Book Review

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord:  A Guest Review by CarrieS

A

Title: The Best of All Possible Worlds
Author: Karen Lord
Publication Info: Del Rey 2013
ISBN: 978-0-345-53406-4
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Best of All Possible Worlds - a white and grey cover with a close of up half of a woman's face The Best of All Possible Worlds is a marvelous science fiction love story.  It's more science fiction than romance novel, but the strong love story at its core should keep any romance/science fiction fans more than happy.

This is the story of Grace (a Terran) and Dllenahkh (a Sadiri).  Grace is a native of the planet Cygnus Beta.  This planet has become a home to several groups of interplanetary refugees.  There are four different alien groups (Terrans and Sadiri included) in known existence.  They are distantly genetically related and have settled on several planets. 

Dllenahkh's people are the Sadiri.  When the Sadiri's home planet is destroyed, many of the survivors settle on Cygnus Beta.  While Grace has various complex scientific jobs, it's simplest to describe her role as one of cultural liaison between the refugee Sadiri and Terrans, who are the dominant group on Cygnus Beta.

The Sadiri are a race that values intelligence, logic, and minimal display of emotion.  They use meditation to control their telepathic skills.  They are anxious to preserve their culture and challenged by the fact that most of the surviving refugees are men, which not only makes it difficult for them to form family units but also destabilizes their whole society.  Fortunately, Cygnus Beta is home to many sub-cultures of taSadiri – Sadiri who long ago left the home world and who do not practice the mental disciplines of the Sadiri.  These groups of taSadiri live all over the planet in very different settings and with very different cultural adaptations.  Dllenahkh and Grace are part of an expedition to contact these groups and see if any women would be willing to become Sadiri wives.  Alien road trip for the win!

I would not describe this as a romance novel.  The romance develops subtly, almost in the background, and because most of the narration is from Grace's point of view, Dllenahkh is fairly mysterious throughout.  However, even though lots of other things are happening besides the romance, the romance is really the core of the book, and it's a lovely one, full of slow built trust and understanding, warmth, compromise, communication, and humor.  Also, it contains the hottest hand-holding ever (except for Mulder and Scully in “the X-Files” – they hold a world record as hottest hand-holders in history).

One of the things I loved about this book was its celebration of all kinds of love and its examination of many kinds of communities.  Grace is very non-judgmental as long as communities and individuals do not cause harm to others.  She is willing to sacrifice her own happiness and her own career to protect others from exploitation, but if everyone seems happy then she has no issues with how they become so.  There are monogamous couples, casual relationships, same-sex and group marriages, people who choose to remain single, and a character whose gender is not known (and it's considered very rude to ask).  Its also noted, frequently, that the scarcity of females is not just a problem for the Sadiri because they need sex partners.  They need grandmas and aunties and sisters and friends.  I do not intend to suggest that a female is valued only in the light of her relationship to men.  Women are highly valued professionals and leaders – there's no pervasive sexism in the workplace, and the Terran community of which Grace is a member is matriarchal.

Some readers have pointed out that the description of the Sadiri, plus the destroyed home world, is very similar to the depiction of Vulcans in the 2009 Star Trek movie.  However, while the concept of a stoic and logical race is familiar, the rest of the book isn't Star Trek-y at all.  I've seen some commenters on other sites be skeptical of the book's premise, suggesting that it must be high-level fan fiction.  On the contrary, this is a marvelously original book.  It is a great example of how you can do science fiction that is character oriented and it's also a great example of how you can do a science fiction book that isn't all about action, without its being dull.  As subtle as the romance is, it left me with that little happy sigh that always gets a book an A grade from me. 

I was disappointed by the cover.  I like that it is subtle and evocative, but I dislike that it makes the main character look pale and blue-eyed  whereas she is actually dark skinned and brown-eyed.  I applaud diversity in books and it bothers me enormously when covers whitewash their characters.  Diversity of all kinds is celebrated in this book.  It's basically the point of the book.  I wish the cover had reflected that.  Cover aside, this is a great love story for science fiction fans.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I’ve actually won this book months back on goodreads firstreads program and haven’t read it yet. I’m not a sci-fi person. Never was, never will be. Thanks for doing the review and kind of a map on what to expect from it :)

  2. 2

    I’ve got this on the To Read list since I’ve seen it get some favorable review mileage over on tor.com. Thanks for covering it here!

  3. 3
    kkw says:

    I’m not sure I can get over the title.  I mean, it’s a great title, but it raises certain expectations.  While it’s unacceptable to use it without having a connection to Candide (and/or a shocking excess of style, wit, and insight), I’m not certain I could survive a Voltairian dystopia.  (I mean reading about it, obviously no one could survive if it existed.) Although the Voltaire absolutely sound like an alien species, and they would have to live in exile.  Hopefully not on Swan B.  Zadig? Zadig could totally be a savage planet, although maybe it sounds too much like Zardoz. Now there’s a google image search that will restore my mood.

  4. 4

    Will have to get this. Pretty thrilled a scifirom was reviewed here. :)

  5. 5
    CarrieS says:

    Hi Melisse, most of what I review here is sci fi romance or sci fi crossover – you can find more under reviews, guest bitch, Carrie S

  6. 6

    I loved this book SO MUCH – it’s the first adult science fiction novel in years that I’ve absolutely, 100% not-just-admired-but adored. I hope she writes tons and tons more books so that I can read them all! :)

  7. 7
    Marina says:

    The UK cover (amazon.co.uk) is a picture of a bird (sparrow?) and sunlight and a tree branch; pretty, but kind of generic. Does it relate to the story at all?

  8. 8

    Sounds like a good book but a shame about the whitewashed cover.

  9. 9
    CarrieS says:

    @Marina:  There’s a lot of nature in the book, but I don’t recall anything that specifically relates to that cover.  That cover just seems really generic.  At least the US cover has the elephant, which does relate to the story.

  10. 10
    Clare says:

    But this originally was fanfic.  Don’t get me wrong, the characters were all original as were some of the world building, but it was posted first on a fanfic site with the Sadiris as Vulcans. Honestly, I liked it better in that incarnation, but the author took it down before she published it.

  11. 11
    CarrieS says:

    @Clare – Do you know the name of the site?  My google-fu may be failing me, but I can’t find any reference to Karen Lord having previously published fan fiction about anything.  I don’t consider fan fiction to be a pejorative term.  If she wrote good fanfic, good for her.  But the similarities to Vulcan in the book as published are very superficial and all, not some, of the world-building is new as far as I could tell (that is to say, none of it was copied from Trek – of course everything in life is influenced by something else).

    The link below is to a good interview in which she acknowledges being inspired by the plight of Vulcans in Trek, but in a general, sociological sense.  Her other big inspiration came from reading about how many women as opposed to men were killed by the Tsunami in Thailand.

    http://bookpage.com/interview/

    I also liked this interview because she talks about romance:

    http://www.rtbookreviews.com/r…

  12. 12
    elladrake says:

    This is one I need to move to the top of my list (the list being one I’d love to buy when the ebook price comes down). I really like what I’m seeing from the reviews I’ve read. Grabbing the sample. Thanks!

  13. 13
    chacha1 says:

    Sounds like my cup of tea.  I have some of the early Trek “fanfic” novels and they are by no means all crap.  Vulcans are one of my favorite fictional peoples …  if KL has been inspired to write a new story that explores how they relate to humans … more power to her.  Wish list addition.

  14. 14

    Good to know, CarrieS.

    I’ll admit the cover didn’t draw me in, and I wouldn’t have pegged it as scifi rom.

  15. 15
    Inkedupon says:

    I checked for this at my public library a few days ago and it wasn’t there. Today, it appeared! There must be some smart bitches disguised as librarians! ;)

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top