Legion: The Many Lives Of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson (book review).

“That was fantastically, amazingly brilliant,” I said as he closed the cover on ‘Legion: The Many Lives Of Stephen Leeds’ by Brandon Sanderson.

“Really?” Bartholomew sneered from his position by the window. Bartholomew wasn’t real – none of the other people in the room were – but that didn’t stop him having an opinion. “That’s your considered opinion is it?”

Ruprecht levered himself from the old armchair in the corner and shuffled across the room to examine the volume. “Hardback,” he muttered, “352 pages, published by TOR. The font is-”

“The readers don’t care about the font,” Sabine interrupted in her dreamy voice.

“I care,” Ruprecht said, slamming the book shut. He put it on the arm of the sofa and stalked back to his armchair.

“Ooh, shiny,” Sabine said as she picked up the book in turn, “shiny and smooth and, oh, the title is embossed with the author’s name.” She held the book at arm’s length, peering at it. “The cover art brilliantly reflects the titular character’s shattered personality and she thumbed through the pages, “the Rorschach diagrams at each chapter heading are so…evocative.”

“Great,” I said, taking the book back gently. “But I need to write something about the plot and the characters.”

“This will be good,” Bartholomew sniped, smoothing his comb-over down with an enspittled hand.

“You’re the critic, why don’t you write the book review?” I said.

“I’m only your critic,” Bartholomew said smugly, safe in the knowledge that he would never write anything of his own to be critiqued.

“It’s a triptych,” rumbled Olwen from deep within another armchair. I had thought him to be asleep. “The book is composed of three novellas, two of them previously published. Three separate stories with shared characters and an over-arching back story.”

“Yes,” I said, crossing quickly to the desk and powering up the laptop. Olwen always had useful insights. The trick was to type them up before I forgot what he’d said.

“Stephen Leeds is a genius with an eidetic memory, both photographic and phonographic. For each subject he absorbs, his subconscious creates an ‘aspect’ – a hallucinatory character who embodies that area of expertise and who can then assist Leeds with his investigations, or consultations, howsoever you would like to term them.”

There was a long pause. Sabine and Ruprecht looked at Olwen expectantly. Bartholomew pointedly looked out of the window at the lawn that was in need of one final mow.

“Cameras that can photograph the past; teleporting cats; missing corpses containing classified information. These are the kind of Dirk-Gentlyesque mysteries that Stephen Leeds takes on. The aspects that accompany him represent not only his accumulated knowledge, but also his own internal anxieties and insecurity, manifested in the arguments they have among themselves.”

“That’s deep.” Sabine nodded appreciatively.

“There is a high likelihood,” Olwen rumbled on, “that in fact this character, this fractured personality with its self-doubting dynamic is reflective of the author, Brandon Sanderson.”

“Hold on,” I said, “we’re not analysing the author’s personality. There’s no reason to think this book is an attempt at self-analysis.”

“You hope,” Bartholomew said. He spun dramatically, his outline framed by the late afternoon sun. “It’s what you worry about, isn’t it? That people will read your stories and somehow determine your inmost thoughts and fears?”

“No,” I said. “I’ve written about alien detectives, Victorian time travellers and Big Game taxidermists. I don’t see what that tells anyone about me.”

Bartholomew gave an arch-look and turned back to his contemplation of the garden.

“But you think it’s brilliant?” Sabine prompted after a moment.

“Yes,” I said. “Stephen Leeds is a fragile, insecure character, but the book doesn’t wallow in psychiatric self-pity. It’s a positive story, optimistic, life-affirming.”

“Such wonderful clichés,” Bartholomew said.

“Ignore him,” Sabine said. “You obviously loved the book. Write what you thought, what you felt.”

“Okay,” I said. I opened a new word document and began to type.

‘Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds’ by Brandon Sanderson was fantastically, amazingly brilliant…

Gareth D Jones

November 2018

(pub: TOR/Forge. 351 page hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), $36.50 (CAN). £14.53 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-250-29779-2)

check out websites: www.tor-forge.com and www.brandonsanderson.com


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