There are tell-tell signs when you start realising a book’s content isn’t going to be as it says on the back cover. As you read the story itself, contemporary references to something from our time in an indeterminate distant future seems odd. Outside of Dickens, would you know any other writer from the 19th century and that’s less than a couple centuries. Would the same be true for anything now, a few centuries hence? Considering this book is set in the 21th century, according to the back cover, I’m still puzzling how humans became space-farers so quickly. Jumps in logic like that without some clue as to what is going on.
There is also a major problem where there is more dialogue than text which essentially turns a book into a fast read simply because it changes the pace of the book and little sinks in. According to the blurb, ‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ by Karen Lord is about preserving an isolated alien society from extinction, although it isn’t until two-thirds of the way through this book that there is a hint of this going on and I’m left wondering just when this is going to take place.
Occasionally, Lord does express some interesting ideas, but so much of the story is told in dialogue or relating events rather than first hand that this reviewer has to wonder if any action, other than romance, which is also behind closed doors even for a smooch, is going to affect the main characters.
One of the core elements of Science Fiction is demonstrating a significant change in people’s lives and the society they live in. Instead, what appears to be happening here is little more a Sunday afternoon excursion and with not a lot happening.
I hate to say this about a new work for our genre but this isn’t really very good as either fiction or Science Fiction. Looking at her background, Lord’s other works appear to be in fantasy, where she is probably better suited than with this book.
The Sadiri are a superior race. They communicate with one another telepathically and possess great mental discipline and physical strength. But when their world is destroyed, they face the same fate as any displaced people: possible extinction and the loss of their culture. As they settle on a new planet and look for suitable mates, the Sadiri hope to avoid sacrificing one for the sake of the other.
With the help of local guide and liaison, Grace Delura, the Sadiri, led by Dllenahkh, conduct a search for compatible people with whom they can guarantee the future of their race to reproduce with, but not just in a clinical sense. They are looking for wives and partners. They begin their search by looking for genetic and cultural matches and what they discover is that genes do not always tell the full story. Circumstance plays a larger role in how people live and thrive. Their search, in essence, is an anthropological study and forms an interesting backdrop to a series of events that enlighten Grace, test the Sadiri and change the perspective of both. They discover hidden cultures and wonder. The flip side is the darker aspects of humanity that no one wishes to acknowledge. Grace and Dllenahkh also learn about each other and, despite vastly different temperaments, find they have more in common than they realise.
‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ is a lovely book. I spent some time trying to come up with a more apt descriptor, but could not. The pace is sedate, but the pages seem to turn themselves. The story is rich and involving. It unfolds slowly and thoroughly and is well punctuated with action and emotion. We get to know all the characters and their conflicting personalities help illustrate the differences between the various races. Yet, at the end, they are all people and their strengths and weaknesses are remarkably similar. Finally, the title of the book is another pleasure and it and the story are a neat parallel of Candide’s journey.
‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ is the second book by Karen Lord. I have not read her first, but after enjoying this one and reading praise for her first novel, I am inspired to look for it.
(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 303 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-53405-7)
check out website: www.delreybooks.com