Karen lord has about as diverse a history as a person can. She has been everything from a soldier to a diplomat, settling now on writing and research consultation in Barbados. Redemption in Indigo, her debut novel, won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, the 2011 William L. Crawford Award, and the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy award for Adult Literature. It was also nominated for Best Novel in the World Fantasy Award.
Her 2013 novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, was an engaging and beautiful read. Her prose and ideas are on par with Ursula K. LeGuin, and although it is not a sequel it is a worthy follow up to Lord’s first novel. Science fiction of the thoughtful, rather than action-adventure variety, a nice change from what we see on the big screen these days as the Star Trek franchise becomes a series of action flicks and Marvel superheroes dominate the box office.
Much like Asimov’s Foundation series, The Best of All Possible Worlds takes place in a galaxy populated largely, if not entirely by humans. However, each branch of humanity has unique traits that distinguish it from the others. There are the Sadiri, mentalists focused on building and perfecting the power of the mind, telepathic, with great mental discipline and emotional control; the Ntshune, a branch with great understanding and control of emotions; the Zhinuvians, masters of the body, both human and artificial, and the Terrans, our own world, a blend of the four fond of debate and action. Our story, however, excludes the Terrans, placed under quarantine until their society matures, with the exception of small groups spirited away by the mysterious Caretakers. The novel opens with the complete destruction of Sadira and the scattering of the remaining Sadiri throughout the galaxy.
Although the background is sweeping, and Lord has obviously put a great deal of thought into the larger universe of this tale, the story focuses on two individuals on one planet, Cygnus Beta. Dllenach, a Sadiri, and Grace Delarua, a woman of mixed descent who identifies merely as Cygnian, are partnered to oversee the development of Sadiri homesteads on Cygnus Beta. Soon a plan is developed to form a team to travel the planet looking for taSadiri, humans of Sadiri background with some remnants of Sadiri culture, with the hope of finding women who would be appropriate and willing to marry Sadiri homesteaders. The majority of the book takes place during this expedition.
The expedition, although moving the story forward, merely provides a framework for the true focus of the story – the characters and their relationships to one another. The growth of the friendships, the love among the characters, and the depth to which these people grow together is where Lord’s storytelling truly shines.
Although some of the outcomes in the book are apparent from the beginning, that did not detract from the joy I found in seeing things develop. I recommend this story to anyone, not just science fiction lovers, who wants a break from pulp fiction and action adventure, and instead wants to dive deeply into human relationships and emotions.