My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Surprising and fantastic story
Pretty much everything I look for in weird fiction.
First person present tense always gets a thumbs up from me. If you are one of those readers who are dubious about FPPT, give this a try; it might change your mind. The structure of the narrative is perfectly suited to the tense, and they showcase each other very well.
Part of what prompted me to pick up the story was a cautious curiosity. My concern was that a narrative focusing on a man obsessing over video footage (literally watching the same thing over and over) would swiftly descend into repetitive monotony.
I was pleased to be mistaken in this instance; Downing side steps that trap effortlessly, wringing fresh detail from the various viewings–much as the character himself does, while painstakingly examining said footage for hidden truth.
One of the best techniques (my apologies, I think of everything in terms of craft these days) that the story benefitted from was Downing’s choice of emphasis. He sticks to the emotional, to the contents of the footage, to the increasingly narrow confines that encircle the narrator’s life. That all works very well, imo. Other stuff, eg *how* the editing programme could exist is never addressed, nor is it needed to; attempting to do that would derail the tight focus and take the story in a different direction. These kinds of mysteries in stories are usually best left explained.
For example, I have always maintained that the worst thing Dan Simmons ever did (writing-wise!) was produce a sequel for his astonishing novel Hyperion, because the sequel explained everything and rendered the original mysteries mundane/unsatisfying. A good writer, like a good magician, is wise not to reveal every secret.
Anyways… give it a try!