Perfect State

July 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

perfectPerfect State by Brandon Sanderson


It seems like whenever I read a Brandon Sanderson novella, I learn of another Brandon Sanderson novella that’s escaped my attention. I wasn’t aware of Perfect State until I finished Snapshot, so of course I had to add it to my list. I started and finished it a lot faster than I expected.

Perfect State starts off telling us about an emperor who is immortal and all-powerful (well, almost; he’s still working on controlling the weather), but it quickly veers out of fantasy and straight into science fiction when we discover that the emperor is living in a computer simulation. This isn’t a spoiler, mind you; it’s revealed within the first ten pages or so. What makes it interesting is that the emperor knows he’s living in a simulation, and that his powers come from the master computer that runs the simulation. It hasn’t stopped him from ruling for hundreds of years and finding more and more challenges to keep him engaged. Then he receives a mandate from the master computer, to find a woman (a liveborn woman, not a Construct) and mate with her. The computer even gives him a list of available women, ranked by compatibility, to make it easier for him.

Sanderson creates an interesting world here, and it’s easy to like Kairominas, the emperor, but the story seems like it has too much wasted potential. There’s nothing extraneous to the story, mind you, but to spend so much time creating this kind of world and using it for such a brief story makes it feel underutilized. I’d like to know more about the other liveborns in their own worlds, and how they feel about being pawns in a simulation. Maybe Sanderson was trying to avoid the tropes of this kind of story, but I can’t help but feel like this is a setting ripe for a larger, more complex kind of story.

Knowing Sanderson as an author, though, there’s a good chance that he’ll revisit this world to tell those other stories. I imagine he’ll stick with telling them using novellas, which will limit the scope of the setting, but maybe he could write them as a series of its own, creating a novel-length story over the span of four or five novellas. That’s just me dreaming, though; there’s no indication this is Sanderson’s plan.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It was better than the Legion stories, but not as good as The Emperor’s Soul. It’s probably on the same level as Snapshot, which is fitting, since that’s the story that led me to Perfect State. The hardcore Sanderson fans will like it best, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an entry point for readers new to him. It just doesn’t show off his strongest talents.

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