Review of Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

25188109Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson. ★★1/2

I generally like Sanderson’s work, but I was not enthralled by this novella. The concept behind the world was clever, but I found the protagonist annoying, which might have been inevitable due to the set up of the story. The plot was mostly lackluster, although there was one twist which was good. There was also one element of it that I had some trouble with.

I’m expanding on all of the above below the cut, however I am discussing things that might be considered spoilers.

The set up for Perfect State is that at some point in the future, most of humanity exists as brains in jars, living in a personal world crafted to them, where they are inevitably the most important person. For instance, the protagonist of Perfect State is the god-emperor of a medieval fantasy world. As you might be able to imagine, he’s arrogant and annoying. It’s hard for me to care about someone who’s never had to struggle and who’s biggest problem is boredom.

The mysterious group who runs the alternate realities require the protagonist, Kai, to reproduce. And they also require (for completely unexplained reasons) that this will involve him meeting a woman from another world and having sex with her instead of just splicing their DNA together and being done with it. My guess is that this was required for purely plot reasons, to get Kai to go from one world to another, but the horrific aspect of the all powerful organization requiring people to have sex was never acknowledged or examined.

I also really disliked the woman he winds up meeting. I was trying to figure out why when it dawns on me. She’s a character type I’ve seen a billion times before. You know the story. There’s a male protagonist who doesn’t realize the flaws of the world he lives in but then meets a sexy woman who opens his eyes and gets him to rebel.

Yes, Perfect State has a twist at the end and an interesting idea behind it, but overall, it felt stale. I wouldn’t recommend bothering with it.



11 Comments Add yours

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    “There’s a male protagonist who doesn’t realize the flaws of the world he lives in but then meets a sexy woman who opens his eyes and gets him to rebel.” — one of the oldest dystopic fiction tropes in the book. It happens in Zamyatin’s We (completed 1921, published 1924) and Orwell’s 1984 (1949)…

    1. I was specifically thinking of Julia in 1984 when I was writing the review, but I knew I’d seen it before elsewhere.

      1. Joachim Boaz says:

        And Julia is almost copied from a similar character in We — I tend to think Zamyatin’s vision is the better one… But then again, I’m super for anti-Soviet SF allegories 😉

      2. I haven’t read We, but I think I came across a literary analysis paper comparing the two books when I was doing a paper on 1984.

      3. Joachim Boaz says:

        Exactly, Orwell complained that Huxley in Brave New World (1932) was plagiarizing We… But, he then turned around and wrote 1984 (1949) — and, wow, they are similar. But, 1984 certainly recast the basic plot with his own purposes in mine (plots in dystopic fiction are really really really similar!). I more concerned with the hypocrisy in his initial comment to Huxley….

  2. Sanderson is one of my favorite writer’s, and it is nominated for the Hugo this year, so that means I basically I HAVE to read it 😛 However, this is the first review I’ve read where the reviewer didn’t like it, so now I’ll be very curious to see how I feel about it.

    1. Yeah, the reviews for it on Goodreads are pretty positive on average. You may very well like it.

      I generally like Sanderson’s work, but I’d pick this and Warbreaker out as my least favorites.

    2. Joachim Boaz says:

      well, be aware that Sanderson was one of the Sad Puppy slate nominees….

      1. True, but I wasn’t reading reviews written for it by the Sad Puppies, it was from bloggers I commonly read and respect. Plus, I don’t really have problem with the SP this year in how they took recommendations to create a recommendation list. It’s the Rabid I don’t like who are going out of their to destroy the Hugo’s by putting certain work on their ballot that clearly doesn’t belong there and along with deserving works in the hope they will BOTH be put under “no award” and claim it a win. Or A “deserving” work will win and they will claim it was because of them. :/

        All in all, it’s incredibly stupid and childish. Can’t wait to see why type of changes are going to made to voting process for next years ballots.

      2. Joachim Boaz says:

        Ok, I am simply stating that is the reason he is on the short list….

      3. He was already popular well before the Sad/Rabid puppies started having an effect. His novella “Emperor’s Soul” received a nomination before all the shenanigans started up.

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