The Relentless Moon, the latest book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Lady Astronaut” series, is a page-turner, the kind of novel that makes you say, “just one more chapter” over and over again, until you look up and realize it’s 4:00 a.m.
In this alternate history, set in the 1960s, Earth is dying. An asteroid strike in the Chesapeake Bay ten years earlier has had dramatic repercussions around the globe. Famines, extreme weather, and political unrest are increasing. The space program has been revved up, in hopes of creating an escape plan for at least part of Earth’s population. Humans have a presence on the Moon, and are creating a base on Mars, as well.
The main character, Nicole, was one of the first wave of astronauts. She is in her 50s now, and still capable of piloting pretty much any vehicle they put her in. But women, no matter how experienced, are expected to take a backseat to men, a fact she is both annoyed by and resigned to. Even on Earth, she’s cast in a support position, as the wife of the Governor of Kansas, who is also a U.S. Presidential contender.
She loves her husband and hates being apart from him, but she can’t pass up an opportunity to work at the lunar base. Unfortunately, the “Earth First” anti-space movement is growing and becoming increasingly violent. And the terrorists are willing to do whatever it takes to end the space program.
Mary Robinette Kowal tells a fast-paced, exciting adventure story, and also weaves in themes of sexism, racism, leadership, and grace under pressure. I loved the first two Lady Astronaut books, but this one may be even better.