Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Legion was recommended to me by a Twitter follower who it seems has similar tastes to me (alas, I can’t remember who it was!). I deliberately chose to read it now because it’s ridiculously short (it’s technically a novella, rather than a novel) and I wanted something to quickly cleanse Harry Dresden from my pallet before getting further into that series. And Legion did a perfect job of that. Almost too perfect actually.
The premise of Legion is excellent in a couple of ways. The main character is Stephen Leeds, also known as ‘Legion’ (hence the title I guess). He has a unique schizophrenic-like psychological disorder that makes him conjure up a variety of hallucinations (referred to as ‘aspects’), each of which have specific skills. It’s a beautifully mad idea, and it’s executed with beautiful madness too – Leeds’ various aspects are wildly different in skills and personality (comprising characters like gun nuts, psychologists, interpreters, computer geniuses and so on) so that they all work as individual characters, but all work well enough together that you know they are all intrinsically part of Leeds’ as well.
It’s fairly rare for a piece of glorious madness like this to turn up, so it gets even better when the plot turns up, and shows itself to also be delightfully mental: Leeds is hired by a technology company to track down a stolen camera. The camera isn’t a normal camera, obviously. It’s a camera that can take pictures of the past. These two pieces of madness are joined by a bit of intrigue – the camera appears to hold the key to Leeds tracking down his ex, who left him ten years previously.
I’ve never read any Brandon Sanderson before, but I’ll definitely be checking out more of his stuff in the future (I’ve already bought his Mistborn trilogy on the back of Legion). Hopefully the quality of writing in that is similar to that of Legion, because Legion is gloriously written. Witty, suspenseful and well-paced, it’s just a joy to read.
Really, my only complaint with Legion is just that it’s too damn short. It’s like a great punk album – a short burst of high quality energy, and maybe it wouldn’t have been as good if it was extended to full novel length, but I’d happily have delved much deeper into the world, story and characters that Sanderson creates.
There’s hope for more though: Legion has been picked up for a potential TV series, which I’m now pretty excited about. The novella essentially reads like a pilot for a TV series, with plenty of action, quick introductions to a range of characters and a setup of a wider mystery that the early part of the series could focus on. Apparently any TV show is only in the very early stages, and I guess it might never happen, but it’s definitely something I’ll be looking out for in the future.
Given that genre fiction has given us one of the more well-received TV series of recent years (Game of Thrones), and is the source for another hugely anticipated upcoming series (American Gods), it’s almost as if reading sci-fi and fantasy is becoming all cool and mainstream. So maybe you should read Legion, if only so you can be the sci-fi and fantasy book equivalent of the music fan that has always seen a band before they were famous.
Short book, short review. Short conclusion: read it.
Read if you like: great short books. That’s it. Even if you don’t like sci-fi (ish) you’d still probably like this. And if you don’t, it’s only short!
Don’t read if you like: long books, resolutions.
Next up: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher