So we all know I really enjoyed The Calculating Stars, and when I received The Fated Sky I couldn’t wait to get started. This is the conclusion of the duology, so you know I needed answers! But there will be two more in the same world!
Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.
Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but could the International Aerospace Coalition ever stand the thought of putting a woman on such a potentially dangerous mission? Could Elma knowingly take the place of other astronauts who have been overlooked because of their race?
And could she really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.
I think what gets me every time in this series is Elma. Elma wants so much and I want it for her. I’m not sure if it was just where I am in my life now, but this book emotionally mirrored more of my own life. Her struggles with her husband and her career were incredibly real to me. They felt, in some instances, like reflections of my own thoughts. I think we have this fear, this pressure, of having to apologize for being ambitious and sacrificing ‘safety’ and ‘our family’.
But in reality, I think it makes us more well rounded, less prone to resentment, and more interested in our family. Who would want to live with someone who is deeply unhappy, and always looking to a road untraveled?
Writing and Themes
In The Fated Sky we are met with the same characters and excellently structured world so far. I will never get over how much I appreciate all these news sections at the beginning of each chapter. They lend such a realistic feel to the book and are just the right amount.
There are a few political clashes that are really fascinating for me to see. How people’s fear manifests and when these actions can reach a tipping point.
I appreciate how Elma is constantly trying to acknowledge her own privilege. There were a few hard conversations especially in this book about the racism against her crew mates (and how you cannot explain a minority experience to a minority). You can go into space and still not escape racism. We are reminded of the elitism and racism and sexism within science. The ways that humans can make awful and dangerous decisions based on fear and ignorance.
One phrase I especially enjoyed was “cultivated incompetence” and the ways in which it’s not just explicit sexism, but the implicit ways. How men grow up with cultivated skills in sexist patterns – the ways they might not know how to use a laundry machine, budget food expenses, etc.
In these books, I always appreciate how much care is brought to the science and logistical questions. If we wanted to establish a colony, how would these really go? What are actual problems in space? This book delves into these questions with intricate detail. There are a few times you might even regret that.
(Other issues that are talked about within the book are polio, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, there’s an afterward about a character who is transgender, but wouldn’t have had the safety to come out).
The Fated Sky is a satisfying conclusion which not only takes you to new heights, but allows you to spend more time with your favorite characters. Not only is it about space, but it’s about intolerance, love, and people. They can surprise you, and change, but also there are those who don’t change, they’re too ingrained in their own ignorance.