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Originally published Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 4:06 AM

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‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’: after total destruction, a tentative romance

Karen Lord’s novel “The Best of All Possible Worlds” is the bracing sci-fi story of an alien recovering from his home planet’s destruction.

Special to The Seattle Times

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‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’

by Karen Lord

Del Rey, 320 pp., $25

While many a science-fiction novel describes the interstellar war which wipes out its hero’s home planet, Caribbean author Karen Lord’s “The Best of All Possible Worlds” tells how such a war’s survivors recover.

Spock-like alien Dllenahkh hears the news of his home’s destruction while honing his mental skills at a monastic retreat circling another sun. His superior intellect can’t help him comprehend the enormous scope of the attack’s casualties: “Your mother, and my mother, and ... everyone,” his friend tells him.

Working at posts scattered across the galaxy when the disaster strikes, the mostly male remnants of Dllenahkh’s people decide to settle on the sparsely inhabited planet of Cygnus Beta. After suffering through interactions with Cygnian women as awkward as the confrontations on a daytime TV talk show, Dllenahkh and his fellows welcome the help of biotechnician Grace Delarua in finding suitable mates.

Lord nurtures the growing spark of romance between Dllenahkh and Delarua with a bracingly unsentimental touch, staying true to the voices of both: the refugee’s carefully restrained grief, and the impulsive fervor of the career woman moved by his mind. Combined with adventures such as a battle against the rebirth of chattel slavery and the exploration of a ruined underground city, this makes “The Best of All Possible Worlds” the nourishing and delightful equivalent of Chicken Soup for the Nerdish Soul. Lord skips the clichés but gives SF readers everything they might want in a novel, including elements they may not have known they were missing.

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