Friday, March 10, 2023

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Karen Lord
Completed 3/10/2023, Reviewed 3/10/2023
3 stars

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I read Lord’s first novel, Redemption in Indigo.  It was a retelling of a Senegalese myth, award-winning and masterfully done.  This second novel is a jump over to the SF side.  It was inspired by the devastating tsunami in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in 2014, along with some stories by Ray Bradbury.  However, it didn’t grab me the way Indigo did.  I had several issues with the book, namely, keeping track of all the names.  I also didn’t care for the episodic nature of book.  But it had its moments of brilliance, just not nearly enough of them.

Grace Delarua is a linguist working on Cygnus Beta, a home of various strains of humanity who have been refugees from another place.  Grace is brought on to work with the incoming Sadira, all-male survivors of a terrible invasion that devastated their planet and their female population.  She travels with a team including Dllenahkh, a refugee from Sadira, to find homesteads and a solution to their wifelessness.  

The main differences between the different lines of humanity living on Cygnus Beta include, of course, the physical, and also psionic ability.  Grace comes from a line that doesn’t generally have much, but Dllenahkh does.  When all the episodic adventures are stripped away, the book is a slow-paced romance between these two despite their differences.

I kind of liked Grace and Dllenahkh.  Grace was goofy next to Dllenahkh’s stoic cultural nature.  The book tackles some intense issues including genocide and human trafficking.  At one point, Grace takes a stand on one of these issues, jeopardizing her job on the mission.  She is a strong woman despite the goofiness that comes through most of the time.  Sometimes, I did find it a little difficult to get really serious on these issues as we see them through Grace’s perspective.  I thought this was a flaw in the writing, which wasn’t always as tight as I thought it could be.  It was much easier to take things more seriously  through Dllenahkh’s perspective as he was almost Vulcan in his stoic nature.  

I had trouble identifying with all the secondary characters.  There were many of them, with many different names.  I regularly lost track of who was who, what their ancestral line was, and sometimes, whether they were male or female.  This was a shame because there was even a non-binary character, but I could not remember their name.  I often confused it with the name of the male who was romantically interested in them.

All in all, I was pretty meh about this book.  I was disappointed after being wowed by Indigo.  I do have an old Advanced Reading Copy of the sequel, The Galaxy Game, which I’ll probably read soon, just to give Lord another chance.  In general, I think she has a good vision and imagination.  And she comes from the new wave of Caribbean women authors of the past twenty years.  I think she and they have a lot to offer in creativity and perspective in fantasy and science fiction.  I give this book three stars out of five.

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