An award-winning science fiction novel with some science and some fiction, but with very little “science fiction.” It’s an alternate history of the space program, set in the 1950’s and with an early feminist twist. This is more of a political and suspense novel and you don’t have to have ever read a science fiction novel to enjoy it.
A surprise meteor strike wipes out Washington, DC, taking out the entire government and most of the eastern seaboard. Elma and Nathaniel York, newly wed and each with a PhD in physics, were on their honeymoon in the mountains and were able to survive. The Yorks and others determine that this meteor strike could, in the long run, cause so much climate devastation that it could turn into an “extinction event.” The government determines to ratchet up the space program rapidly in case the human race needs an escape plan.
Within that framework, the novel is told in realistic fashion. Sexism is a part but also racism. The space agency leadership is determined to keep the potential corps of astronauts as white men, even though there were both Black men and women who could have qualified. Elma is an experienced pilot and a scientist, so she fights especially hard for acceptance into the program.
This book will be enjoyable for anyone interested in the Space Race, but also to anyone who enjoys a good novel about women in science. There is a sequel, *The Fated Sky*, which moves to the 1960s and a Mars Mission.