I first became aware of Brandon Sanderson when he was chosen to complete the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan. That led me to his other works, which have, so far, proven to be really entertaining. His Mistborn series, in particular, shows a fine attention to detailed world-building and intricate magical systems. Sanderson’s books, apart from having epic plots and good characterisation, are notable for the explorations of these systems of magic.
Legion was originally published as an e-book but also saw a premium edition hardcover. It’s now bundled together with The Emperor’s Soul, another short novella. Legion is particularly distinctive because it’s as close as I’ve seen anyone write to Roger Zelazny’s style in a long while.
Roger Zelazny was one of the great writers of science fiction and fantasy, and one of my favourite writers as I was growing up. (He remains one of my top writers). His Chronicles of Amber was greatly influential on my group of friends at university. Although the D&D I ran at that time was quite important to me, the three-year Amber Diceless Role-playing campaign we played was the most significant RPG experience of my early life; it taught me a huge amount about the techniques of story-telling in role-playing games.
Zelazny had a particular type of hero: independent (perhaps even “loner”), knowing things that normal people didn’t know, tremendously witty and brave, and often having an interesting time with women. I loved his characters and the hero of Legion, Stephen Leeds, reads like a Zelazny hero. In fact, the entire book does.
Leeds isn’t quite normal, of course. He hallucinates. He hallucinates people – an entire legion of them. And interacts with them.
“I’m not a genius. I’m really quite average.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Believe what you will,” I said. “But I’m not a genius. My hallucinations are.”
“Thanks,” J.C. said.
“Some of my hallucinations are,” I corrected.
The plot of Legion concerns a missing inventor, who had created a camera that could take pictures of the past. Leeds is hired to find the inventor, and so we have a story. Of course, apart from being able to take pictures of Washington and Lincoln, such a camera could also take pictures of significant religious figures… and thus you get people concerned with that, and opposition to the quest.
In case you didn’t realise it, I really enjoyed this book. There’s a sequel coming out soon – Legion: Skin Deep – although when it arrives in Australia is anyone’s guess. Sanderson originally wrote the book because he wanted to see how he would write a contemporary story. The answer is “like Roger Zelazny”. I know no higher praise. More, please!