The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen LordAfter the genocide that destroyed their homeworld and wiped out most of their race, the remaining Sadiri, few and scattered, settle on the planet Cygnus Beta in an attempt to not only survive but to rebuild their society anew. By reading the blurb on the back of the cover, the premise of the novel seems, and certainly is, dark. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord deals with decidedly gloomy themes, but surprisingly it is, in fact, a light and often humorous story centred on one of the Sadiri men, Dllenahkh, and a native to Cygnus Beta, Grace Delura, whose boring government job becomes much more interesting once she is assigned to work with Dllenahkh to help the Sadiri build their settlement on Cygnus Beta.

Not unexpectedly, these two soon take a lot more than a strictly professional interest in each other and the novel develops into more of a giddy romance story than anything else. It makes an for interesting contrast and while I have to say that Lord is certainly using these stereotypes – Grace is basically the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Dllenahkh's tall, tortured and stoic – a lot more deftly than is the norm, I have quite frankly had my fill of these formulaic love stories.

It also seems a bit of a waste, because for the most part Lord is definitely not an author to retort to lazy stereotypes and formulaic storytelling. Her worldbuilding is impressive and interesting and a far cry from the usual white-washed and americanized futuristic societies that the SF-genre is all too saturated with. Furthermore, she handles the effects the Sadiri genocide and subsequent settlement on Cygnus Beta very well. While I normally do not mind the inclusion of a romance plot in the slightest, as long as it is done well, the fact that the love story is given precedence in the text is where most of my consternation with the novel can be found.

For me it seems a little bit like The Best of All Possible Worlds is somewhat struggling to decide what story it wants to tell. With such an interesting premise, why not focus more on the many issues this premise raises in regards to for example sexuality, reproduction, and gender politics? The Sadiri are basically settling on Cygnus Beta in order to marry women and reproduce, so those issues are very much present in the novel but never really addressed directly. That's what I had expected the novel to focus on when I began reading it, which probably is the root of the problem: The Best of All Possible Worlds is simply not the book I expected to find when I began reading it and thus it disappointed me. That is not to say that the novel does not have it merits, because it does, but it succeeded more in making me interested Lord's other works than engaged in whatever story it is trying to settle on telling.