Another nominee for best novella, Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson has appealing qualities like its dealing with issues of complete happiness and the impossibility of achieving that and a decent ending, but one has to wonder if this novella is one of the best of the year as it appeared on the Rabid Puppies "list" of top choices. I enjoyed many parts of this story and have little doubt that Sanderson is a great writer. I had first heard of him as the one chosen to complete The Wheel of Time series, which I am only on the fourth book of currently.
The concept of the story is brilliant with brains floating in chemicals allowed to live out chosen fantasies in their States that allow them to be the heroes of worlds or great beings. There seemed to be a lot more to explore that the novella doesn't have time to address. The story focuses on one brain named Kai, there is a longer name I don't remember, who is forced to propagate the species with another female brain. The logistics of producing new brains is glossed over, and Kai comes off as boyishly shy when addressing intercourse.
It's fitting that the character is unsure of himself even as in his own world he has had harems, he's still technically, in reality, a virgin. I thought the description of Kai's own world very cool and wouldn't have minded reading more about his ascent to the title of God Emperor of his fantasy state. I would have also like to have seen more of the other worlds hinted at that other Liveborn, the term for the floating brains, existed in.
The philosophical implications of the novella certainly made me think more about the concept of true happiness. I liked how characters had to create conflict to keep entertained and with a feeling of purpose. The god-like runners of these virtuals worlds known as the Wode continued to gin up new issues that the Liveborn had to solve and when all of that no longer proved fruitful, they pitted them against other Liveborn in Border States.
I kind of wish I had gone into reading these stories blind without the knowledge of the vote rigging and the absurdity of the Rabid Puppies' cause. I think this story is one of the more appealing ones but I've only read three of the five so far. I read Sanderson's blog post about not withdrawing his story and I understand where he is coming from even if he is more sympathetic towards the Sad Puppies. Novella is an interesting category because a non-Puppy story slipped into the finalists. I wonder what it was like prior to this politicizing of the award but can't help finding the discussion as interesting as the stories it revolves around. I'll keep reading through the nominees and look for one that appeals to me the most before I vote. I'm excited to attend the awards this August in Kansas City and meet others who have read and thought about these issues!