Let’s start with this: I am a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson. Can’t brand myself as someone who read his way through all the books in the fantasy genre, but I’ve had my share. So far, when it comes to world building and the visual depictions of the scene, he is my favourite author. I know I come as a starstruck fanboy, but I have spent countless hours buried in his books, especially The Stormlight Archive and Mistborn series ended up being my favourites. I even have a dedicated shelf of Sanderson in my bookshelf (still lacking a few of his books, though).
It has been said to me when I took my creative writing lessons that anybody can write a very long story. The real talent lies with the short stories. The shorter the story, the more difficult it is. And I respect Sanderson for crafting the story of Snapshot. I can’t even write a short blog post, proven by this very one.
Although a pretty simple and straightforward story, you realise early in the book that you’re up for a twist. I knew that it was coming, having read many of his books, but I have to admit that I was very much shocked by the twist of his choosing. I’m trying very hard to not give any spoilers, but damn, I wasn’t expecting that.
The story takes place in a unique Snapshot environment, which is like a movie set build up of the real life of a given day, but it’s actually an exact replica of the day in real life. Sanderson doesn’t give too much detail about the nature of the Snapshot, we only know that there’s this sentient energy making up the replica world called Snapshot, but he gives enough to let our imagination weave the rest of it. He also scattered some popular concerns of today into the story too: Privacy concerns over the use of such technology, the question of what makes things real, the morality and ethic concerns of VR and AI, etc. He does touch quite a lot of strings, ending up with a good but looming melody, rich with dark notes.
I have to say that the storyline has great potential to have its own series, but I understand why Sanderson decided to tell only a brief part of it. You can’t be everywhere and write everything. You gotta choose your battles. But still, it feels a bit like a promise unfulfilled.
Like I said, he’s an expert on world building, and his Snapshot world is a really smart take of it. His main story with a serial killer may have been too simple on a more normal setting, but in Snapshot, it’s vivid. It feels like a Sherlock Holmes story in a futuristic environment, with a bitter twist at the end.