The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal (Italian edition)

The novel “The Fated Sky” by Mary Robinette Kowal was published for the first time in 2018. It’s the second novel in the Lady Astronaut series and follows “The Calculating Stars“.

Elma York serves on the route between the Earth and the Moon but during a return to Earth the spacecraft ends up off course. She realizes that things on the planet are complicated when a group of armed people kidnaps the crew. Those are Earth Firsters.

That experience has a positive outcome but Elma still finds herself in the midst of controversy when the first mission to Mars is set up. She’s now known as the Lady Astronaut and is very often used as the face of the space program in public relations.

“The Fated Sky” continues the story begun in “The Calculating Stars” which explores the global consequences of the impact of what is called the Meteor. A few years after that event, climate change is becoming more and more evident and yet opposition to the international space program comes from many sides for various reasons.

The story is told in the first person by Elma York, so some parts are told superficially to focus on others, especially the expedition to Mars. There are people who believe that we should find a way to solve Earth’s problems and started opposing the space program. The reasons are not entirely clear but it’s certain that someone is afraid of being left behind if there’s an exodus to Mars.

Other themes already present in the first book continue to be developed in this sequel. The racism and sexism that existed in the 1960s continue to be present. They are not always explicit but, for example, discussions continue on the alleged inappropriateness of including women in a journey to Mars. South Africa is a nation that heavily finances the program and is in the midst of the apartheid era, with the consequences in the relationship with non-white astronauts.

In a period in which computers still had problems in terms of bulkiness, consumption, heat generation, and reliability, women continue to be included in space missions mainly as computers. On a flight to Mars, you cannot rely on calculations transmitted from Earth and received with an increasing delay, so an onboard computer is essential.

Communications with Earth are maintained by radio, and a system of teletypes is used for messages of a certain length. Among the many technologies used in that space venture ahead of our history, it’s the one that stands out to us the most together with the use of women as computers.

A journey to Mars in spacecraft built with early 1960s technology is inevitably fraught with danger. Three spaceships are given the names of the three ships of the first Christopher Columbus journey with the NiƱa and the Pinta used for the crew, split into two groups to limit the risks, and the Santa Maria which is used as a space cargo ship, to transport equipment to be used on Mars.

The fact that the story is told from Elma York’s point of view makes her the most developed character. Her anxieties are continually stimulated, and this can also make the reader anxious during the journey to Mars. Other crew members have their own personalities but are always seen from the protagonist’s point of view.

Like “The Calculating Stars”, “The Fated Sky” also ends with an important event but has an open ending because it’s the second part of a larger story. If you’re interested in a story where a space program was developed heavily ahead of our timeline while society is the same with its flaws brutally highlighted, I recommend reading it. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada.

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