November 24th, 2012, 01:10 PM
The Best of all Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
a fast minireview: it was surprisingly good - unusual in some ways, Vancian in some other ways with unusual 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.
a bit unexpectedly, I really really enjoyed this novel as it is quite original in some ways and i wish more sf today would be like it; a top 25 of 2013 and a full coherent review closer to publication date