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The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review copy provided by Tor Books. This is a sequel to The Calculating Stars, which I reviewed here:

I was really glad that the sequel came so quickly on the heels of the first book, because in some ways they’re more one story than two, and being able to finish the story promptly is something I really like. In other ways they’re not the same book and shouldn’t be–Elma York, our heroine, is in a very different place in her life.

There are short pieces of life on Earth at the beginning of this book, but for the most part it is a space mission book, it is travel to Mars and crew dynamics all the way. It’s the sort of book I read a lot of when I was in my teens: a book with the triumphs and pitfalls of crewed space flight, a book where a mission to another planet is made to feel as real as possible.

That place is a spaceship headed for Mars.

There’s a reason this is alternate history rather than projective science fiction this time, though, and that is: the mission to another planet is made to feel as real as possible for everybody. Not just for one demographic. All the stuff that was in the SF we grew up with implicitly is self-aware here: all the places where a character assumes that the proper person for the job has to be male, all the places where “publicity” and “marketing” dictate that white people do things to make them appealing to other (racist) white people…they’re there in the stuff this is an alternate history from, too. They’re just not there consciously on the author’s part. Here, they’re absolutely deliberate, and central.

Everyone in this book is allowed to make mistakes. Everyone in this book is allowed to differ from the people they care most about, and work on it, and work through it. It is not as centrally for me as The Calculating Stars was, but it’s a very satisfying conclusion to that story. With plenty of chess pie. Recommended.

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