I’m a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s vivid imagination, so I was happy to get a copy of Legion, his new 88 page stand-alone novella. It’s about Stephen Leeds, a man who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia because he sees and hears people who don’t exist. The thing about Stephen, though, is that unlike most schizophrenics’ hallucinations, the people in Stephen’s head actually help him. They all have their own talents and areas of expertise (and their own mental illnesses) and if Stephen needs to know something they don’t know, some other “aspect” is likely to show up to offer some help. This makes him valuable to anyone who needs help — it’s like hiring a “legion” instead of just one guy. Therefore, Stephen is highly paid and lives in a mansion with enough rooms to house all his special friends.
Stephen’s current petitioner is unusual. Monica, and the people she works for, have lost a camera that can take photographs of the past. It seems to be an inside job and they need Stephen and his aspects to find the guy who stole it. Intrigued, they take the job when they realize that the thief hopes to produce photographs that will change the world, or at least the worldview, of millions of people. They know the photos will have a huge impact, but they don’t know if it will bring world peace or world war.
As I mentioned, I love Brandon Sanderson’s imagination, and he doesn’t disappoint in Legion. Stephen and his crew are unique characters — each of the aspects has its own personality and is a character in his or her own right. Due to the shortness of this novella, they don’t get developed as much as we’d like, and some of their dialog is a bit stilted, but I certainly hope we’ll be seeing more of them in future stories. They’re all interesting and the hallucinatory nature of Stephen’s aspects’ existence offers plenty of opportunities for humor.
I don’t want to give away any more of the plot, especially in so short a story, but I will say that, like Stephen and his friends, I was intrigued and excited by the possibilities the camera offered, though I had to work harder than usual to suspend my disbelief because I couldn’t figure out how the camera could take a picture of the exact historical person or object desired when there would be so much “noise” from all the history that a single place would hold.
Legion asks us to consider past and current world events (especially in the area of religion and politics) and our own personal religious beliefs. What would our world be like if we had scientific evidence to back up our faith? Or if religious beliefs other than our own could be empirically verified? And if we could prove our beliefs, what is the meaning of faith?
Legion is a quick exciting read. This concept and plot is worthy of many more pages, though, so I sincerely hope that Brandon Sanderson will be writing more stories about Stephen Leeds and his legion.