The Relentless Moon!
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews544 followers
May 6, 2019
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0...

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.
1 review
August 25, 2018
I really liked this book.
The characters feel real and tangible, as in the previous book; I was looking forward to seeing how some relationships would develop, and I wasn't at all disappointed. The science part is enjoyable and well balanced in the story, as in the previous book; you can feel the relevance of it without getting too technical.

I'd rate The Fated Sky 5 stars if it weren't for
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,775 reviews1,777 followers
March 5, 2020
So I never actually wrote a review of the first book in this series. I review-amnestied it late last year, in the 40+ reviews I just gave up on because I let my review backlog get Out Of Control. We read it for my IRL book club, and we were all excited to read about lady astronauts doing science and winning against misogyny, but all of us had very mixed feelings about it. I flew through the book, but also had problems with it at the same time. I thought, with the exception of the first 100 pages, which were tense and exciting, that our main character, Elma York, was too passive. Things just happened to her, rather than her happening to them. It was also tough to have a main character whose main source of inner conflict is anxiety, because that character then ends up being just constantly overwhelmed.

But overall, I did like it, and I liked this one much better than that one, largely because things actually happen this entire book.

If you're unfamiliar with the series, it follows a group of astronauts trying to colonize the moon and Mars after an asteroid hits Earth and scientists realize that within decades, the Earth will become uninhabitable. But this all happens in the 1950s and 1960s, so it's also an alternate history piece of historical fiction, as well as science fiction.

It's been ten years since the incident now, and the astronaut program is well under way. The moon has its first successful colony, and the first mission to Mars is about to launch. Things on Earth are starting to deteriorate. Elma is assigned to the mission, amidst some controversy, because she is the Lady Astronaut, and the space program needs good publicity, among arguments that resources should be going to support those on Earth, not being wasted on space. As with the first book, Kowal tackles issues of race, gender, and class, while a bunch of people with all different backgrounds all work towards the same goal. The prose and style she uses aren't my favorite, but it's workable, and the pull of reading a story about the first mission to Mars is strong enough that it overcomes a lot of things that weren't necessarily my favorite. (I personally can't stand the constant rocket metaphors Kowal uses for sex, though it is very nice to see such a healthy marriage portrayed in fiction.) I also still think that Elma seems like a passive narrator. I find many of the other characters more interesting than I find her.

The next book comes out this summer, and I will definitely be reading it, because apparently it switches narrators! I'll be interested to see what Kowal can do with this concept and another main character.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
930 reviews442 followers
March 29, 2023
El destino celeste es la segunda parte de Hacia las estrellas. Una ucronía donde un meteorito choca con la Tierra en los años 50 y obliga a la Humanidad a acelerar la carrera espacial para hacer habitable otro planeta. Por lo que aquí nos encontramos con el viaje que hace la Mujer Astronauta a Marte en 1961.

La historia me parece muy interesante. Vemos cómo el machismo y el racismo de aquella época en Estados Unidos seguía existiendo pero gracias al desvío en la Historia que causó el meteorito podemos ver cómo las mujeres y personas de otras etnias son astronautas, no todo el mundo gira en torno al hombre blanco hetero.
Una historia que, como digo, a priori es muy interesante, además de que tiene capítulos cortos y es muy rápida de leer. Pero falla en casi lo más importante: los personajes. No aguanto a ninguno.

La protagonista, Elma York, es una astronauta famosa que sufre de ansiedad. ¿Por qué tiene ansiedad? Pues según ella por ser mujer blanca y judía. Ya está, con eso se despacha toda la profundidad del personaje. Cada vez que le hablan le da un ataque de ansiedad. Después tiene un marido que es perfecto: guapo, inteligente, con humor, sabe leer la mente de su mujer...me aburre.
Hasta los "malos" son aburridos y predecibles. Un racista que actúa como un idiota porque sí, aunque se juegue la vida en el espacio. Un jefe borde pero que en el fondo tiene una explicación... No sé, me aburren todos. No me creo a ningún personaje, y es una pena porque la historia y lo que les ocurre en su viaje a Marte es entretenido. Pero se queda a medio gas en general.

Parece que el tercer libro cambia de personajes así que si al final lo publican en castellano intentaré darle una oportunidad.
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