If you thought a book written on a plane might be a bit rough around the edges - a few plot holes, perhaps, or precious little scene setting - think again, because when Brandon Sanderson does it, the result is nothing less than first class.
The celebrated author’s 2011 novella Legion (reprinted this year by Gollancz) is somewhat Butcheresque, offering a more reluctant Harry Dresden in the form of Stephen Leeds, a "sane" man who uses a host of talented hallucinations (his "legion") to solve cases for a fee. Tasked with finding the person who's stolen a camera that takes photos of the past, Leeds and his team of imaginary intelligentsia head to Jerusalem to find the thief before the magical contraption falls into the wrong hands.
Legion clips along at Sanderson's usual, peppy pace, the narrative relying heavily on the relationship between the protagonist and his cohorts to keep things moving. Leeds' dependence on his "aspects" for knowledge - they store everything he's ever seen or learnt - is contrasted by their detrimental effect on his psychology, making him walk a fine line for the sake of "sanity".
There are hints at what could happen if Leeds loses control - if he imagines too many aspects at once or reminds some of the more sensitive ones that they don’t really exist - regularly teasing at something much darker. There’s no room to explore this though, so Sanderson merely touches on it as he does the story’s broader topics, such as political wars, debunking religion or technology that would render the justice system redundant.
Because of this, the tone remains fairly light, the banter between aspects quickly differentiating their characters and Leeds’ explanation of his predicament proving frequently amusing. After being told that one of Leeds’ aspects is a schizophrenic, for example, another character responds with "Your hallucination has hallucinations? Leeds isn't quite Dresden, much like lemonade isn't quite Coca-cola, but Sanderson has got a "get 47 characters for the price of 1" bargain here that really shouldn’t be missed.
Look out for more in the bulkier follow-up, Legion: Skin Deep, republished by Gollancz on September 24th.
Written on 17th September 2015 by Alice Wybrew.
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