Review: Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Posted: November 13, 2018 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Brandon Sanderson, Fantasy

Stephen Leeds is not your average hero. He’d consider himself an normal enough guy, nothing really special to look at or know. At least until he starts talking to people no one else can see.

He’ll tell you they aren’t hallucinations, that he isn’t crazy. Stephen doesn’t think of them as hallucinations, he thinks of them more as manifestations or aspects. You see, in reality Stephen is a genius and uses these aspects as a sort of repository for knowledge: Ivy helps him interact with people and interpret behaviors, J.C. is his self-protection (or paranoia, if you’d prefer), and Tobias is his repository of trivia.

There are pitfalls to having these aspects, because even a genius needs a good deal of mental energy to maintain his expertise in areas such as photography, chemistry, languages… and for Stephen that magical number seems to be around 50. Even then he can only handle having 3 or 4 following him around at any given time (while the rest are housed in their rooms of his literal mansion). It’s kind of hard to have a romantic life when there are observers your date can’t see. The up-side is that people pay him big money to solve their problems. This life is clearly a double-edged sword.

If you read “Legion” (EBR review), Sanderson introduced us to Stephen and his hallucinations and the issues that surround it (go ahead, read Steve’s well-written review, then come back). “Legion” is also included in LEGION: THE MANY LIVES OF STEPHEN LEEDS so that you can have all the stories together. But while this is a collection of “shorts,” they actually work together to tell an overarching story that explain Stephen, how he uses his aspects to solve complicated issues, as well as the fallout that results when he can’t keep control.

The first story is explained in Steve’s review of “Legion.” “Skin Deep” deals with Stephen’s troublesome dating life and morphs into an investigation of a high-tech firm’s employee’s death. One of the engineers had succeeded in using human tissue as the new frontier of information storage–imagine being able to convert the human body to a walking computer, you’d never need to carry a laptop around ever again. At least that was the theory. The question is: is there competition desperate enough to kill for this new technology?

Sanderson continues Stephen Leeds' stories in LEGION: THE MANY LIVES OF STEPHEN LEEDS where we follow the methods of an unlikely hero.

In “Lies of the Beholder” we open with Stephen meeting with a journalist named Jenny who wants to write his story. Until he’s contacted by Sandra, the woman who helped him take control of his aspects all those years ago–and it sounds like she’s in danger. He abruptly leaves and using the camera in “Legion” sets out to find Sandra. Unfortunately, Jenny insists on tagging along; since she didn’t get her interview, she decides to watch him in action.

LEGION is so entertaining to read. Sanderson’s storytelling carries us along pretty quickly, with enough foreshadowing to keep us in the loop, but without insulting our intelligence–and with enough sketchy issues that make us question how sane Stephen really is. Even better: the endings are twisty enough to keep us on our toes. You’ll enjoy it and so will your discerning teen readers.

  • Recommended Age: 12+
  • Language: Not much
  • Violence: Some shooting and death, but not gruesome or bloody
  • Sex: Some kissing

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