Who among us has not day-dreamed about what life would be like if the nation's capital were wiped out by a meteor?
Novelist Mary Robinette Kowal launches a huge rock at Washington, D.C., in her plotty, readable alternate history, The Calculating Stars, and its sequel, The Fated Sky. Set in a slightly tweaked post–World War II United States, the story centers on the adventures of the implausibly accomplished Elma York, a former wartime pilot, top-notch "lady computer," and reluctant feminist firebrand.
After the entire Eastern seaboard is eliminated, the seat of government is hastily relocated to Kansas City. York struggles against bureaucracy, the limitations of mid-century technology, and her own anxiety as she helps build up a space program—which has been accelerated after it becomes clear the meteor strike will alter the climate enough to make Earth inhospitable for humans—and get herself off-planet in the process.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The Calculating Stars".