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The Best of All Possible Worlds Paperback – 1 May 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780871686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780871684
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 470,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Karen Lord's second novel carries deliberate echoes of Ray Bradbury's classic Mars colonisation stories. It's refined, meditative and life-affirming, and its exploration of gender politics and ethnology confirms Lord as the natural heiress to Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin' Financial Times. (Financial Times)

'A rewarding, touching and often funny exploration of the forms and functions of human culture. Plus, it has flying monks - a universally improving ingredient!' SFX. (SFX)

'The author is clearly a class apart, and doubly so in terms of her prose ... Utterly astonishing' Tor.com. (Torcom)

Book Description

The Sadiri were once the galaxy's ruling élite, but now their home planet has been rendered unlivable and most of the population destroyed. The few groups living on other worlds are desperately short of Sadiri women, and their extinction looks imminent...

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Customer Reviews

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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.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can only agree with the other 5 star reviews for this book: exceedingly well written, with believable, well-rounded characters. It would be wrong to say that nothing happens, because it does, but any 'action' is really incidental to the beautifully crafted relationship between the characters. I've not quite finished the book as I write this and I'm trying to make it last: I'll feel bereft when I have to leave Karen Lord's world. I read a lot, and this will definitely go on my favourites list.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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