Brandon Sanderson is known chiefly for his novels, but in recent years he has become one of the better novella writers of today. The Emperor’s Soul even won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 2013. Perfect State, published by Dragonsteel Entertainment on March 31, 2015, may be his best novella yet.
Kairominas of Alornia is the God-Emperor of his State. He has ruled the world for nearly a century and is almost four hundred years old. Kai acts as a first-person narrator for Perfect State and his voice, while jarring from time to time due to linguistic patterns that span several centuries of real time, is excellent overall. His character arc was constructed almost flawlessly. The other main characters are given all of the flavor you could ask for and even the few named characters who only exist on the page for a single scene have their own distinct personalities. Sanderson hit it out of the park with characterization in this novella, despite having less than ninety pages to work with.
For readers who do not consume fantasy and/or science fiction on a regular basis, Perfect State may be confusing for the first ten or twenty pages. It has one of the steepest “learning curves” of any work of fiction I’ve ever read. The setting is very complex and layered. Fantasy and sci-fi buffs will likely appreciate how it takes well-worn themes from the genres and makes them fresh and intriguing. Sanderson is known for his settings and magic systems, but this one should really impress.
There are two main plotlines in Perfect State. The first is that Kai has a nemesis who is constantly sending threatening messages to him and sometimes other dangers. The second is that Kai has been contacted by an external force and commanded to go to another realm in order to procreate. This novella contains mild violence and sensuality. It never goes beyond that. The two plotlines are paced beautifully and intertwine as well as any writer could hope.
If I were to give Perfect State a grade, it would be a 96%. Fans of sci-fi and/or fantasy will probably like it the most, but anyone who enjoys reading stories set in a world very different from our own will likely find this novella very entertaining. Perfect State is available from several online vendors for $2.99. At this time, it is only being sold in e-book format.