The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal (Book Review)
The Fated Sky opens in 1961 and continues the story from The Calculating Stars. Elma is an astronaut and is regularly shuttling back and forward between earth and the base on the moon. The book opens with a shuttle crash and the passengers, Elma amongst them, being taken hostage by a group calling themselves ‘Earth First’. Tensions have been rising on earth between the people who believe that the salvation of the human race lies in space, and those who don’t believe in the climate future that has been predicted and want governments to spend their money on earth. Not to mention the politics around who will be taken to the new colonies and who is likely to be left behind.
Against this backdrop, the IAC decide they need to boost their public image by putting Elma onto the first manned mission to Mars, replacing her friend Helen. This mission will require Elma to be away for three years, leaving her husband, Nathaniel, behind.
While The Calculating Stars took place mostly on earth, The Fated Sky largely happens in space, where the astronauts are far away from the people they love and from help if anything should go wrong.
As with the first book, the story deals with racial tension, misogyny, mental health and the bonds that connect us. The character work is excellent, with one of the characters I disliked most in the first book eventually becoming sympathetic and almost likeable.
The science is accurate – or at least convincing – and the difficulties of space travel are all too apparent. There’s a scene with a bag that will stay with me for a very long time. If you’ve read the book, then you’ll know the one I mean. The space walk repairs are tense, and the physical confines of the astronauts provide plenty of tension too.
This book really got its talons into me. Once I started, I didn’t want to put it down, except for those times that I was thinking about punching Parker. I cried at more than one scene in the book and found the relationships between the characters to be both convincing and compelling.
The book comes to a very satisfying conclusion and as far as I am aware, there will be no more Elma York stories – but if there are, I will be guaranteed to pre-order a copy.