Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon.
The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.
Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.
The third in the Lady Astronauts series changes protagonists as we switch from Elma, focus of books one and two, to Nicole. The political situation on earth is heating up as support for the space program is waning; as eleven years after the meteor strike, the urgency is no longer apparent to most people. The Earth First movement is getting more violent in its protests and is gaining support as many areas affected by the meteor strike are still without basic necessities and it is increasingly obvious that there will be many people left behind on earth when it becomes uninhabitable. On other fronts there is organized opposition to having blacks or other non-whites involved in the space program and attempts to label the NAACP a terrorist group.
Nicole is on a rotation, of time on the moon flying shuttles and time on earth where she both helps promote the International Aerospace Coalition as well as fulfill her duties as a politician’s wife. Rotating back to the moon early, the moon landing is marred by sabotage and a crash landing. The incidents of sabotage continue with a series of minor incidents that build in severity. When a polio epidemic strikes the colony, things get dangerous for everyone; and then, after a devastating incident on earth, the colony loses contact with earth and are truly on their own. They need to control the polio outbreak, find the saboteur and create solutions for survival in case they never regain contact with Earth.
Since the incidents in this book take place during the first year of the Mars expedition those who have read The Fated Sky will know immediately why the colony loses contact with earth but that does not lessen the tension surrounding the events on the moon. Nicole is fleshed out much more than in The Calculating Stars and is a much more complex person than is apparent even in the beginning of this book.
This is a wonderful series. The alternate history is recognizable with the issues of the “real” civil rights movement affecting this world just as much as the meteor strike and space program do. I really hope the series continues as the earth attempts to colonize Mars and perhaps a future book could focus on Myrtle and Eugene Lindholm, pioneering black members of the IAC.
Highly recommended ~~ Stephanie L Bannon
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