Many Lives

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

by Brandon Sanderson

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Summary from GoodReads:

LegionA genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems… for a price.

Stephen’s brain is getting a little crowded and the aspects have a tendency of taking on lives of their own. When a company hires him to recover stolen property—a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past—Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions—and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects.

This fall, Tor Books will publish Brandon Sanderson’s Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds. The collection will include the science fiction novellas Legion and Legion: Skin Deep, published together for the first time, as well as a brand new Stephen Leeds novella, Lies of the Beholder. This never-been-published novella will complete the series.

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

I read those opening lines and I knew I was hooked.  I needed to know how and why his hallucinations were insane and how he managed to live his life with them.  I found out that Stephen Leeds is perhaps the most interesting character I have met all year.

To anyone interacting with Stephen he would certainly look insane.  He talks to people who are not there and you don’t hear them talk back. He insists that they be provided seats in restaurants, cars and plane.  To him they are very real, although he does know that they are not.  He is afraid though that if he doesn’t acknowledge that they exist, they will disappear along with their knowledge.  And we are not just talking about a few people, by the end of the stories there are around 50 of them, all with some sort of knowledge or special skill that he needs to help him solve problems.  All of his aspects have issues as well, and come from different ethnicities.  He needed a translator in the first book, and the aspect that was created was from India.  Some of his aspects are depressed, OCD, paranoid, germaphobic, and I am sure lots of other stuff too.  We don’t meet everyone, but quite a few show up through out the stories. 

The three aspects that we get to know the best are J.C., a navy seal and weapons expert, Ivy, the psychology expert and Tobias, an old black man who has general knowledge and a soothing voice that helps to calm Stephen in times of stress.  I really liked all of the them and could appreciate why Stephen created them and needed them with him at all times.  

“And yet I live a good life,” I said.  “Tell me. Why would you consider me insane, but the man who can’t hold a job, who cheats on his wife, who can’t keep his temper in check?  You call him sane?”

“Well perhaps not completely…”

“Plenty of ‘sane’ people can’t manage to keep it all under control.  Their mental state – stress, anxiety, frustration – gets in the way of their ability to be happy.  Compared to them, I think I’m downright stable.  Though I do admit, it would be nice to be left alone.  I don’t want to be anyone special.”

I’m not sure that I would say that Stephan is ‘happy’, but he is perhaps the most stable insane character I have ever read.  His ability to reason out the problems in the books are very much like Sherlock Holmes.  The slightly futuristic setting of the books, helps with the stories as well.  I think a more present day setting would not have worked as well.  The plots were all well done with some interesting twists as well as being fast paced.  I don’t want to say much about the plot, because you really need to go into them blind to appreciate them and how Stephan solves them.

I also recommend reading the preface to the book.  It gives some insight into the ideas and processes the author used to write these stories.  Sadly he also stated that he doesn’t plan on writing more Stephan Leeds stories, which is sad.  I really want to read the story about the teleporting cat!

So what do you think? Is he sane or just living with his sanity?



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