Brandon Sanderson – Legion
115. Legion by Brandon Sanderson (2012)
Read By: Oliver Wyman
Length: 2h 07m (88 pages)
Genre: Science Fiction, Novella
Started/Finished: 13 October 2012 (read-a-thon!)
Where did it come from? Free download from Audible. (Still free for now, although I don’t know how long that will last… so get it while you can!)
Why do I have it? Eee! Brandon Sanderson! Also, my friend Dave got to it before I did and has been pestering me to read it ever since.
I’m not crazy! That’s
what my imaginary
friends tell me, at least.
Summary: Stephen Leeds isn’t crazy. Sure, he talks to people no one else can see, but his hallucinations – or “aspects” as he prefers to think of them – are stable, persistent, and surprisingly useful in their various skills and personalities. Normally, Stephen (he dislikes the nickname “Legion”) steers well clear of doctors, reporters, and anyone else who wants to study him and capitalize on his condition (whatever that condition is; no one seems to agree.) But when he starts receiving remarkable letters containing photographs of the past – of a past that seemingly predates the invention of photography – his interest is piqued. Now he and his aspects must race to find the owner of this impossible camera… if the whole thing is not just another set-up, of course.
Review: Brandon Sanderson tends to write long, sprawling fiction (sometimes perhaps too long, as in the case of The Way of Kings), which makes it easy to forget that he also knows his way around shorter fiction. Legion is in the uneasy territory between short story and novel, but I thought it was the perfect length: quick and punchy but with enough space to lay out the basics of a cool new world, and to develop a solid, thought-provoking story.
I like my fiction best when it not only tells a complete story, but still has enough room to explore and think about the stories that happened before or afterwards, the stories we’re not being told. (If that makes sense, which I’m not sure it does. Put another way, I like my worldbuilding to be detailed, but maybe not to fill right up to the edges of the map.) And on that score, I think Legion excelled in two ways. The first was the character(s) of Stephen himself. The basic set-up reminded me pretty strongly of Matt Ruff’s Set This House In Order, although Sanderson makes it clear that we’re not dealing with regular multiple personality disorder. We get just enough hints of how his aspects interact with him and with each other and what they’re useful for and where they come from to make it interesting, but without fully explaining every aspect (ha!) of the process, leaving room to imagine what comes next.
The other awesomely thought-provoking angle of this story was the idea of a camera that can take photographs of the past. The story covers what its characters do with such an object, but leaves you wondering – how exactly does such a thing work? Where would I go, if I had one?
These reasons are also why I think this story would make an excellent movie, or the pilot for a TV series (and according to Sanderson’s website, it has in fact been optioned.) Sanderson’s most famous for his epic fantasy novels, but it turns out he can write urban-fantasy/sci-fi thriller just as well. This story’s exciting, interesting, fast-paced, and funny, and I had a total blast listening to it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended, and not just for Sanderson’s existing fans. It’s got enough fantastical elements that spec-fic fans will find it fun, but there’s nothing so outlandish that people that like action-thriller-type books would be put off by it.
First Line: My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.
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