A charming science fiction novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord is a tale of truly alien customs. Lord writes a harmonious dance of foreign and familiar; with unique characters and a truly fascinating journey of government funded scientific research, Lord excels. A romance story unlike many, The Best of All Possible Worlds shifts the balance, as the characters start in the search of siring offspring and find love.
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.
Lord’s narration is quite interesting as it left me puzzling over whether or not I liked her writing style. On one hand, Lord has an odd sense of time, fast forwarding months in a couple of vague sentences. Her vague tendencies are used in an interesting manner. For instance, it wasn’t until several chapters in that I realized the main character was female. This had me happy to know that she did not force her character into a specific role but more importantly it highlighted how the character was somewhat asexual and career oriented. Though Lord’s narration is hazy when it comes to visual cues such as setting and appearance, she effortlessly captures in depth emotions with perfect clarity. This is quite fitting as Lord’s plot relies heavily on how emotions effect the intellectual and impulsive alike.
The only way to describe Lord’s characters for me is entertainingly quirky. The protagonist is quite content in her pursuit of career and finds herself discontent in people’s perception of her. For all intents and purposes Grace Delarua is an observer and accidentally becomes the observed. This take is not often as the observant personality usually fades to the background. I found this to be a refreshing change.
Lord’s world truly shines with her emphasis on lore. In The Best of All Possible Worlds, the concept of human beings is expanded and improved upon. It is best said towards the end of the book where a childhood creation story is told. It is shared that there was one god with four eggs. They each held the groundwork of humanity and the first three went to worlds we would think of as alien, each with a focus- mind, heart, and body respectively. The last, Terra or our Earth had the focus of the spirit and could combine all four aspects. Yet, our world was sealed off until this goal could be attained. Part of me wishes this explanation might’ve been shared earlier in the novel as Lord only hints that these ‘aliens’ are in fact modified humans. However, it was almost poetic for me to think of the alien only to find the similarities and I overall enjoyed this change.
One of the other most fascinating lore aspects was the emphasis on psyonic ability. Lord masterfully showed cultures where meditation was revered and the outcome was a more advanced brain power, mainly an ability of telepathy. This concept was interesting as it scientifically tested the boundaries of the mind and questioned what was projection of one’s emotions and what was true emotion.
Lord’s writing style may not be overly descriptive or thrilling but my absolute favorite scene is where Lord truly hit her stride. This scene, which showed a world of neo-opera that takes tradition and adds modernity, is the true highlight of The Best of All Possible Worlds. It is a scene which was thrilling and funny but embraced the mundane with a twist of different in the telepathic. This scene was not the only time where Lord put her twist on known practices. The other most fascinating one was how a race of aliens decided to actualize the folklore of Fairies.
The ups and downs of The Best of All Possible Worlds create an intriguing story of Science Fiction. With a beautiful meld of new and old, Lord brings to life a world which many will find compelling. There is an aspect for everyone, the romance fan, the science fiction fan and the reader looking for something new. Though lord did not always convey her vision perfectly, her concept was so intriguing that I could barely put it down and am glad (apart from the vague ending) that I went along for the ride.