The Best of All Possible Worlds ~ Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds is lying face up on a bed of small, bright purple flowers with green stems
Image description: The Best of All Possible Worlds is lying face up on a bed of small, bright purple flowers with green stems.

The Sadiri people are considered the best and the brightest in the universe, but even the highest peaks of civilisation can be toppled by brute violence. After the destruction of his home planet, the Sadiri leader Dllenahkh works with local authorities on Cyngus Beta to find a home for the remaining of his people. Alongside him is Grace Delarua, a civil servant and scientist who takes on Dllenahkh’s purpose as her own. Together they travel across Cyngus Beta, visiting every secluded valley in search of the people most genetically and culturally like the remaining Sadiri.

The pleasure I got out of this meticulous book cannot be put into words. I have already waxed lyrical about how much I like a good civil servant story, especially in space, and The Best of All Possible Worlds is just this. The story is told somewhat episodically as Grace, Dllenahkh, and their team travel across Cyngus Beta meeting people and slowly trying to get into their good graces. You get to see both the slow process of learning to know a culture, and how the machinery of government works in this universe. The situation Lord places Grace and co in are also inventive, paying particular attention to social and cultural quirks. This kind of detail-oriented storytelling is just my jam.

We also get the chance to get to know our team, especially Grace. Through meeting the Sadiri, Grace builds confidence and acquires a social network strong enough to face past traumas. Dllenahkh and his fellow Sadiri also grieve for the loss of their planet. The Sadiri will obviously have to adapt to their new circumstances, but the book never questions the motive of the Sadiri: Re-building their culture, with their own customs, and if possible, with people genetically similar to themselves. Carving out a place that reminds you of home is a way of healing from your displacement, one I think every immigrant can relate to.

If I were to nitpick anything, I would say that the book is somewhat heteronormative, never suggesting the presence of queer relationships (to my memory) and not questioning what to do with the young Sadiri that do not wish to take spouses they can genetically reproduce with. I am a little disappointed at this, as I think it would have been an interesting and very relevant problem to tackle. This is ultimately not somewhere Lord chooses to go with her story. Some of the Sadiri cultural practices also smack of current day patriarchal structures, without that necessarily being interrogated.

As always, civil servants in space have my heart and soul. I cannot recommend it enough to people that feel the same way.

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