Brandon Sanderson has been a phenomena in the fantasy fiction genre. He has a pedigree that is long and diverse with people calling him the greatest ‘adult‘ fantasy author of all time. Why not the greatest fantasy author? Two words: Harry Potter.
In spite of his immense success in the fantasy fiction genre, Sanderson has tried to branch out into other genres. The most notable has been the Sci-Fi genre, with the fantastic Skyward series (2018), and this one - Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds.
Legion is part science fiction, part psychological thriller. In some ways it is quintessential Sanderson. It is fast paced, the writing is breezy & quirky, and the core concept is unique. What is not to be seen (and honestly, not required) is the world building we have come to expect from Sanderson. In case of Legion, the story is set in current time so the world is similar to how we see it today.
Stephen Leeds has a genius level intellect. He also has a multiple personality disorder. Or maybe its schizophrenia. The scientists are not quite certain on the nuances. What is certain is the fact that Stephen has around 50 personalities living in his head and he can see them around him. He refers to them as aspects because they are all aspects of him and his genius stems from each one of them. What makes this story stand out is how Stephen cultivates the multiple personalities to his advantage.
It is fascinating to imagine so much going on in one man’s head and Sanderson does a fantastic job of bringing that out. There was definitely scope to go deeper around the psychological aspects but Sanderson chooses to refrain. This could have been due to the format of a novella or just to keep it quirky and real without being too intense. However, what we lose out in depth, Sanderson covers in empathy. You feel for Stephen Leeds, and what he has to go through everyday to make his life work.
Legion boasts of an incredible set of characters and the irony is that none of them are real. But that does not make them any less interesting. In fact, when you start reading first of the 3 stories, you understand very quickly why this is the only novella where Sanderson has done a sequel. That’s because Stephen and his aspects demand this. And if I am being completely honest, the 3 novellas do not do justice to the potential of Stephen Leeds. There is a lot more that can be written. I can totally imagine a full trilogy of whodunits, neo-noir, detective stories crossed with espionage and world threatening Sci-Fi elements. I just hope Sanderson has imagined it too, because he does a far better job than anyone else I have read.
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds is an omnibus edition contain 3 legions stories (novellas) - Legion, Legion: Skin Deep, and Legion: Lies of the beholder.
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