The Best of All Possible Worlds involves a science fiction setting vaguely reminiscent of Ursula LeGuin’s Hainish novels (mostly because the worldbuilding involves a loose federation of related humanoid species). Our protagonist is a woman named Delarua who has the task of assisting refugees settling on her home planet. During the course of the novel, she has various adventures and eventually enters a relationship with one of the refugees, a man named Dllenanakh. She also gets into a nasty family situation and an even nastier political one.
The primary focus of the novel is on the slowly developing relationship between Delarua and Dllenanakh with the journey to various communities serving as a backdrop. For various reasons I was strongly reminded of the events of the Star Trek reboot, because Dllenanakh’s people the Sadiri are strongly reminiscent of Vulcans and Dllenanakh’s people end up on Delaruah’s home world because an ethnic group related to the Sadiri much the way Romulans are related to Vulcans decided to destroy the Sadiri homeworld. (Also, Sadiri are touch-telepaths, have mental bonds with their spouses and are extremely emotionally reserved. Yes, of course I’m going to think “oh my goodness, they’re Vulcan!”)
I really liked the relationship between Delarua and Dllenanakh, though Lord occasionally dipped into the territory of “Conflicts that would be resolved if the characters actually spoke to each other,” territory. (The visits at least were very brief, so it wasn’t actually that much of an issue.) I also liked some of the more surreal moments, such as the community who had decided to replace their culture with fairy folklore from Earth. (As in the community, which had been plagued by a very lengthy feud between two clans decided that they would become Sidhe and the two clans became the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, which doesn’t make any sense because it just seems like they repackaged their feud, but it seemed to work for them, so…)
While I definitely enjoyed the book, which had some great moments, I also feel that the book wandered around a little too much as far as plot was concerned. I had the definite impression that a great deal of story was being crammed into a space much too small for it. The storyline alternately bopped around and then dragged in a way that left me feeling extremely impatient. Some of the more “mystical” elements of the story didn’t really interest me, and I would have liked a little more background and detail about both Dlenanakh and Delarua’s family problems.