Legion: I hope there will be more of Stephen Leeds

Legion by Brandon SandersonLegion by Brandon Sanderson

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.

~Kat Hooper

Legion is a nifty little science fiction/mystery novella, with the detective role played by Stephen Leeds and his legion of hallucinatory, brilliant alter egos.

The mystery, which involves a search for a mysterious camera that can take pictures of people and events at any time in the past, a device that’s been used before in at least a couple of classic science fiction works that I know of, Isaac Asimov’s short story “The Dead Past” and “E for Effort,” a novella collected in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 2B. Legion doesn’t really add anything new from a science fiction point of view. The story points out some of the problems with the theory of time travel (branching paths of reality; Earth not being in the same place in space as it was in the past you are traveling to, or taking pictures of)… but it doesn’t ever try answer those questions.

But the real attraction of this story is the main character, Stephen Leeds, and the hilarious and colorful cast of characters hallucinations surrounding him: J.C., the trigger-happy Navy Seal and weapons expert; Armando, the trick photography expert who thinks he’s the rightful emperor of Mexico; Tobias the schizophrenic historian and philosopher; Kalyani the linguist; and so on. Stephen’s hallucinations all are brilliant in different fields, and all have their own different mental issues, and all are utterly real to him. Someone points out to Stephen:

“You create these delusions so that you can foist things off on them. Your brilliance, which you find a burden. Your responsibility — they have to drag you along and make you help people. This lets you pretend, Mister Leeds. Pretend you are normal. But that’s the real delusion.”

But real or not, Stephen’s legion of invisible experts are a lot of fun to read about. Legion was a quick, enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the next one in this series.

~Tadiana Jones

Published August 31, 2012. Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson reveals a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent. 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 specialized 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. Resonant, intelligent, and thoroughly absorbing, Legion is a provocative entertainment from a writer of great originality and seemingly limitless gifts.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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  1. Fascinating concept!

  2. Legion by Brandon Sanderson is currently free at Audible.


  1. Suvudu Likes: 9/8/12 « Del Rey and Spectra - Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, Graphic Novels, and More - [...] Review: Legions by Brandon Sanderson, read by Fantasy Literature [...]

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