Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

Any time I see Sanderson’s name on something, I pretty much know that I’m in for a good time. Snapshot was no exception.

Snapshot is a science fiction detective mystery following two detectives as they investigate a “snapshot” of reality. A mysterious entity is able to perfectly recreate a single day in the past, and humanity has taken advantage of that to solve crimes that would otherwise be unsolvable. It felt a bit like Brandon Sanderson writes Minority Report, and this was every bit as fun as that comparison suggests.

As always, the story came with a compelling set of rules within the universe. Snapshots can only exist for a limited amount of time, and only days in the last couple weeks can be replicated. Detective are expected to complete their investigations with a low percentage of deviations. Just like the Butterfly Effect concept, introducing snapshot detectives into a replication of the past is bound to change that past.

Out of all of Sanderson’s work, I think this is the most perfectly suited to a movie adaptation. The speculative elements are awesome and don’t require an enormous CGI budget, the scope is limited, and the action never lets up. Sometimes Sanderson’s writing starts slow as he sets the foundation for his trademark Sanderson Avalanche at the end. Snapshot was too short to allow this build up.

I did have one issue with the story. Without giving too much away, there was an element of sexual assault present that I didn’t think needed to be there. It was completely unexpected and while it served to clarify some character motivation, something else could have done the same. It wasn’t that the issue was handled poorly so much as it didn’t need to be an issue in the first place.

That said, this was a whole lot of fun. It was my first experience with one of Sanderson’s science fiction works—though I’ll happily argue this is technically science fantasy—and it only increased my respect for his skill as a writer. I listened to the audio version of the novella, and William DeMeritt did a great job capturing that gritty detective feel. If there’s ever a sequel to Snapshot, I’d happily pick it up as soon as it releases, though I think it works perfectly as a standalone story.

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