Legion by Brandon Sanderson
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Audio Book / eBook|
|Release Date:||August 31, 2012|
There has never really been a thriving market for novellas. Along with its misfit sister format the novelette, novellas can be difficult to sell. However, the rise of ebooks is changing the market for novellas. Instead of abandoning these in-between stories, authors can sell them directly to consumers. But will this new experiment work for all authors?
Brandon Sanderson, a notoriously productive bestselling author, who is known for epic fantasies that span several volumes each containing hundreds of thousands words, decided to give it a try. And for added difficulty, he is selling a story that is not only much shorter, but also in a different subgenre. I’m glad to say that Sanderson’s novella, “Legion,” is a successful novella experiment.
“Legion” is the story of Stephen Leeds, AKA Legion, a man who has a reputation as a brilliant problem solver. Not just brilliant, but crazy good, you might say, because Leeds relies upon a menagerie of hallucinations (each possessing a unique skill) to solve those problems. Although he’s quite good at what he does, Leeds would rather be left alone. Well, relatively speaking. Alone with his hallucinations, or “aspects” would be more accurate. Away from the researchers and psychologists who want to get to the bottom of his abilities.
But even some riddles are too intriguing for Leeds and his aspects to ignore. In this case, Leeds and his aspects try to track down a missing inventor who disappeared with a camera that takes pictures of the past. If they can’t find him, those photos may rewrite history and religions, sparking a conflict who knows how large.
In “Legion,” Sanderson has created a unique character (or should I say characters?). “Legion” is told using first person point of view, so Sanderson lets you see through the eyes of a man who is very aware of his unique condition, the implications of it, and the struggles to keep control of his mind. And yet Sanderson tells Leeds’s story with a sense of humor and wonder.
Sanderson also packs a number of compelling issues into such a short story: science, faith, corporate espionage, and terrorism, just to name a few. These issues propel the story forward at a fast clip. In fact, this novella has a comic book’s or action movie’s pacing.
But it’s not all mindless fluff and action. Readers will get the sense that there is a much larger back story here, and “Legion” offers us only a small glimpse of a much larger, well developed world. Hopefully, “Legion” is the first of many novellas, or maybe Sanderson will expand the story into a full novel, comic, or some other form.
“Legion” isn’t without its faults, though. The issues in “Legion” and the troubled yet brilliant problem solver aren’t exactly original material. Science vs. faith is a common idea in fiction. Asimov also wrote a story about a camera that sees into the past. And fans of TV procedurals will probably think Leeds would fit in well among the ranks of many primetime protagonists. Heck, even Marvel has a character with multiple personalities named Legion.
But lest I talk you out of reading “Legion,” remember that you are in the hands of a master storyteller. Sanderson’s Legion is different from Marvel’s, and Sanderson approaches issues from an oblique angle, offering a creative take on the matter.
And while Leeds’s ability to summon an expert-level aspect exactly when needed, risks becoming a deus ex machina solution that saps all the tension of the story, Sanderson doesn’t let that happen. Thankfully, Leeds hints that he has to struggle to keep control of his aspects. That big risk—of his mental state coming apart at the seams—also helps keep the reader interested.
At 88 pages, this is a short, fun read. Sanderson’s experiment with urban fantasy was quite enjoyable, and now I can add a potential “Legion” sequel to my list of Sanderson works I’m looking forward to, right under the final Eye of the World book and the next Stormlight Archive book.
The hardback and paperback versions of “Legion” have sold out on Subterranean Press’s website, but you can still buy the ebook version at various online retailers, or you can get the audio book version (as narrated by Oliver Wyman) for free from Audible.com.