A really fascinating novella. Sanderson’s skill in creative worldbuilding and playing with genre tropes is clear here, in his subversion of the typically dystopic computer simulation brain-in-a-jar future setting. Some really interesting sociological and ethical implications in the advanced society he crafts here.
Thematically there’s a focus on technology and artificiality distancing humans from each other in a way bad for everyone, which is nothing new to science-fiction, but the highly creative and subversive worldbuilding puts it in a new light. Still, I found some of the other concepts of the story – what constitutes heroism, the action or the intent? Are humans as much robots, slaves to electrical (albeit neurological ones) impulses as much as any android? – more compelling than this primary one.
I vastly prefer these sorts of stories, where Brandon plays with genre conventions, deconstructing and subverting them in innovative ways, to the more straightforward books like his YA novels and even, much as I love it, The Stormlight Archive (impressive and fantastic in many ways, but its apparent ambition in terms of worldbuilding is somewhat neutered by how it merely refines the epic fantasy genre instead of twisting it and saying something new through it, like the Mistborn series has).
I give it three brains in a jar, and a lance.