The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Why I read it: I enjoyed her last book, and jumped at the chance to read this before it came out through NetGalley.
I do not give out five stars lightly, but there are several reasons why I think Karen Lord's novel deserves it. This is pure science fiction, which was a surprise after reading her previous novel, Redemption in Indigo, which while enjoyable was a retold myth or fable. Since Karen Lord is one of three Caribbean authors writing in science fiction and fantasy, I have been looking forward to seeing what she would do next.
I have reamed novels set in space when they trade scientific description for unrealistic character portrayals. I would say that creating nuanced and interesting alien races is her strength. It isn't all science, as all the races have a slightly vague, mythological history. Are the Caretakers real? What is the connection between Terrans and the Sadiri?
The two main characters are Dllenahkh, who is in charge of Sadiri refugees, and Delarua, who accompanies him on a mission because of her scientific and language ability. Karen Lord was inspired by the statistics of how many more women than men were killed in the 2004 tsunami, and applies that idea to the disaster that makes the Sardiri into refugees. To further their culture, they have to go look for societies that may have ancient connections to their own, little pockets of taSadiri throughout the universe. Because of this, the author explores genetic mutation between alien races, and what remains of an original culture.
I felt the alien races were well-developed, and I liked the concepts of Sadiri communication, and the examples of people who have abused their natural abilities. There is a good balance of interpersonal conflict alongside broader issues. I feel like anyone who likes Melville's Embassytown because of the anthropological challenges but prefers their novels to be more readable, and anyone who enjoys the space novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, will connect with this novel.
View all my reviews