This is a Hugo finalist for Best Novella. It’s published by Dragonsteel Entertainment, which is Sanderson’s own small press.

Kairominas is God-Emperor of Alornia. He is also a brain in a box under a system administered by the Wode, where there are liveborn folk and machineborn folk, a.k.a. simulated entities. Since Kai has achieved the pinnacle of power in his particular state, the Wode have been after him to reproduce. Grudgingly he accepts the need to move into another reality to meet a liveborn woman. He chooses one from the bottom of the recommended list and sets off. He meets Sophie at a restaurant and finds she’s a subversive with the idea the liveborn are coddled by the Wode and actually achieve very little. He counters that heroism is real, regardless of the simulated realities. They start to have sex, but the simulation is hacked by Melhi, Kai’s liveborn nemesis. Kai defeats him, but then finds things with Sophie aren’t what he thought they were.

This is an entertaining thought-piece where Sanderson has set up a situation and looks at the philosophical issues. Great imagery, characterization and plot. On the negative side, the fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek fantasy style detracts a little from his message. This also crashes down to reality a bit suddenly.

Four and a half stars.