Karen Lord, "The Blue, Beautiful World" (Del Rey, 2023)


In science fiction, aliens who come to Earth are usually scary and menacing, aspiring to destroy, conquer, or even eat mankind. But the aliens in Karen Lord’s The Blue, Beautiful World (Del Rey, 2023) aren’t interested in conquering or destroying; they’re interested in inviting Earthlings to join a Galactic Council.

It turns out, however, that humans need a little time and training before they’re ready to assume the responsibilities of galactic citizenship. And complicating matters is the fact that humans might not be the only Earth dwellers to receive the aliens’ invitation.

It’s not surprising that water and oceans figure prominently in Lord’s novel. As a Barbadian writer, she has a lifelong respect—and fear—of the water.

“I'm kind of terrified of the ocean,” Lord said. “To give you context, there is literally a part of the island that you can drive to and look around and see three coastlines. But you can't see any other land from any of the coasts. It's an oddly isolating feeling, like you're standing tiptoe on a small rock—and you could tip over and crash into the ocean anytime.

“I love living here, but when something bad goes down, it's like, boom, all of a sudden you realize the ocean is not your natural habitat. It's not making things easy for you. We are very much living on the skin part of land. We don't know the ocean. We don't know the surface of the ocean. We don't know the depths of the ocean. There is a huge level of respect and mystery that the ocean commands.”

The Blue, Beautiful World is Lord's fifth novel. Her previous books are Redemption in Indigo, which received the William L. Crawford and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. That was followed later by a sequel, Unraveling. While The Blue, Beautiful World is considered a standalone story, it is set in the Cygnus Beta universe, which is where two of her previous books, The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game, are also set.

Rob Wolf is a writer and host of New Books in Science Fiction.

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Rob Wolf is a writer and host of New Books in Science Fiction.

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