Given the size of his novels, I always wondered if Brandon Sanderson could write short fiction. Considering just how bloated The Way of Kings turned out to be, I doubted that short stories and novellas were a format that he would be comfortable with. And yet, Tad Williams, who is known for his doorstopper novels, also excels when it comes to short fiction.
I wasn't even aware that Subterranean Press would be publishing a Sanderson novella later this summer. My bad, I know. . . Not sure how this one got announced without my being aware of it. Be that as it may, as soon as Legion showed up in my mailbox, my curiosity got the better of me.
The premise had me hooked, so I had no choice but to give Legion a shot. They say that good things come in small packages, and in this case they are absolutely right. Legion is the opening chapter of what could well be Brandon Sanderson's most fascinating creation yet!
Here's the blurb:
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.
Stephen Leeds suffers or benefits from a very strange mental condition. He has the ability to create a variety of hallucinations possessing a vast array of personalities and skills. These personae live with Leeds, who was nicknamed Legion, and help/hinder him as he attempts to live a life as normal as a man with such a mental condition can hope for. I was afraid that having to deal with multiple personalities would be tricky, but Sanderson pulls it off with aplomb and this is what gives the novella such an engrossing "flavor."
The first person narrative is that of Stephen Leeds, of course. It works particularly well, and I have a feeling that a third person narrative would have robbed this work of everything which makes it special. Witnessing events through Leeds'e eyes allows readers to get better acquainted with the various personae he generated such as J.C., Tobias, Ivy, and the others. And when Leeds receive a photo of the Lone Cypress, a picture apparently taken decades before the invention of the camera, Leeds and his crew are set on a path which will take them to unexpected places.
The novella format keeps the pace moving, and all too quickly we reach the end, hoping for more. There is a lot more depth than meets the eye, and I have a feeling that Legion is a brief introduction to what should be an interesting and entertaining series. I also like the fact that Sanderson was ambitious, even if with a novella he couldn't work with the sort of scope he is used to. Still, seeking to prove or refute the very foundations of Christianity was a nice twist.
Here's to hoping that we'll have the opportunity to discover more about Stephen Leeds and his hallucinations in the near future, and that those new adventures will also be in the form of short stories or novellas. I feel that writing short fiction forces Brandon Sanderson to write with a much tighter focus, which makes for a more satisfying reading experience.
Legion should please Sanderson's legions (sorry, couldn't resist!) of fans and gain him some new followers. God knows I'm looking forward to what comes next!
By the way, this isn't the final cover art. . .
The final verdict: 7.75/10
For more info about this title, check out the Subterranean Press website.