J. A. Keener

Book Review: Shadows for Silence / Perfect State

I finally got around to reading the two-novella, limited edition hardcover I picked up at Minicon 50 back in March. It’s weird, because I’m such a Brandon Sanderson fan, that you would think I would have read it in the hotel the night I bought it. In reality, I think that’s part of the reason I didn’t read Perfect State and Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell immediately.

I realized recently that I have been gravitating toward the same authors over and over. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I put aside these novellas and dug into authors that I hadn’t read as much of. I swear, it has nothing to do with wanting to wait and experience these two short pieces with my wife, who is also a Sanderson fan.
Normally sold only in digital format, these two novellas were packaged in a “flip book” hardcover format. If I recall correctly, Brandon mentioned that there were only a few hundred copies printed for Minicon. I bought a copy directly from Peter (Brandon’s assistant) for $20, which is way more than you’d pay online for a digital copy, but you know what? I like my physical books, the feel of the page, the smell of the ink.

Yes. I’m a curmudgeon. We can all agree on that. So let’s dig into these stories a little more.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell

For those familiar with Sanderson’s work, they know that he has independent novels and stories, and “Cosmere” novels. For the uninitiated, all you really need to know is that the “Cosmere” novels all take place in the same universe and have some minor ties between each other.

Shadows for Silence is a Cosmere novella, if you care about such things. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been able to follow the overarching Cosmere with any degree of accuracy. The good news is, it doesn’t matter. All of Sanderson’s books and stories in this universe stand on their own two legs without any help from backstory beyond the series they take place in. Shadows for Silence is the story of a bounty hunter trying to keep herself and her daughter alive the only way she knows how. By killing the worst of the worst and turning them in for money, of course.

In this case, the “Forests of Hell” are a living, breathing place where spirits walk. If you make them angry, they will literally suck the life from your body. In order to keep them from killing you, everyone follows rules. You know, simple things like: always carry silver, never make noise in the forest after dark, don’t run, and never, ever shed blood. Ever. Seriously. Not unless you want to die.

Got that? So here’s the rub. How does a bounty hunter kill her marks in a forest that will devour her soul if she sheds blood? I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.

Because Shadows for Silence is a novella, it’s pretty short. In fact, it is probably the shortest piece of Sanderson fiction I’ve ever read. Don’t let the length fool you. It is stuffed full of conflict, betrayal, tension, and memorable characters. The length does make it hard to talk about, though, because there are no plot points that can be discussed without completely spoiling it.

You can pick up Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell for $2.99 in e-book format from your favorite vendor, or from BrandonSanderson.com.

Perfect State

Kai lives in his own world, literally. While his physical body is comprised only of a brain supplemented by nutrients and electrolytes, his mind exists within a digital fantasy constructed specifically for him. As such, he has conquered everything set before him, and now he is bored out of his mind. That is, until the Wode instructs him to find a mate.

Now Kai has to venture outside of the world in which he is a god, and interact with another real-life person (and not start a war with them). But of course, this meeting has to occur somewhere Kai’s abilities don’t work…

Perfect State is very different from anything else I’ve ever read by Sanderson. In many ways, this is a science fiction novella, not fantasy. Kai is aware that he is in a computer program, but at the same time, his is a world of magic and fantasy, so Sanderson’s writing feels very familiar here. In addition, Perfect State is executed perfectly for a “digital world” story. As I said before, Kai is completely aware of his situation, but it doesn’t matter to him. His entire life has been lived digitally, so to him, the stakes are very real.

Perfect State is also available for $2.99.

So, knowing that both books could be had for roughly $7.00, I will admit that I don’t regret spending $20. It was totally worth the extra money for the hardcover format, meeting Peter, his wife Karen, and did I mention that Brandon it for me? Yeah?

Totally worth it.

Oh, and the novellas are good reading too. Not as strong as his full-length work, but definitely worth the digital price of admission in my opinion.

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