This alternate history novel starts in 1952 with a meteor hitting the Atlantic Ocean and wiping out a significant portion on the eastern US coast. We see the event through the eyes of Dr. Elma York, a mathematician married to a rocket engineer. They begin to understand the implications of the event. Elma becomes prominent for calculating the size and basic shape of the meteor while her husband begins work for designing rockets. What has become clear is we have witnessed an event that will likely prove, according to the statistical models, to be a extinction level event akin to what killed off the dinosaurs, and because we’re here to see it, we have to watch it slowly happen over the next several decades.
So what begins is a speeded up version of the space race, now characterized by international cooperation because of how much of the US government and military has been wiped out. But still with sexism! We follow Elma and her husband as her own background in aviation during WWII along with her connections helps to move us closer to “Lady Astronauts” a tongue in cheek reclamation of the fame Elma experiences.
This novel won both the Hugo and the Nebula, and because of this, I was kind of hoping for more. It’s a very interesting conceit, but I find the prose a little too light and the narrative a little too “And then this happened, and then this happened…” I hope both the story and the narration become more complex as the series moves forward.