Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Legion

Title: Legion
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 69
ISBN: 9781473212633
Series: Legion #1
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 2015 (first published in 2012)
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion', is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialised skills.

As the story begins, Leeds and his 'aspects' are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society. The action ranges from the familiar environs of America to the ancient, divided city of Jerusalem. Along the way, Sanderson touches on a formidable assortment of complex questions: the nature of time, the mysteries of the human mind, the potential uses of technology, and the volatile connection between politics and faith.

As clich├ęd as it may sound dynamite does come in small packages and Legion, Brandon Sanderson’s novella, packs a potent punch. In just 68 pages Sanderson manages to weave a captivating, full-fledged crime thriller with a science fiction twist.

Legion starts off with one of the best opening lines ever: “My name is Stephen Leeds, and I’m perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.” With an opening like that I was sucked in completely and only stopped reading until I reached the very last page – the acknowledgements. Yes, I even read the acknowledgements in an effort to prolong the story.

Stephen Leeds, the main protagonist is a brilliant man with a unique mental condition that allows him to conjure up different aspects. These aspects manifest themselves as fully independent hallucinatory characters, each with a specialized skill set of their own. Think along the lines of a schizophrenic Pretender and you’ll get the idea.

Leeds gets hired to track down the inventor of a camera with an astounding property, an ability that could alter humanity’s understanding of history and the very fabric of society if it got into the wrong hands. His search for the camera tackles complex issues like religions, the implications of time travel, privacy and the impact of technology on society.
“At the heart of science is accepting only that truth which can be proven. At the heart of faith is to define Truth, at its core, as being unprovable.” (p 31)
Leeds is a fascinating, engaging character (as is all his aspects) with just enough information given about his mysterious mental condition and his enigmatic past to hook you. The fact that you don’t get all the answers or a full back-story is what makes this such an absorbing read. You keep reading just to discover more pieces of his past, tantalizing titbits which are casually worked in to the story. The relationship between Leeds and all his different aspects is where Legion really shines. They feel like entire characters on their own and the endearing, often hilarious interplay between them will have you laughing like a mad man or, at the very least, put a huge grin on your face.
“... he had the eyes of a killer. Or so he claimed. Perhaps he kept them in his pocket.” (p 2)
“I’m not going more mad,” I said. “I’ve stabilized. I’m practically normal. Even my non-hallucinatory psychiatrist acknowledges that.”
“You keep walking through the middle of J.C.,” I said. “It’s very disturbing for him; he hates being reminded he’s a hallucination.” “I’m not a hallucination,” J.C. snapped. “I have state-of-the-art stealthing equipment.”
The ending resolves the story in a satisfying way, but you are left craving more. Leeds is such a fascinating character that you want to know far more about him than a single novella can provide. And that’s a good thing.

The Verdict:
Legion is a fast, utterly captivating read filled with fascinating characters and hilarious moments that will leave you craving for more. For a novella it packs one heck of a punch, the only downside is that it is so short. I’d gladly devour a thousand page epic filled with Leeds and his adventures. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 7.5/10

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

1 comment:

  1. I have one of the Legion short stories on audible - should really get to listening to that :) I like the premise of the story - Brandon Sanderson always comes up with awesome world-building.