Review: Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson

Legion Skin DeepLegion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment, 2014)

This is the second Legion novella, and I’m really enjoying the series. It’s an intriguing concept: what if an everyday-boring-normal guy is actually brilliant, but only because of his mental illness?

Doctors can’t quite label Stephen Leeds’ condition, but they think it’s a form of schizophrenia. Steve sees a host of imaginary characters called aspects. Each one is an aspect of his own personality, and each one is “unhinged” in his or her own way. Each is also an expert in some field of knowledge, based on what Steve has read. Fortunately for him, he’s a speed-reader and can also absorb audio books.

Steve has forty-seven aspects. The biblically literate will appreciate the “Legion” reference.

Here’s how he describes one of them:

Sarcasm was kind of her native tongue, though she was fluent in “stern disappointment” and “light condescension” as well. [chapter 1, page 4]

I love how he describes the office layout for the office building he visits, which is set up with a variety of informal, creativity-building opportunities:

Like a gorilla enclosure for nerds. [chapter 4, page 2]

Or this description of one of the engineers:

He wasn’t particularly overweight, but had some of the round edges that came from a life working a desk job. [chapter 5, page 1]

In this story, Steve must locate a dead body at the centre of high-stakes industrial espionage. With the minor complication that the other side has hired an assassin to stop him. At the same time, he struggles to manage his aspects, and he faces the possibility that he may be helpless without them.

Legion is a hybrid of science fiction and thriller, so it’s faster-paced than Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy novels. Same skill and deft touch, and a satisfying twist to the ending.

This is a mainstream novella, but I was surprised to find some mild profanity from this author.

Brandon Sanderson is best known for his epic fantasy novels, most notably the Mistborn and Stormlight series and the final books in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. For a real treat, listen to the opening five minutes of the audiobook version of Legion: Skin Deep from at SoundCloud (narrated by Oliver Wyman).

[Review copy from my personal library.]