Book Review – The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
Karen Lord’s latest novel The Best of All Possible Worlds is the kind of novel that truly illustrates what science fiction is capable of doing. Lush and yet not overwhelming, it is a love story firmly rooted in a story of humanity told with alien cultures. It isn’t hard to see I fell in love with this book. Once you read it you may understand why. You will also begin to see why so many reviewers are comparing this author to Le Guin for her impact on the genre of science fiction.
Beginning a Civilization Again
It begins on an outpost of civilization where the outcast and lost nations gather. Here a linguist, Grace, meets with a representative of an alien race that has been virtually destroyed, poisoned for unknown reasons, leaving only remnants of their race to carry on. Think aboriginal races on Earth and you get the picture. The Sadiri are quiet self-contained people. Highly intellectual, capable of forming bonds with machines and emotionally reserved. They are looking to find ways to retain their culture with the last of their people.
One diplomat in the group takes a tour with Grace to see if any of the many tribes on the planet have a genetic connection to his own. They know that some of them are remnants of earlier explorations of his people. What they don’t know is how much of the Sadiri DNA is still in them. It is on this tour that our story takes place.
A Quiet Strength
This is not some galactic mission, nor is it a space opera. What I loved about this story is that it is really the story of the relationships that are built on this journey. They travel the planet, meeting with the various groups from other displaced civilizations. Dllehahkh, the Sadiri ambassador on the trip, could not be more different from Grace if he tried. But along the way they come to know, and care, about each other as well as many they meet on their journey. They discover hidden parts of each other, just as they are looking for the hidden DNA that will tell the Sadiri that their genetic code lives on in others and there is hope for their race to not have to die out.
Along the way we learn of a creation myth, and begin to follow the trail. Legends are frequently discussed, and a truth begins to emerge. A truth that could be the salvation of both his people and the many different tribes they encounter along the way. But the real story here is between a chatty and at times overly emotional linguist and a taciturn but highly caring diplomat. There is even room along the way for a very humorous discussion on kissing.
Telling the Tale of Humanity
This is a story that is so rich in world-building and drawing us into a planet of various human races and adaptations to life that we forget to look for plot. Well, the truth of the matter is, our own lives are formed far more by encounters and relationships, and that is how this story unfolds. Not with the plot devices of objects to find or mysteries to solve, but with relationships to discover. A story you may well want to re-read from time to time, just to savor the moments.