The Best of All Possible Worlds. Book Review

Best_of_All_P_Worlds_305THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS by Karen Lord

Jo Fletcher Books, h/b, £12.80

Reviewed by Laurel Sills

Dllenahkh is a sober, wise, practical Sadiri man, who is playing a central role in building his people back up after a terrible disaster. Grace Delarua, a chirpy, quick thinking female linguist, is assigned to support Dllenahkh through this period of adjustment. Together they make a solid if unlikely partnership.

We see this unfold from both Dllenahkh and Delarua’s perspectives. Dllenahkh (whilst having an annoyingly unpronounceable name) is an interesting, rounded, layered character. Here Lord uses poetic imagery and beautiful phrasing, which colours the world seen through his eyes in a way that feels very suited to his personality. I was disappointed that Dllenahkh’s sections were so few, as I found Lord’s writing in this style particularly lovely.

Whilst The Best of All Possible Words is certainly not Young Adult, Delarua, who’s point of view takes up the majority of the book, has a decidedly youthful voice, which did ring at odds with her age and position for me at first. I think that maybe Lord is accentuating Delarua’s emotions and lightness of tone to contrast with Dllenahkh’s control and gravity. Here Lord sacrifices detail in order to be true to what Delarua would notice. This is a brave thing to do, because I could tell from sections with Dllenahkh that Lord is very good at delicate detail, unusual imagery and creating a solid sense of place, which I found slightly lacking in Delarua’s sections. However, as I got used to the two personalities, this became less of an issue for me.

In fact about halfway through the novel Lord seems to really find her feet, and suddenly I felt safe in her hands and able to relax into the story. The first half of the book covers a lot of time very quickly, and I feel that as a reader I would have appreciated perhaps focusing in on some of the adventures more and honing in on a deeper level of attention to detail.

The Best Of All Possible Worlds looks at issues such as adjustment, mourning, love, and to some extent asylum – how people have to change and rework their social patterns and ways of life in order to deal with a completely alien environment. In particular it is about a culture that suddenly has a surplus of men, and looks at what sort of difficulties this might create.

While Lord has incorporated all of these themes, it is essentially a light, easy to read boy-meets-girl narrative. I appreciated the build up and soft realisation of the romance from an adult’s perspective, rather than the usual tumultuous star crossed lovers angle that often focuses on younger protagonists.

I think it would have been interesting to look more closely at the difficulties different cultures can have living side-by-side. In the world Lord has created, people from different planets and races have settled on Cygnus Beta, mostly staying segregated in isolated communities, except for in the few cities, where they have mingled into some kind of liberal governing body. Despite having vastly different values and ways of life (everything from something resembling medieval serfdom to an approximation of fairy) they largely live peacefully side by side. When the Sadiri come to settle, everything possible is done to accommodate them. As we know, this unfortunately isn’t normally how people receive newcomers. Even though this is a completely constructed world – although it is touched upon a little by Delarua – I felt like more could have been done to explain why people were so open minded and culturally tolerant.

Having said that, this is me picking at what is essentially a very well thought out, well written book, that is certainly worth having a look at.