Tonawanda News

November 29, 2012

BOOK NOOK: 'Legion' an engaging, but short read

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Brandon Sanderson’s “Legion,” published this past August, is an addictive joyride. Its biggest fault: the fun ends too soon. 

As an author, Sanderson is best known for finishing Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. A 14-book-long epic fantasy, Jordan left extensive notes on how he wanted his final book to be written before passing in 2007. Sanderson, a longtime fan of “Wheel of Time,” pieced the notes together and finished the series.

Now a professor at Brigham Young University, where he graduated from in 2005 after rooming with Ken Jennings (of “Jeopardy!” fame,) Sanderson teaches creative writing when he’s not working on his writing. Usually focusing on speculative fiction, Sanderson’s novella “Legion,” might be his most entertaining piece yet.

Following main character Stephen Leeds, Sanderson takes us on a cross-continental journey in search of stolen property. Hired by a rather ambiguous company to hunt down former employee Balubal Razon, Leeds hunts for a mysterious camera in Razon’s possession that is able to take pictures of the past. Point the camera on Christian holy ground, for example, and you just might be able to get a glimpse of what Jesus looked like.

This is exactly what Razon attempts to do, and it’s up to Leeds to catch him before he uses such proof of Christ’s existence for money, power or worse. The adventure is a page turner, and draws a similar feel to the excitement of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci’s Code,” especially given the religious overtones. 

Sanderson could have stopped there, but it’s the character twist in protagonist Leeds that really makes “Legion” a must-read. Stephen Leeds has multiple personality disorder.

This isn’t your everyday case of the disorder, either. Rather than switching between personalities and personifying them with his own actions, Leeds sees each personality as a separate person.

He hallucinates any number of friends to be in the room with him at the same time, and uses the hallucinations as a means of compartmentalizing his extreme intelligence. One hallucination is a master of weaponry and combat. Another is among the best at interrogation. A third is a first class translator, and so on. 

It’s Leed’s interactions with these imagined characters that makes “Legion” a blast to read. The only downfall is that it’s all over too soon. Only 88 pages, “Legion” seems to be just getting into the swing of the action when it all comes to an abrupt end. Sanderson could have easily extended the adventure into a full-length novel, which of course begs the question: Why didn’t he?

From a purely speculative stand point, “Legion” is the perfect setup to a new series, and writing lengthy book series certainly isn’t new to Sanderson. “Legion” was released both in hardback and ebook versions. For those already fans of Sanderson’s work, the $19.99 price point for the hardback edition would help Sanderson pay the bills as he works on the next part to a series.

On e-readers, the $2.99 price, along with the short length, seems like a bargain for those who may want to give a new author a shot. Its brevity and low price allows readers the opportunity to try Sanderson without feeling too committed. Those who end up hooked — and by the sound of things, there are many that now are — will be much more willing to shell out full-price for a full-length work in the future. 

“Legion” may not satisfy those who prefer their books on the literary side, but for those who read more for fun will find little not to like. Adventure, action, mysteries, twists, even love — it’s all here, and crammed into just 88 pages to boot.

Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.

• WHAT: "Legion" • BY: Brandon Sanderson • GRADE: B+

Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at unleashthis.tumblr.com, and can be reached through Twitter at unleash_this.