The Calculating Stars

Winner of both a Hugo, Locus and a Nebula, this book is about a mathematical prodigy battling her way into a career as an astronaut in a post-apolocalyptic 1950s America. Along the way she has to take on the embedded sexism of America in the 50s, as well as her own mild racism. Worse, she suffers from an anxiety condition.

The book is engaging and well written, with an alternative history plot line which believable and interesting. In fact, its quite topical for our current time.

I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be reading the sequel.

The Calculating Stars Book Cover The Calculating Stars
Mary Robinette Kowal
May 16, 2019

The Right Stuff meets Hidden Figures by way of The Martian. A world in crisis, the birth of space flight and a heroine for her time and ours; the acclaimed first novel in the Lady Astronaut series has something for everyone., On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too. Elma's drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.


This is the third book in the Marsbound series. The Others have just turned off all electronics on Earth, and now we need to survive. One problem with this book is that it jumps straight into the action — I had to go back and re-read Marsbound and Starbound in order to understand what was happening in this book. That was ok because those two books are excellent, and I enjoyed re-reading them. In fact, those two are probably a little better than this one.

Overall Earthbound is pretty dark, and there isn’t a lot of hope presented — its just a series of scenes where the main characters attempt to deal with an all powerful adversary. Perhaps if the Others weren’t so powerful this would be a better book, because you just know that everyone is doomed. I also respect authors who are willing to kill off lead characters, but that happens a lot in this book, which sort of bothered me. Perhaps that’s what combat is really like though — people you have an attachment to just stop being there. There’s no warning or explanation.

The end of this book isn’t very satisfying. There better be a sequel or I’m going to be annoyed.

Earthbound Book Cover Earthbound
Joe Haldeman
Hachette UK
December 19, 2013

The mysterious alien Others have prohibited humans from space travel-destroying Earth's fleet of starships in a display of unimaginable power. Now Carmen Dula, the first human to encounter Martians and then the mysterious Others, and her colleagues struggle to find a way, using nineteenth-century technology, to reclaim the future that has been stolen from them.


This is the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. To be honest I don’t think it is as the previous two books. This is mostly because while the plot is quiet believable, Katniss simply comes across as whiney for most of the book. The plot is believable so it doesn’t feel insincere, its just annoying.

Overall an OK book but not her best.

[isbn: 9781407109374]

Catching Fire

This is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy after the first book of the same name. This book is very similar to the first in terms of style, although I think the start is a lot slower. Once you plow through the first 150 pages or so the book rapidly improves though, and I was happy with where it went overall. Good teen fiction.

[isbn: 9781407109367;1407109367]

The Hunger Games

I picked this up in the US really cheap because I had run out of books to read on this trip. This book is pretty heavily hyped at the moment, but that’s also why I got the book for $6 at a book store, so I can’t complain. The book is an easy read, and fun. Its obviously aimed at teenagers, but I don’t mind teen fiction as a genre and I read this book in a little over a day. The story line is similar to The Survivor in Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow, but is distinct enough to not be plagiarism. I enjoyed this book.

[isbn: 9780439023528]

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

This book didn’t review well, but I thought it was ok. Its not the best book in the Council Wars series, but it is readable and has an interesting story. It doesn’t wrap up the story line completely though, so I guess I’ll have to wait for the next one to be written.

[isbn: 1416555188;9781416555186]

Against the Tide

This is the third book in the Council Wars series. This book covers the long promised invasion by New Destiny forces, as well as Megan’s continued life in the harem. This book has a theme of incompetence in command, which is quite similar to some of Ringo’s other books, such as A Hymn Before Battle and Gust Front. It is not fine literature, but it is a fun read and the characters are likeable.

[isbn: 1416520570;9781416520573]

Emerald Sea

This book is really a book (Emerald Sea) and a novella (In a Time of Darkness) both of which follow on from There Will Be Dragons. Emerald Sea is more self-indulgent than the previous book, and isn’t as strong as the first. It is still quite readable. In a Time of Darkness has a very awkward set of subject matter (the keeping of a harem girl against her will), which will make many readers uncomfortable, and isn’t as strong a story as either of the first two stories in this series.

[isbn: 1416509208;9781416509202]

There Will Be Dragons

I bought this book randomly when I saw it at a charity book sale. While the title is kid of odd, its actually quite a good read. The book is sort of a science fiction fantasy novel, set in the far future with a reasonably plausible plot line. There are a few elements that I feel could be explained a bit better, but overall the book is quite good. I’ll be buying the next one in the series.

[isbn: 0743488598]

The Stars Must Wait

This book is a novelization of “Night of the Trolls”, which I have already read as part of The Compleat Bolo and Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow. I’m pretty fond of the short story, and this book version didn’t start out strongly — there is a prelude to explain some background, and then the book launches into what feels like the exact text of the short story. You can tell it hasn’t been edited much, because there are minor continuity errors between this first chapter and the prelude. There are other continuity errors as well — the blurb on the back says that the main character goes into stasis in 2002, but his wife dies in 1992 which is meant to be after the main character goes into stasis, and the map that he uses once out of stasis is copyright 2011 (even though the main character claims to have bought it just before going into stasis). Note that these dates are different to those used in the short story. These errors are distracting although the underlying story is still a good one.

However, the good bits of the story are all contained in the short story. This feels like a poorly edited and heavily padded version of that short story, and I think we would have been better off without it. There is in fact a whole heap of seemingly pointless dialogue in the center of the book, where I think what we’re meant to be learning is that post-apocalyptic life isn’t much fun. I think we could have worked that out, and perhaps saved 50 or so pages. Worst of all, Laumer has changed the ending to a much less satisfying one.

I recommend just sticking with the short story.

The Stars Must Wait Book Cover The Stars Must Wait
Keith Laumer

Astronaut John Jackson expects to wake from suspended animation in another world, but instead he opens his eyes a century later to an Earth populated by post-Armageddon nasties