Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
Snapshot is a convincing sci-fi mystery novella by master of the craft Brandon Sanderson.
In a near-future America, the city of New Clipperton has some amazing technology buried beneath it, technology that raises a lot of moral questions. It can create a snapshot of a day. An entire real-world day is replicated, people (dupes) and all. As long as no outside influences interfere, the day will proceed exactly as it did in real life.
Detectives Davis and Chaz have been removed from normal duties for different reasons. They find themselves partnered on Snapshot duty, investigating crime by seeking to witness it. However, any actions they take can cause deviations in the Snapshot – too many deviations and whatever they discover loses all evidentiary value.
On the day in question, Davis and Chaz are sent to find the hiding place of a murder weapon and respond to a domestic violence incident much later that day. This is where the real skill of Brandon Sanderson comes through. He’s known for his world building, which really is excellent, but one of my favourite things about his writing is the way he layers stories. In Snapshot, we have the stories of the crimes Davis and Chaz were sent in to investigate, another, mysterious crime that they’re told to stay away from, but don’t, and the story of the relationship between the two detectives and with people outside of the snapshot. All of these stories come together in a surprising climax.
This is a really neatly-done little story and I think it was the perfect length. I would, however, love to see more stories set in this world – there’s so much Sanderson could do with it. During the course of the novella, he does touch upon the morality of what they’re doing in creating fully thinking and feeling people (the dupes), only to switch them off at the end of the day, but that seems like a topic that should have its own story to really explore.
All in all, a brilliant short read and one I would recommend.