Premise: Stephen Leeds has developed his mental condition into a lucrative business where he solves problems using his many skills. Those skills really come through his many hallucinations, giving one man the abilities of a legion of people. It is for this reason that Stephen is nicknamed Legion.
Legion’s new job comes about when someone shows him photographs of past events that are impossibilities. Someone has developed a camera that can take pictures of the past, but the creator has gone missing with the camera. Stephen’s role is to track down the creator and bring back the camera. His search takes him around the world on a crazy ride along with some of his personae.
Themes: Faith is the ultimate struggle for the religious and non-religious, for it is here where the wrestling happens with purpose, existence, and more. For the non-religious, disbelief is the barrier between a person and the unseen. For the religious, the lack of evidence makes faith essential. Without evidence, such as with the potential evidence a camera that can see into the past can bring, the only thing left for belief is faith.
Another theme that Legion explores is the idea of new technologies and their potential for more harm than good. When the existence of a camera that sees into the past is revealed, the potential to prove or disprove events is sought out by terrorists. The potential for invading privacy is considered, along with blackmail and solving crimes.
Pros: Sanderson is skilled with character voice and using plot devices, and Legion does not let down in those areas. In such a short book he is able to form multiple characters in the mind of Leeds along with a few others. With Legion, Sanderson has laid the groundwork for something that he could turn into an entire series. He plays with some interesting concepts with having a protagonist with a mental condition using it to his benefit. Sanderson fills his story appropriately with humor even characters are in dire circumstances.
Cons: Some of the things that Leeds’ personalities enable him to do seem absurd, such as one hallucination holding his hand to make him fire a gun accurately or another perusing a foreign language dictionary to learn the “structure” of the language allowing Leeds to create a hallucination that can translate that language perfectly. If it were magic I would understand that some things can be explained away, but this novella is different in that it’s barely a science fiction book with no magic. There were a lot of threads left hanging at the end with this being a novella and not having much space to tie them all up that gave Legion the feeling of a sort of unfinished tinkering with ideas.
Recommendations: Legion takes everything that Brandon Sanderson is good at: creating cool plot devices, adding twists, and then infusing them with interesting characters. Each hallucination ran the risk of becoming a caricature, and I think a couple of them did, but there was enough to them to make a mostly complete story. Sanderson could have made Legion into a full novel, if not a series, but in it he plays with some interesting concepts. I purchased the limited edition from Subterranean Press and it came with a free ebook, both of which were perfectly edited and formatted. If you are on the fence, the ebookis fairly inexpensive and is a fun, quick read. The limited edition is probably more for devoted Brandon Sanderson fans.