The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Sadiri are a superior race. They communicate with one another telepathically and possess great mental discipline and physical strength. But when their world is destroyed, they face the same fate as any displaced people: possible extinction and the loss of their culture. As they settle on a new planet and look for suitable mates, the Sadiri hope to avoid sacrificing one for the sake of the other.
With the help of local guide and liaison, Grace Delura, the Sadiri, led by Dllenahkh, conduct a search for compatible people with whom they can guarantee the future of their race (reproduce with, but not just in a clinical sense. They are looking for wives and partners). They begin their search by looking for genetic and cultural matches and what they discover is that genes do not always tell the full story. Circumstance plays a larger role in how people live and thrive. Their search, in essence, is an anthropological study and forms an interesting backdrop to a series of events that enlighten Grace, test the Sadiri and change the perspective of both. They discover hidden cultures and wonder. The flip side is the darker aspects of humanity that no one wishes to acknowledge. Grace and Dllenahkh also learn about each other; and despite vastly different temperaments, find they have more in common than they realise.
The Best of All Possible Worlds is a lovely book. I spent some time trying to come up with a more apt descriptor, but could not. The pace is sedate, but the pages seem to turn themselves. The story is rich and involving. It unfolds slowly and thoroughly and is well punctuated with action and emotion. We get to know all the characters and their conflicting personalities help illustrate the differences between the various races. And yet, at the end, they are all people and their strengths and weaknesses are remarkably similar. Finally, the title of the book is another pleasure and it, and the story, are a neat parallel of Candide’s journey.
The Best of All Possible Worlds is the second book by Karen Lord. I have not read her first, but after enjoying this one and reading praise for her first novel, I am inspired to look for it.