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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful masterpiece of a novel - but mellow in plot and subtle in tone
The Best of all Possible Worlds is a slightly strange novel. I suspect that I did not quite comprehend everything that's in it. The back story is treated as so incidental that I occasionally felt a little lost.

The novel begins with a bit of a shock: a disaster / genocide has befallen a race of humanoid aliens. One branch of the remnants from the disaster is...
Published 22 months ago by Federhirn

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fragmentary
The concept of this book is very interesting, as are the characters. It is also quite well-written. The main problem I had with it was that it had a strangely episodic pacing, that gave it the feel of a collection of one-shots rather than a complete novel in its own right. There are some serious gaps in the storyline: a chapter will end on a cliffhanger and the next...
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful masterpiece of a novel - but mellow in plot and subtle in tone, 16 Feb 2013
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The Best of all Possible Worlds is a slightly strange novel. I suspect that I did not quite comprehend everything that's in it. The back story is treated as so incidental that I occasionally felt a little lost.

The novel begins with a bit of a shock: a disaster / genocide has befallen a race of humanoid aliens. One branch of the remnants from the disaster is now starting a colony on an Earth-like planet that is a kind of refuge for races and nations from across the universe. All are human(ish), and they either live in little colonies and settlements on the frontier, or in big urban cities. There, we meet Grace Delarua, a bubbly civil servant / scientist / researcher, who liaises with the newly arrived aliens. After a while, they decide to form an expedition to sample and meet many of the colonies on the frontier, to check for genetic and societal compatibility, in order to start a breeding programme to revive the near extinct race.

All of which sounds bewildering and high-concept and somewhere outside my usual reading zone. But, truth to be told, this is not really a novel about plot. Or rather: I ended up finding the plot incredibly incidental. The start is slow and confusing. Most of the middle is taken up with an episodic "meet culture, experience reaction, move on" or "have travelling adventure, experience reaction, move on" type chapters. It's a bit like watching a slide show or a nature documentary. Curious, but not perhaps hugely memorable. Some people seem to be very taken with the fact that the Fair Folk make an appearance of sorts, but I had no reaction to that chapter whatsoever. I think part of the reason is that our main characters are scientists, and therefore a little detached, even when in the middle of a grand adventure. The mood of the book is, at times, a little like the music video to the song "Little Talks" by the band "Of Monsters and Men": wide-eyed wonder and joyful adventuring, but with a sense of detachment.

Perhaps the best way to sum up the plot is this: it reads like a sightseeing tour, a record of explorers, travelling and encountering people. There are no heroes, no villains, and even though there is nominally a point to the explorations, there is no sense that this is a quest.

Where the book really comes together is in the relationship between the explorers on the expedition. Richly realised, complex, grown up and human. Characters are drawn with a light touch and huge writerly elegance. More importantly, this is a piece without villains, so while there might be occasional tensions, and some characters don't really like each other all that much, they all work together, they're all mostly professional (with occasional human moments), and they all have, for want of a better word, souls.

But even the story of character relationships is not some operatic tale: it is a very mellow book, with very mellow developments and movements. There are many very human moments in the story, little, endearing, amusing moments, and also disturbing and cruel moments. Dialogue sparkles. There is genuine-seeming rapport between characters, and authentic frictions that don't always have specific reasons. Occasionally, characters fall under the influence of stimulants or telepathy or other factors, and I can honestly say that I am in awe of the writing skill in creating these scenes, where the narration becomes a little less reliable, and where the reader is left to reconsruct and reinterpret things by themselves after the scenes have taken place. The book trusts readers' intelligence, and it deserves multiple readings.

The prose is excellent. The characterisation is excellent. The plot is not perhaps for everyone - it is quite mellow and never really builds up great tension - but the episodic, exposition-rich nature of it is carried out very well.

There are things I am still unclear about - I don't get the (title) reference to Candide, some of the races and their motivations / characteristics befuddle me (What are the taSadiri again? And who did what to the Sadiri and why?), and some of the mythology towards the end felt a little forced and pointless to me, but despite all that, it is a fantastic novel, showing great craftsmanship in its writing and great humanity. I am sure that I will re-read this book in future to get a better sense of all the background and references that I did not quite absorb properly in my first reading. But I am also sure that the novel is an acquired taste: it is very subtle and mellow for a science fiction novel. However, rest assured that it is never pretentious and a pure joy to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fragmentary, 11 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Best of All Possible Worlds (Hardcover)
The concept of this book is very interesting, as are the characters. It is also quite well-written. The main problem I had with it was that it had a strangely episodic pacing, that gave it the feel of a collection of one-shots rather than a complete novel in its own right. There are some serious gaps in the storyline: a chapter will end on a cliffhanger and the next chapter begins days or weeks later, when the situation has been resolved, and we never get the full story about how the crisis was resolved. At some point I started to wonder if my file (I read it as an e-book) was damaged somehow and I was missing one third of the content.

It actually reminded me of some excellent fan-fiction I have read: sometimes a fan-fiction author will write a series of one-shots that are AU from the canon storyline. This book reads as if the writer took their one-shots, arranged them in chronological order, did some slight rewrites to fill in the biggest holes and called it a novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and Fun, 7 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Best of All Possible Worlds (Hardcover)
Absolutely wonderful - the first adult science fiction novel in years that I've really, truly loved. The Best of All Possible Worlds has an intense sense of wonder, and the kind of fascinating anthropological feel of an Ursula K. LeGuin novel, but with an absolutely delicious sense of humor and fun (not to mention a fabulous narrative voice) - and oh, do I love the romance subplot! The whole book is so smart and so much *fun* - I absolutely ate it up, and when I was finished, I actually went straight back to the beginning and started to read it all over again! I just couldn't think of anything that would be as much fun as re-reading it straight away.

I hope Karen Lord keeps writing science fiction forever and ever. I am definitely a fan!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely delightful surprise, 9 Dec 2014
A genuinely delightful surprise, Karen Lord's The Best Of All Possible Worlds is, well, the best of all possible worlds. A science fiction book that neither bores it's reader with intricacies of real-world science, nor goes too far beyond the world of plausible imagination. It remains grounded, largely due to the expertly crafted and incredibly human relationships between characters. Having read other reviews that described the plot as broadly meandering, I have to agree, but it was not unpleasantly so. In fact it was the meandering that made this otherwise fantastical story of aliens and psychics and space travel so accessible. It all felt so normal. A particular delight is the slowly and more importantly realistically developing relationship between the main characters - not just the him'n'her romantic pairing, but the subtle dynamics that build up between the entire group of characters.

If I had once criticism (that robbed the book of it's fifth star) it's that Lord at times breezes over her world too quickly. Whilst repeated, extensive info-dumps tend to put off a reader, I found myself wishing she would explain a little more; not because I couldn't understand the world, but because I was genuinely interested enough to want to know more about it.

For those who prefer long exposition to illustrate an unfamiliar world to them, I cannot recommend this book. Lord very much adopts a 'pick up and run with it' approach to the story, with characters bandying about phrases and racial preconceptions as though the reader is one of their own. However, it was this that I found so engaging as it allowed the reader just enough to get by, and letting them fill in the details of the wider universe on their own. It is refreshing to be allowed to speculate about the characters and their culture, rather than spoon-fed the information, and you find yourself at the end of the book wishing all the best of the characters and their futures.

I was happily engrossed by this book for two days - and that included (I confess) skipping ahead to find out if the love story worked out ok, then going back and finishing the book properly, then re-reading the key moments of the love story. Rarely has a relationship been wrought in a novel so lacking in drama, and yet so utterly compelling.

If you've already read the book; I hope you enjoyed it to. If you haven't; I hope you enjoy it in the future! :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtle study of differences and tolerance, 21 Mar 2013
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Good to see the tradition of using sci-fi and fantasy to look at how societies and peoples interact is being continued. I enjoy a good space opera as much as the next person, but it's a pleasure to have a change of pace.

I also enjoyed the author's 'Redemption in Indigo' although this is in the vein of magical realist folk tale rather than sci-fi. Karen Lord is definitely joining my list of 'must-read' authors.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing for Redemption in Indigo fans, 1 Sep 2014
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Poor story, poorly told. Such a shame that the writer chose to publish something that may have been written simply as an exercise in churning out x number of words per day. Two stars as opposed to one as I wouldn't want to put people off reading the author's other work which is far more carefully crafted. Puts this book into sharp relief.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can we retroactively hand her all of the 2013 awards, 30 Jun 2014
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ABShaef "ashaef" (Durham) - See all my reviews
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Have you ever had such glowing things to say about a book that you struggled to find the right words? Yeah. That. That's where I am with Karen Lord's [insert word of glowing praise here] novel. So, rather than try to find the right adjectives, let me note what I most loved about this novel. There may be some spoilers in what follows, so proceed with caution.

* Lord obviously respects her readers' intelligence. She doesn't take the time to infodump or explain everything. This is a true first-person narrative in the sense that the narrator knows things and her imagined audience knows those things too, so why would she explain them? Lord expects her readers to put the pieces together into a coherent whole and I love that.

* I love that this is a very human story set against a remarkable backdrop. The focus is on two people and the story of how they slowly fall in love. Lord explores a unique universe full of sci-fi awesomeness, but that is all just background for the relationship forming between these two characters we come to love, admire, and root for. Brilliantly done.

* The Best of All Possible Worlds. Wow. When the mindships' capabilities are explored for the first time, the title takes on a whole new significance. I don't know if Lord was exploring in story the philosophy and theology behind Luis de Molina's attempts to reconcile God's sovereignty with human free will, but that is where my mind went. The title and the tragedy makes me suspect this was Lord's intention and when I made the connection, I had to set the book down and think.

* And yet, the novel was so very readable! We're introduced to lots of new terminology and yet Lord helps us to understand as she invites us to inhabit this imagined world.

* It was funny, fascinating, fun, and so very enjoyable.

When award season rolled around, I would have handed over all of the 2013 awards to Lord. This novel deserves them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well this was a nice surprise, 5 May 2014
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Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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There were certain familiar trends in this book which were done very nicely. The Sardiri are a human(oid) race whose mental discipline and rigourous emotional control have led them to be regarded as the intellectual leaders of the explored galaxy. Remind you you of anyone? However the Sardiri do not live long and prosper, because their homeworld is destroyed leaving only those travellers, scientists and explorers who were off planet at the time. Now the race must repopulate and in order to do so they are exploring a settled world where Sardiri ancestors came, in the hope that there is sufficient genetic there.

This tale is of the research party that explores the world and told from the point of view of a civil servant assisting the party. Karen Lord has told a romantic adventure with real style. The reading is so easy that one wonders how long she took to polish the dialogue. The story reveals surprises as native and Sardiri discover more about each other.

This is a nice, good quality book. I wish some other authors would take lessons.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic high-concept sci-fi, 26 Feb 2014
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S. Peake (UK) - See all my reviews
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Reminiscent of Zelazny/Le Guin. Great world building, novel ideas, interesting story and well written relationships. This is my first Karen Lord novel, looking forward to trying more
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5.0 out of 5 stars New author for me and I loved it, 1 Sep 2013
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I found out about this author from SFX magazine, I have picked up books from there and enjoyed so I thought I woul: give this author a try.

I not going to use spoiler but I did enjoy this tale of a clash of cultures very much. I would recommend her if you either are a massive sci-fi fan or ae new to the genre. Lord contracts vivid landscapes and interesting characters and is well worth a try
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The Best of All Possible Worlds
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (Hardcover - 31 Jan 2013)
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