July 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

snapshotSnapshot by Brandon Sanderson


Another month, another Sanderson novella. The last two Mistborn books came out within about six months of each other, the next Stormlight Archive book is due out before the end of the year, and here we have another novella that appears out of nowhere. Seriously, does this guy ever sleep?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The Emperor’s Soul was one of those novellas, and it’s one of the finest works of fiction I’ve read this year. The two Legion novellas weren’t the best things I’ve ever read, but they were readable and engaging. The same could be said of Snapshot: not great, but good.

In Snapshot, technology exists that allows people to recreate an entire day. We’re not talking about a hard-light holographic projection like the Danger Room, but an actual recreation, all the way down to the quantum level. Though expensive, the technology allows police officers to revisit a crime scene to find evidence that’s been overlooked. When the story opens, this is exactly what’s happening.

In the afterword, Sanderson talks about how he separate science fiction and fantasy — in science fiction, writers try to realistically extrapolate the future, while in fantasy, writers explore an effect, justifying it through worldbuilding. I mention that because I find Sanderson’s fantasy to be much more convincing than his science fiction, which is odd, since for me the heart of a story lies in its characters. For whatever reason, Sanderson’s fantasy characters are more relateable than his science fiction characters, and I wonder how much of that is tied into the worldbuilding. Granted, the only fiction of his I’ve read that I’d consider science fiction are this piece and his Legion novellas, so I wonder if it’s more due to him not having as much space to develop his characters (though Shai and Gaotona in The Emperor’s Soul were remarkably realized).

At its heart, Snapshot is a detective story, using science fictional technology, and true to form, Sanderson doesn’t resort to using the usual tropes one would find in that genre. He has two cops investigating two crimes in the Snapshot, doing their best not to create any diversions that would alter either crime scene. While inside, they discover another crime, and begin investigating that one, too. What they find, though, is beyond what they expected.

The story is a good one, and is well told, but it lacks the OOMPH that some of his other stories have. Fans will eat this up, as will anyone looking for something new in a detective story. I wonder if more casual readers would like it, but Sanderson’s style is natural, enough so to draw the reader in to his world. Snapshot is a solid read, even if it’s not among Sanderson’s best works.

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