>> Sunday, March 05, 2017
TITLE: The Best Of All Possible Worlds
AUTHOR: Karen Lord
PUBLISHER: Del Rey
SETTING: Cygnus Beta planet
TYPE: Science fiction / fantasy
SERIES: There's a companion book set in the same world, The Galaxy Game
The Best of All Possible Worlds is a stunning science fiction epic that is also a beautifully wrought, deeply moving love story.When the home planet of the Sadiri was completely destroyed, only the very few who were out of the planet on various missions survived. Most of them were men. With nowhere to return to, these people have had to accept the invitation to settle in Cygnus Beta, a planet that is happy to receive these refugees.
A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.
Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies... and a force that transcends all.
The people of Cygnus Beta are keen to make the resettlement as smooth as possible, so Grace Delarua, a bio-technician, is asked to liaise with them and work with their councillor, Dllenahkh, to get them settled where and how they'll be most comfortable.
Given that The Best Of All Possible Worlds' setup involves a whole world being destroyed, one might expect a plotty adventure story, with revenge and excitement. That's not what this is. All the big explosions happen off the page, and before the action here starts. What we get is an exploration of deracination and the different ways of dealing with it. Should the Sadiri try to keep themselves isolated and preserve their culture unchanged (technically, they could, since they are long-lived enough for the men to start again with young brides), or do they accept that to survive, their culture should adapt to its new surroundings?
It's a leisurely book. The small group led by Delarua and Dllenahkh travel around and meet the different peoples present in Cygnus Beta. So what we get is two kinds of simultaneous explorations. They are exploring the variety of cultures in the planet, but those who are part of the team are also exploring each other’s cultures in a much deeper, personal way.
It’s not that nothing happens; in fact, quite big things happen, but Lord purposely writes this in a very low-key way. It's somewhat episodic, but that works perfectly for the story. The only overarching thread is the decision about what path to take with regards to integration. Lord does not create some sort of of external danger to drive the plot. And through the small episodes and encounters with different people, the relationships are developed.
I loved it all, and particularly discovering the different cultures they visit. They are clearly built out of bits and pieces of different cultures on Earth, and I enjoyed how Lord played with them. The visits were brief, so much so that they always left me wanting more, but that felt just right.
There’s a bit of romance, too, but again, very leisurely, very low key. In writing it that way, though, Lord made me fully believe that Delarua and Dllenahkh really were perfect for each other.
A very enjoyable book.
MY GRADE: A B+.