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Perfect State Release Thread (Spoilers!)

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Post your comments of Perfect State here! There will be many spoilers here, so don't look farther if you don't wish to see them.

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I was finishing up The Color of Magic last night, trying to make sure I was done with it before Perfect State come out, and - as luck would have it - about 15 minutes after I had turned the last (digital) page of The Color of Magic, I received an email from the Google Play Store that my preorder was ready. I jumped right in, read half of it before going to bed, and the other half in the train to work.

 

It's hard for me to be negative about Brandon's works - not because I feel some kind of reader-writer loyalty (though I certainly do), but because I legitimately see very few issues with his books.

 

Take this one, for example.

 

Inter-character relationships worked out wonderfully - Kai and Shale's conversations show the type of banter I've learned to associate with Brandon's writing, and it works really well for me. Kai and Sophie talk in a way I wouldn't at all mind talking with my future hypothetical date, girlfriend, or wife. The ideas (mostly) she brings up are thought-provoking in our world, and they would be even more relevant as we advance technologically. I think I would side with Kai, were I in his position (i.e. achievements are real even if the circumstances that led to them were not), but I am not sure. And that's the beauty of it - I did pause to think about what I would do if I had been the main character; that, to me, is one of the most important measures of a story, be it book, show, movie, song, etc.

 

Speaking of Sophie - loved the twist in the end! I should've expected it, I should've known that Brandon wouldn't write a book where the climax was "the hero defeats the monster by being extraordinarily clever," this is a boring ending for his books. Melhi's* plan to play with Kai's emotions, and potentially sanity, was pretty surprising. I don't know what to say about it - I liked it, but I can't find the words to express exactly why.

 

Most of all, however, I felt the lack of things. 40 pages are, I think, just not enough for Brandon to show us everything he has developed, and that leaves me wanting for more. Much more. Molly, Kai's - I would guess - first love. Lancing and Lancesight - gods, how it smarts to not know anything about how the magic works in one of Brandon's books! Melhi - did he really do everything he's did because of an insult? And the world! How did humanity get to the place it got to? What are some of the other Liveborn's States like? Who are the Wode? I have to admit, I felt that Brandon's other novellas offered more closure than this one, even though I (think I) liked this one more than the others.

 

Melhi is a male, right? The Wode use "she" on the very last page, but that's the only time, so I think that may be a typo. Or another plot twist.

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I really liked it.

The shorter length worked really well for me, for multiple reasons. I didn't pay any attention to the status bar as I read, so I had no sense of how close I was to the end, so the conclusion surprised me. I was expecting at least one more sequence, with surprising institutional revelations/accomplishments. Instead the story was about Kai.

That's another point in favor of the length. A story about the society and discovering/subverting expectations would have needed more space, but for the more intimate story we were given it is just right.

The other reason is mostly personal; work is super busy and I really shouldn't have bought this to read. Fewer words means less guilt about indulging in some recreational reading.

I think the reason Melhi's plan is so satisfying is that it reveals a deep and unexpectedly insightful understanding of Kai. Melhi knew what would affect him, anticipated what he would do, and provided multiple levels of manipulation to get "revenge". This snaps Melhi into focus as a character, where before there was just a shadowy antagonist with boring motivations. For a story at least in part about the lack of interaction between people who live in their own perfect States, Kai and Melhi have a true connection.

Agent, I was also under the impression that Melhi was male, but I don't specifically remember other pronouns. I'll have to go back and check when I have time, unless someone gets to it first.

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Agent, I was also under the impression that Melhi was male, but I don't specifically remember other pronouns. I'll have to go back and check when I have time, unless someone gets to it first.

 

From the last page:

We apologize for the trauma you have been put through. Melhi will be disciplined. We do not know how she hacked that State; it should not have been possible. You are released from propagation duty, per a unanimous judgment. You may return to your rule.
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Yes, I meant earlier in the book. I had thought there were some "he" references before that, but I'm not sure. That would tell us if it's an internal error or just bad assumptions.

Edit:

Melhi was still smarting after what I’d done to him at Lecours

Kai thinks Melhi is male, so either Kai was mistaken, or there is an error. Edited by ccstat
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From page 22:

 

I first met Melhi in a Border State, though I can’t even be sure it was him I talked to.

 

And then 24:

 

The robot had turned its massive, red-eyed head our direction. This was by far the largest one Melhi had ever sent after me.

“damnation,” she said. “Your friend is probably monitoring this State for irregularities. Anything I do will alert him.”

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I thought it was intentional that we see Melhi was female all along. All "he" references are from people who have never seen Mehli, or are Mehli's robot playing along.

I'm guessing she's very much like Sophie.

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I am 99% sure it was intentional to let us think she was a boy. It added to the twist at the end. Also, no one can get under our skins quite like the opposite sex. I wonder if there will be any more novellas in this reality. I can see Kai and Melhi having a long and fun relationship. A lot of people's significant others drove them crazy before they developed feelings of affection.

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Lancing and Lancesight - gods, how it smarts to not know anything about how the magic works in one of Brandon's books!

I don't think there's much to see here. This is an intentionally soft magic system because it's necessary for the tropes of the State. It can make you fly, make force fields, power cars, translate languages. This is D&D magic through and through. The only thing important is that it has a power source.

If anything, hacking is the real Sandersystem of the book.

Edited by Pechvarry
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Gotta say, I really enjoyed this story, although, like Argent (and lots of other people, I'm sure), I definitely wish I could've learned more about the setting and characters.

 

I just wanted to share an theory of mine- what if the Liveborn are actually player characters in a MMO-type game?  I'll admit, I was influenced by accidentally reading the title "Can Robots Think" of a Amazon review before I read the story, but I think it fits with a lot of the story.  One passage in particular stood out to me:

 

The Wode. They're just caretakers. They eat bland soup every day and sit at terminals.

That sounds like it could be people sitting around at their computer to play a game to me.  Going beyond that passage, just the general setup of the world seems just like a video game.  The Liveborn are normal people until they're revealed to be special- this could be when the game itself starts.  They have a world made specifically for them, one that's filled with goals and quests that only they can complete.  You also have several variations of PVP.  Border states are a variety of maps that you play against a few other players, where your strength comes from your success in your "Home State" and winning provides benefits for your state.  The Communal States are like hub worlds, where you can meet other players peacefully.  There's also PVP minigames like the paintball wars. They provide a different type of content than the main battles, but they aren't affected by and don't affect your home state.

 

The main place where this theory falls apart is communication between the Wode and the Liveborn, especially at the end of the story.  Still, that could just be a way to provide in-game reasons for the character's actions.  That communication, along with stuff the Liveborns' feelings and thoughts, would be invisible to the player, but would give an excuse to the Liveborn themselves for why they do what they do.  It also flips your perspective on the Liveborns' actions.  When Sophia (supposedly) resorted to anarchy to rebell against what the Wode had planned, she would actually still be doing exactly what the Wode playing her wanted her to do.

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The novella is pretty clear that the Liveborn are just "brains in jars", hooked up to their own simulations where everything is designed to make them feel empowered and accomplished. If anything, it's all single player games, not necessarily RPGs, not an MMO. 

 

Also, the Wode calling Mehli "she" is not a typo.

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Just finished it. Overall pleased, and I didn't mind the setting not being fleshed out - that wasn't what the book was about. A few parts felt like Aether, and I liked how quickly the character's personalities got across to me. I instantly liked Sophie, but I wasn't attached enough to her to feel sad at the end. It was the perfect length.

 

My only complaint is that there were a few Elantris-era Brandon writing quirks that drew me out of the story. Awkward sections were here and there. The flashbacks in particular made me cringe. Also, I found the idea that a society of people capable of creating AIs still die of old age before hitting 1000 more than a little questionable.

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I really enjoyed it! The twist was quite well executed, in my opinion. The blurb made me expect Kai's date would be Melhi, so I saw that coming. It was pretty clear that they just wanted Kai to think Melhi was a guy, when she was a girl. I thought that was self-explanatory. Even moreso that Melhi calls Kai a "stupid man" near the end.

I loved that Sophie was Melhi's creation. The moment the robot spoke, I suspected, since Melhi and Sophie spoke so similarly. It's fascinating if you look into it. I like to think that Sophie's backstory is a lot like Melhi's own. Sophie had gone to a High Science State, and very easily could learn the knowledge of robotics. Melhi/Sophie was trying so hard not to be a puppet. And in the end, Melhi technically did win, because now she got through to Kai.

Sophie hacks, and so did Melhi. The twist makes so much sense in retrospect, which makes it one of my favorite of Brandon's so far, actually.

I didn't really mind that we knew nothing of Lancing. It isn't relevant to the story. Little hints were fine.

But yeah. Great dialogue, wonderful high concept, explored in great detail. I loved it a lot.

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I'll have to let it sit a little longer before I pass official judgements, but I'm confident this will be my favorite novella Brandon has written (aside from TES). It flowed relatively well (though the flashbacks felt unnecessary), all the characters were well written and engrossing, and the twist at the end actually makes perfect sense, as Chaos points out.

 

All in all my only complaint is that there likely won't be more to come in this world. I don't want this story to be longer, it was the perfect length, but other stories would be nice. Perhaps show us a modern world, or a sci-fi world, or urban fantasy (which the other Liveborn don't seem to think exist).

 

Also, this. Brandon's final twist is essentially this, and it is really cool:

tumblr_ndbrg2immr1qfun5bo1_1280.jpg

Edited by Blaze1616
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I have liked it a lot, right until the end. The final plot twist was great, and if it ended after Sophie shoot herself it would have been a better. Instead it goes on for a couple more pages and leaves me with more questions than answers.

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I really liked it too. In fact I would say it ranked right behind TES as far as Brandon's Novella/Short Stories go. This was actually my first non-cosmere book I have read. I kind of felt teased like Kai on the rooftop when I finished it wanting a lot more but hey sometimes a peek is satisfying enough. I admit didn't see the Sophie twist and really liked it. Also that Melhi was female. I had to re-read that sentence to make sure I read it right. My theory is the last person on the list was actually Melhi and she just sent her Sophie bot instead of going herself. Just goes to show you "Hell hath no furry like a women scorned".

 

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to share an theory of mine- what if the Liveborn are actually player characters in a MMO-type game?  I'll admit, I was influenced by accidentally reading the title "Can Robots Think" of a Amazon review before I read the story, but I think it fits with a lot of the story.  One passage in particular stood out to me:

That sounds like it could be people sitting around at their computer to play a game to me.  Going beyond that passage, just the general setup of the world seems just like a video game.  The Liveborn are normal people until they're revealed to be special- this could be when the game itself starts.  They have a world made specifically for them, one that's filled with goals and quests that only they can complete.  You also have several variations of PVP.  Border states are a variety of maps that you play against a few other players, where your strength comes from your success in your "Home State" and winning provides benefits for your state.  The Communal States are like hub worlds, where you can meet other players peacefully.  There's also PVP minigames like the paintball wars. They provide a different type of content than the main battles, but they aren't affected by and don't affect your home state.

 

The main place where this theory falls apart is communication between the Wode and the Liveborn, especially at the end of the story.  Still, that could just be a way to provide in-game reasons for the character's actions.  That communication, along with stuff the Liveborns' feelings and thoughts, would be invisible to the player, but would give an excuse to the Liveborn themselves for why they do what they do.  It also flips your perspective on the Liveborns' actions.  When Sophia (supposedly) resorted to anarchy to rebell against what the Wode had planned, she would actually still be doing exactly what the Wode playing her wanted her to do.

 

 

I actually think you are on to something here. To expand on this (pun intended) this sure does sound like an expansion in a MMO game. Just like an MMO once you get bored an expansion comes and gives you new places to explore. 

 

“There’s always a lost continent. The programming will pop it out once you start finding your life stale. It’ll give you a new challenge, make you really work again.
 
Sanderson, Brandon (2015-03-31). Perfect State (Kindle Locations 393-394). Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC. Kindle Edition. 

 

 

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I absolutely loved this story. I adore simulation-universes, utilization of narrative tropes as in-universe mechanisms, and meta-as-heck cosmologies in stories, and as a result this one hit literally all the buttons for me. The culture clash between Kai and Sophie was great, and Sophie's character was exquisitely unique- a feminist who rebels against her role as progressive and starts a world war just because she wants to buck the trend? That is such a delicious mix of paradoxical ideals and it makes Sophie so three-dimensional.

 

And then it turns out Sophie was a complete fake. And if someone as deep and thoughtful as Sophie could be a fake, what does that mean for the metaphysical status of the actual Liveborn- many of which, according to Sophie, aren't nearly as interesting or deep as she is as a character?

 

This is probably my favorite Sanderson work of all time, now, edging out Stormlight. 

 

(Sequel hook: Kai receives a list of all the Liveborn in adjacent jars. The list is composed of the protagonists from each Cosmere story.)

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Thinking about it, I believe that Sophie's backstory is actually Melhi's backstory. And the reason that Melhi was so bent on revenge was because he calls her the Wode's puppet at the end of the flashback. At this point, she would have already left her State in disarray having realised how much of a puppet she had been the whole time.

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I wonder what other kind of States there could be? In the story we have Kai from a Fantasy State, Sophie from a can-not-remember-the-exact-name-but-it-was-some-sort-of-twentieth-century-state, Melhi from a Science Fiction state, there is also mention of a High Science State, although I am not sure how that differs from a Science Fiction state. I guess there could be states for pretty much any kind of setting. I was thinking of what a Horror state would be like earlier. If what Melhi said was true and Liveborn can not be harmed at all by simulations then I imagine a Horror state would be like those Haunted House attractions popular around Halloween. Lots of stuff to scare you but no real harm will come to you.

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I don't get the sex imperative.  If they are brains in boxes in a virtual reality, how are they supposed to be pro-creating?

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I don't know about Horror State. The States need to offer you, the Liveborn, an opportunity to grow and be accomplished, do something meaningful - it's not just an adrenaline ride. 

 

As for the other types, probably anything anywhere from recent (for humanity) history will fly. A warlord taking over the world, a barbarian chief, a nobleman or -woman, a king, a scholar, an artist (from practically any age), a merchant, a politician, a scientist, an explorer...

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I don't know about Horror State. The States need to offer you, the Liveborn, an opportunity to grow and be accomplished, do something meaningful - it's not just an adrenaline ride. 

 

As for the other types, probably anything anywhere from recent (for humanity) history will fly. A warlord taking over the world, a barbarian chief, a nobleman or -woman, a king, a scholar, an artist (from practically any age), a merchant, a politician, a scientist, an explorer...

 

I would imagine any genre is fair game. The amount of Horror states might be far less that the others, but I'm sure there are people that would thrive in a zombie apocalypse world. I know I wouldn't though.

 

 

I don't get the sex imperative.  If they are brains in boxes in a virtual reality, how are they supposed to be pro-creating?

 

In my mind, the purpose is not the sex itself. The purpose is to interact with a Liveborn of the opposite sex. Let's look at it another way. Prior to coming to this Communal State, Maltese, what contact did Kai have with other Liveborn? Only Melhi, a Liveborn whom Kai never actually met, because Melhi was clever enough to only send robots on her behalf. By requiring this date/procreation meeting, the Wode can guarantee that a Liveborn will come into contact with another free thinking Liveborn, whom they have zero control over. Such meetings often result in conversations like the one Kai has with Sophie; ones with deep meanings that can change an individual's outlook on life. Now, that's not to say the goal is to have all Liveborn wanting to reach beyond their State's borders, it just happened to work that way with Kai, but it's an important event that should happen.

 

Also keep in mind that not everyone is chosen to procreate. I would bet money that the Wode picks Liveborns that have been pent up in their Personal States their whole lives. We meet, in Chapter 2, a group of Liveborn that clearly frequent Communal States. I would bet they aren't picked to procreate, and if they are it is to give the illusion that the selection is random. Obviously there is no evidence for or against this, but it would make sense, assuming I am right with my assertions in the above paragraph.

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I would imagine any genre is fair game. The amount of Horror states might be far less that the others, but I'm sure there are people that would thrive in a zombie apocalypse world. I know I wouldn't though.

 

 

 

In my mind, the purpose is not the sex itself. The purpose is to interact with a Liveborn of the opposite sex. Let's look at it another way. Prior to coming to this Communal State, Maltese, what contact did Kai have with other Liveborn? Only Melhi, a Liveborn whom Kai never actually met, because Melhi was clever enough to only send robots on her behalf. By requiring this date/procreation meeting, the Wode can guarantee that a Liveborn will come into contact with another free thinking Liveborn, whom they have zero control over. Such meetings often result in conversations like the one Kai has with Sophie; ones with deep meanings that can change an individual's outlook on life. Now, that's not to say the goal is to have all Liveborn wanting to reach beyond their State's borders, it just happened to work that way with Kai, but it's an important event that should happen.

 

Also keep in mind that not everyone is chosen to procreate. I would bet money that the Wode picks Liveborns that have been pent up in their Personal States their whole lives. We meet, in Chapter 2, a group of Liveborn that clearly frequent Communal States. I would bet they aren't picked to procreate, and if they are it is to give the illusion that the selection is random. Obviously there is no evidence for or against this, but it would make sense, assuming I am right with my assertions in the above paragraph.

 

Makes a certain amount of sense and is generally what I was thinking..except it makes me wonder what Kai thinks.  He seems to believe the Wodes care about him pro-creating, but he also seems to be aware that he is a brain in a box.  Does he just not know how procreation works?  Certainly likely I guess.  

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Makes a certain amount of sense and is generally what I was thinking..except it makes me wonder what Kai thinks.  He seems to believe the Wodes care about him pro-creating, but he also seems to be aware that he is a brain in a box.  Does he just not know how procreation works?  Certainly likely I guess.  

 

Well he certainly seems to understand, because he remarks that the Wode could just stick a needlue in his jar to get some DNA.

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