Monday, December 24, 2012

Novella Review: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Here is a quick review of Legion by Brandon Sanderson. This is another short novella and can be read in a single day. I tried to stretch it out as much as I could, but it was difficult. It was actually quite engaging, even more so than The Emperor's Soul, which I also recently finished.

The story revolves around Stephen Leeds, a unique man who has very specialized hallucinations. He relies on those hallucinations, or aspects, to solves mysteries and puzzles in a sort of detective fashion.

Read on to find out my thoughts on Legion.

In a word, this book was fun. It fluidly combined several neat elements together. One of the first things to draw you in is the nature of the "magic" system. The main character is able to create aspects or hallucinations that are experts at some particular subject. He can, for example, skim through a computer science book and create afterwards a fully fledged character that is an expert at computer science. This aspect can then help him figure out how to solve particular problems. Several of his personalities play a key role in this story, for example the historian, the psychologist, the military man, and the linguist. All of these have names (Ivy, J.C., etc) and distinct personalities. He holds conversations with his hallucinations as he figures our the mystery, something that other real characters find very odd. However, he is quick to point out he is not insane:

My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.

A second, very interesting part to the story is the detective story within it. Leeds receives a series of photographs depicting old events, so old that cameras could not exist when the pictures were to have been taken. A camera that can take pictures of the past has been developed... and stolen. It's up to him, and his aspects, to figure out who stole the camera, and more importantly, recover it. The implications of such a device are many and the story leads to a very satisfying conclusion regarding this.

In comparison to Brandon Sanderson's other novella, The Emperor's Soul, I found this one to be more engaging and a faster read. While this could also be attributed to more free time to spend reading, I would like to attribute it to the intriguing plot, characters, and the playful banter between the aspects. Though both stories are very simple given the short nature of a novella, Legion has the advantage of being set on the "real" world which facilitates our immersion in the story. Regardless, I would recommend both if you want a quick read.

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