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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spotlight on an Unexpectedly Superb 2013 Title: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

"A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all."

In February of 2013, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord will be published by Del Rey in the US and by Jo Fletcher Books in the UK. As I have finished the novel a few days ago (an e-arc courtesy of Net Galley and Random House) and I was very impressed, while February is still a long way to go, I decided to offer a spotlight mini-discussion now, while I will have a full coherent review closer to publication date as this novel deserves as high an audience as possible.

The novel was unusual in some ways, Vancian in some other ways with strange cultures on a planet.

The setup is very interesting - humanity exists throughout the Galaxy but in a few different flavors all having different levels/kinds of psionic powers and of which the cool intellectual telepaths Sadiri are at the peak in many ways as pilots of semi-sentient ftl ships, judges, Councillors etc; Terra is mostly in quarantine but on Cygnus-Beta, described as a galactic hinterland for pioneers and refugees there is a mixture of human races, cultures etc with the planet having a special lore of higher beings called Caretakers as founders who brought human refugees from all over there even before ftl united it

An unexpected genocidal attack on the Sadiri home planet left the mostly male pilots (and everyone who was outplanet) desperately scrambling to reconstitute the Sadiri culture but the sex imbalance means that on the planet New Sadira where the refugees settled, the cool detachment of the species breaks down in fights over mates (usually the bonding being life-long due to telepathy, plus the Sadiri themselves being very long lived also as opposed to regular humans)

So missions are sent to all planets to find Sadiri blood humans and Cygnus Beta due to its very unusual founding/mixture is a prime target

The book is a mostly first person narration from Second Assistant Grace Delarua, a mid 30's woman of quite mixed race on Cygnus Beta (and with a personal history that is slowly teased out) who finds herself working well with the Sadiri expedition and especially their leader, Councillor Dllenakh, a high powered telepath almost at pilot-level but with a troubled (as Sadiri go) personal history of his own...

So Delarua (as even she refers to herself) gets seconded to the expedition and a trek on Cygnus Beta and its myriad strange cultures follow with a lot of adventures, strangeness (including the equivalent of the Seelie and Unseelie court, aristocratic slavers, not to speak of both Grace's and Dllenakh's history coming to life in various ways...) The expedition with its mixture of Sadiri and more regular humans is quite fascinating as characters go, even beyond the main two leads.

Things happen and while the main storyline goes where we kind of see clearly it will go the book is a real delight to read.


Ivan Stoikov - Allan Bard said...

Good review! Thank you for sharing! It looks like I'm not the only one who thinks authors should strive to create new unusual plots, characters... The old like little green men, vampires, elves, dwarfs, wizards with sharp hats in the fantasy genre too are too ordinary, almost as ordinary as those we see every day on the street... I try some new in some of my books
(weightless korks, glowing, living balls, Brown faces, fiery men, one-eyeds, night fruit, rock pieces, fish-keepers, etc...) I guess they sound and look better than the usual?

Tom said...

This sounds great! I already preordered it. How different are the Sadiri from humans? I hope they're not just the stock-standard humans-but-taller-or-with-grey/blue/green/etc-skin.

Liviu said...

There are 4 strands of humanity (Terrans are but one) and there is a lot of intermixing; the Sadiri are strong telepaths partly genetically partly the way society is structured, and also they are longer lived, but outwardly the differences are not pronounced - it is more a matter of dress, pheromones, augmentation or lack of such (another strand, the Zhinuvians who are have also ftl pilots are into e-augmentation and their starships are what we usual think of rather than the semi-sentient ones of the Sadiri who are like living beings) etc

The differences are fundamentally sociological - the people who attack the Sadiri home planet are on ofshoot of the Sadiri who were exiled long ago and kept a grudge while moving away from telepathy into tech

The universe is very complex and we just scratch the surface here

Fran├žois-Xavier Thomas said...

Definitely sounds interesting! I'm going to give it a try once I'm finished with my current book ;)

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