Yesterday I finished reading The Best of All Possible worlds for the io9 book club and I have to say, I really loved it. It was a bit of a rocky start; I would say it took me about an hour of reading until I was completely committed to the book. But after that I was 100% on board, ready for whatever Karen Lord threw my way!
This is a science fiction book, set in what seems to be the far future. Human beings have splintered off into many different physical groups–some are more intelligent, some are more empathetic, and so on. Most of the groups seem to have some level of telepathic ability. The book opens with the destruction of a planet. It happens to be the planet of the most dominant of these groups, the Sadiri, who focus on government, space travel, and meditative arts. For Star Trek fans they appear pretty similar to Vulcans, mind meld and everything. The survivors set out on unfamiliar worlds to make new lives for themselves, and hopefully keep their culture intact.
Here’s where it takes a left turn. You would expect a book like that to be very serious and very sad. Nope, not even a little. This is more of a romantic comedy than a drama piece!
Most of the story is told from the perspective of Grace Delarua, a government employee who gets attached to the Sadiri early on. She is their interpreter, and soon their friend. Most people on her planet see them as strange, because like Vulcan’s they’re very logical and unemotional on the surface. As Grace gets to know them, we get to know them, and it’s a delightful experience. Karen Lord does a wonderfully job of showing the reader that sometimes things are much more complicated than they seem from an outside perspective!
Most of the book is told by Grace to us, but there are a few tiny segments in third person watching the Sadiri. At first these sections through me off entirely–I had no idea what was going on. I think a lot of this was because I was reading it as an ebook and the formatting didn’t clearly show that these were separate sections from the rest of the book. Once I understood that everything became much more clear.
Karen Lord does a masterful job at keeping the tone in this book just right. She doesn’t trivialize the disaster, these characters have to deal with the horror that is losing an entire planet full of family, friends, and history. But the book isn’t consumed with grief. These characters fall in love, make friends, and experience new offshoots of their culture that they never would have seen before the disaster.
It’s obviously a lot more complicated than I’m making it out to be here. But, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a beautifully told story, and one that you shouldn’t miss!
Did you read it? Are you going to? I would love to talk to you about this book!