Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013)

This story is available for FREE at Tor, right now. Thanks, Tor!

I just... Wow. If you haven't read this story, go read it now. It's short. I'll wait. 

(Though if you're in public, maybe wait until you're not.)

I'll be right here. 

After you're through, I have a few spoilery thoughts behind the link:


OK, so maybe this story won't make everyone cry in public like it did me.

I'm not even going to summarize what the story was about - you've just read it, right?

I found this story to be very powerful. I loved a lot of things about it. 

I loved the story themes that we rarely visit in SF. Older characters, end-of-life issues, choice between career and family both in the sense of whether to have children and whether to stay with a dying spouse. A heart-wrenching choice between two loves: the stars, or her husband. And all from a woman's perspective.

I loved the alternate history space colonization that would have happened pre modern computing. Am I doing my estimating right? Would this put 63-year-old Elma approximately right now, but in an alternate reality?

I loved the way the relationship with Dorothy came back around so perfectly. Even though Elma and Nathaniel decided not to have children, in the end, they were reunited with Dorothy who stayed with Nathaniel like a daughter would. The little twice-orphaned girl who was given Elma's "I'm choosing the stars over children" eagle adopted Elma and Nathaniel at the end of their lives.

And in choosing her love of the stars, Elma didn't have to completely abandon her love with her husband. She got to have both of her best loves, in a way, flying through the stars with her beloved still there with her through his programming, taking her along on his wings long after he is gone in body. And she's going to take his punch cards and make an eagle so he can fly forever.

What I know of the science seemed right, and the rest was believable to me. The peeks into a few less glamorous aspects of being an astronaut were a nice touch.

Her feeling that she was only chosen for both of these missions because she's an attractive and PR-friendly woman is a kick in the gut. Hopefully by the day and age of her last flight, that is no longer the case? Surely she's no longer the only Lady Astronaut? Not clear...

The link-in with the Wizard of Oz felt a little odd, but it had an interesting effect. And interesting affect.

I don't love stories making me cry, but I forgive this one. It's just beautiful. I believed these were real people. I was right there with her, caring, heart both breaking and soaring right along with hers.

Up or down ballot (note for myself): UP, with sad.

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