The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Novel

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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.”

Let me say right off the bat that the book description will not give you a good idea of what this book is about.  It gives a sense of urgency to the plot that, for the most part, just isn’t there.  This novel’s pace is much slower than most science fiction stories on the market today, and it is driven more by characters than by action.  The plot—finding a pool of prospective mates for the displaced aliens—has very little suspense to it.  Readers know that over the year in which the tale takes place, the group will find those willing to take part and those who won’t.  There’s really no question that this alien race will survive, even if their culture might change a bit in the process.

Most of the focus is on our two main characters, Grace Delarua and Dllenahkh.  Here, also, there is very little suspense.  I never got the feeling that these two wouldn’t eventually get together, so I spent most of the novel watching them dance around their attraction to each other.  Their interactions play out in a series of missions that read in an episodic manner.  There aren’t a lot of connections between the various events.  It put me in mind of the old Star Trek television series, where each episode stood by itself.  That feeling gets even stronger when you see how much Dllenahkh is like Mr. Spock.

I think the real issue here is that the story is much more of a romance—and a leisurely one at that—than it is about science fiction.  If the romance was a secondary aspect of the story, I wouldn’t quibble as much, but it’s in the forefront much more often than not.  This story doesn’t need to be set on an alien world to work the way that it does.

From all of that, you may think that I didn’t like the book, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  Lord has definitely done some complex worldbuilding, creating several splinter societies that all coexist on a single world.  These unique groups and locations were lavishly written and made me want to see more of them.  Perhaps that’s why I wished there was more focus on the science fiction elements: the author did a wonderful job on them and they deserve more attention than they got.  A little more balance between the genres and this book would have been great.  As it is, it’s still a good read.  Just don’t expect a typical round of science fiction fare.

With a different pace and plot structure than most of the genre, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a novel for those who want something a little less frantic and tech-heavy.  I think the majority of science fiction readers might pass this one by, but I think many will find it a pleasant surprise if they give it a chance.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on April 16, 2013.

Series: n/a
ISBN: 9780345534057
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 320
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
Read an excerpt