Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #48. This time, after following a (really good in hindsight) referral from a friend about this book, I cleared my queue and read it. Which turned out to be a better idea than I ever could have imagined.
Brandon Sanderson is a prolific author. This fact is about as obvious as the fact that the Harry Potter brand would be worth millions, or that fact that Stephen King can scare the shit out of a war-hardened veteran. In fact, only calling him prolific would be an understatement. However, as well-written as he is, it still surprises the hell out of me that he can construct an amazing story which captivates the audience in about 70 pages. This goes beyond the definition of a “novella” and more into the realm of “short story”, because I read Legion in one sitting, going through about one-and-a-half cups of tea and maybe a dozen or so biscuits whilst bored on a Sunday afternoon. Legion not only has amazingly well-made characters, it completely immerses you in an action movie-esque thriller of a plot which will absorb you for a good, long while after you finish the book (even though this story is technically called a “novella”, it’s been published in hardback and in my book qualifies as a book).
Legion tells the story of a man named Stephen Leeds, and as one of the best opening lines in all of literature tells you, “I’m perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad”. Leeds (sometimes nicknamed “Legion”, hence the book’s title) is an ubergenius with an eidetic memory, an off-the-scale cumulative IQ and advanced, specialised knowledge of over 50 different professional fields including handwriting analysis, psychiatry, architecture, fine art and [advanced quantum mechanics]. But there’s only one problem. His conscious mind doesn’t know any of it. Instead, Leeds literally hallucinates people who do have these specialised skills, and so when he needs to know something he just asks one of the many people who live in his head.
And if this sounds insane to you, well technically you’d be wrong. Stephen himself (or at least, what he defines as himself separate from his hallucinations, or “Aspects”) is perfectly sane by any definition of the word. But of course, since he sees people who aren’t actually there and they talk to him (and he talks back, which of course looks as weird as bacon flavoured jam from the outside), he’s not really a very comfortable person to be around. And (at least to him) his Aspects take up physical space, with needs and wants. So when his imagination begins to differ from reality (more than normal), Leeds begins to unravel. Throw in a camera that can take pictures back in time and [a plot to prove or disprove every religion in existence], Leeds is up to his neck, and he’s sinking fast.
So I had a lot of fun with this otherwise concise book. There’s going to be a series, which is what I found out when I realised there was a (longer) second book and promptly finished it, leaving me with a cliffhanger. So Legion will be back, and let me tell you I am totally going to be there to see it end. And hopefully so will Leed’s sanity.
Legion was published in 2012 by Subterranean Press, and can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear