“Legion” by Brandon Sanderson

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.31.37 PMHow to describe the sheer awesomeness of the concept at the heart of Legion? There’s no way. You have to experience if for yourself.

But let me try. Stephen Leeds is a rich, brilliant dude who has earned the (somewhat) derogatory nickname of Legion for having learned to successfully manage his multiple personalities and benefit from their diverse intellects and specialties. Unlike a typical case of multiple personality disorder, Leeds actually sees his aspects outside his body, interacting in various ways with his surroundings and guiding him and giving him feedback that he might otherwise not notice (I’m not an expert–I think visual hallucinations are unusual for MP disorder. I also don’t know if people in the know shorten it to MP disorder).

I notice that on this cover, there’s a dude in a cool-looking peacoat holding a wicked-sweet gun. Since I read this novella a month or two ago, I’d forgotten about my favorite “aspect” of Stephen Leeds. The guy with the gun, J.C. Yes, he was hilarious and the verbal repartee he participated in with one of Stephen’s female aspects, Ivy, was sparkling and captivating. I loved it.

Alright, so Brandon did a great job with the execution (as usual, the bastard [term of endearment]). What I loved was the cast of characters–they were diverse and the dialogue between them was sharp and well done. So much of this story was perfect I could just run down a grocery list of what did it for me, but that would be boring.

I don’t like stories that glorify mental illness (like A Beautiful Mind [the movie…is there a book?]) because they tend to overlook the fallout and pretend that it doesn’t matter–when the reality for me (my late father had a mental illness that was variously described as delusional paranoia to schizophrenia, which just illustrates the difficulty of diagnosing diseases of the mind) was that the collateral damage mattered very much to me, my mother, and my sisters. In any case, Brandon does a clever and interesting job of detailing how one person might harness their multiple personalities and benefit from this schism of the mind, and I never felt like Legion was romanticizing something that can be awful to experience (but…I guess that is kind of what he’s doing…hmm weird that it never felt that way).

One thing that struck me, and which I don’t know if he was doing intentionally, was the concept that someone with such a high IQ MIGHT be benefiting from compartmentalized geniuses like Stephen and his various personalities. I mean, I don’t know if I’m even articulating what I mean very well. I just thought to myself as I was reading that embedded in the subtext was the idea that people with extreme intelligence might just think on many different planes, which could be described as personalities. It SEEMED to me that one idea here is that too much brilliance of that nature would have to be separated into different mental entities in order to control it.

That’s what I thought. And I like that idea. And even if Brandon didn’t mean to do that, I feel like it’s a possibility.

Usually Brandon (did I mention that we’re not friends but that I employ the use of his first name liberally because I’m just that way? Yep) writes endings to his stories that blow my mind. As usual, the ending of Legion had a twist that I enjoyed and felt like the payoff was worth it. BUT, it wasn’t his BEST ending ever in the entire universe of Brandon books/stories. It was just pretty good and I can’t complain about that, because Brandon writing a pretty good ending is the same as me writing my best ending ever (and most other writers too).

I wish I could keep my reading schedule up with how prolific he is, but I’m really glad we have a machine like him rolling out stories that keep us entertained and thoughtful and give us ideas and magic systems that no one else has ever come up with. He’s a freaking genius. I actually think he MIGHT be Legion.

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