Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad.A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people—Stephen calls them aspects—to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to g...

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Title:Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds
Author:Brandon Sanderson
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds Reviews

  • Nadine

    What’s great about Legion is that there is more than one interpretation to be taken: a metaphor for writers and their process, a personal look at Sanderson’s process/mind, a look at mental illness, or just a really interesting and fun story.

    Legion is a compilation of three novellas. When this compilation novel was first announced last year, I decided to hold off on read the novellas so I could just binge them all at once and I’m glad I did. Sanderson is doing his Sanderson thing here in creating

    What’s great about Legion is that there is more than one interpretation to be taken: a metaphor for writers and their process, a personal look at Sanderson’s process/mind, a look at mental illness, or just a really interesting and fun story.

    Legion is a compilation of three novellas. When this compilation novel was first announced last year, I decided to hold off on read the novellas so I could just binge them all at once and I’m glad I did. Sanderson is doing his Sanderson thing here in creating complex and compelling characters, even if most of them aren’t real. Legion doesn’t stand up to his other novels in terms of world building or crazy complex magic systems, instead Legion presents readers with fascinating science fiction plots and characters you won’t be able to get out of your head.

    The first two novellas are fun and light hearted despite the few lines of foreshadowing. Readers are brought on exciting adventures that have some of the coolest plots I’ve ever read. I wish the first novella were a full-length novel because it’s such an interesting concept that I’d love to see expanded upon.

    The final novella has a much darker and bleaker tone as Stephen deals with his deteriorating mental state. After the light hearted tones of the first two novellas, I thoroughly enjoyed the more serious bleaker tone of the final novella. Stephen’s introspection is the focal point of the novella, which makes his arc feel complete. I’ve read a few reviews that complain about the ending being rush or not what they expected/wanted, but I think this ending was inevitable though I think it depends on how you’re viewing the story as whole.

    Overall, Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds is another work of Sanderson’s you can point to to showcase his incredible writing ability. With characters that jump off the pages and plots to rival some of the best science fiction writers, Legion with leave you clamouring for more.

    __________

    Who would have guessed I’d rate his 5 stars? Though this isn’t huge in terms of Sanderson’s typical world building, it’s still amazing and worth the read.

  • TS Chan

    This omnibus collects the first two novellas, Legion and Skin Deep, both

    This omnibus collects the first two novellas, Legion and Skin Deep, both previously released as individual volumes, and the final new instalment, Lies of the Beholder, which provides closure to Stephen Leed’s story. Each story pretty much stands on its own but together forms a cohesive and continuous narrative with important elements carried forward from one to the next.

    The blurb for Legion is quite well-known already and most of you who have an interest in the book would probably know its basic premise. Stephen Leeds is a genius with an unparalleled aptitude to learn at an astonishing rate. However, his mind needs to conjure up hallucinations to contain the knowledge and manifest the expertise that he himself is unable to utilise directly. These hallucinations, whom he terms as ‘aspects’, have their own distinct personalities, and even their own lives. With its psychological angle, the story is necessarily written in the first-person perspective of Stephen Leeds to place the readers right into his head and mind. And what a mind he has, to keep up with around four dozen aspects - each with a certain idiosyncrasy and quirk which could very well be a personification of one or more of his personality traits, but scattered across many imaginary human beings.

    One thing from the usual Sanderson narrative that is absent here is worldbuilding. The tale takes place on good old earth, and mainly in the United States of America. The plots are centred around a mystery or puzzle that Leeds and his imaginary crew of experts have been tasked to solve. But the primary objective of the story is the characterization of Leeds and his aspects. While Leeds has a busload of aspects that can assist him with various specialised tasks, the ones we see the most are those he is most reliant on to keep him sane and safe - J.C., Ivy and Tobias. These aspects are characters who feel utterly real, both in their personalities and the manner in which they interact with each other in Leed’s imagination. I didn’t miss the typical worldbuilding of Sanderson’s books here because he made up for its absence in the pacing (these are short books as far as he is concerned) and fascinating characterization.

    Before I proceed to talk about the ending, I need to point out that I am quite an obsessive Sanderson fan. I follow Sanderson on possibly every social media platform (Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), I’ve read all his blog posts, watched/listened to most of his taped appearances on YouTube, and even participated in his recent Google Hangout Session for the Read for Pixels Campaign. I am also a regular visitor of the 17th Shard and the ‘Words of Brandon’ Arcanum.

    With the knowledge about Sanderson that I’ve gathered over the years through these means, the poignant and bittersweet ending of Leed’s story resonated most keenly as being a personal matter for the author. A more casual reader of Sanderson’s books might not be as taken in by the conclusion. I reacted with a gasp and a lump in my throat when I realised what Sanderson was attempting to portray in this tale as I read the last few paragraphs, or at least what I

    he was trying to do. That he has also been releasing a three-part series of essays on his blog called

    , in conjunction with the release of this book, alludes to where this story of Stephen Leeds comes from.

    One more thing I need to mention is the ingenious use of the inkblot images at the beginning of each chapter – those which are used by the Rorschach test to perform psychological evaluations of its test subjects. This inkblot image begins as a couple of dots and gradually spreads into a bigger one with each chapter as the story progresses. After a certain point, I can already make out what I am seeing.

    Ahhh - simply brilliant, especially considering that the ‘magic' in this book is based on psychological powers.

    While the story of Legion does not have the epic worldbuilding and magic systems that Sanderson is so well-known for in his fantasy series, it nonetheless carries his trademark storytelling ability. The moment I started reading the new story, Lies of the Beholder, I simply could not put it down until the end. Even though I will always admit to a personal bias for anything Sanderson produces, this is a clever and engaging piece of writing that explores human psychology and personalities.

  • Emily

    Legion is both a beautiful and haunting tale of the inner workings of one man's psychology and his search to understand it.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    I was SO excited to see a wrap-up to this trilogy of SF novellas by Brandon Sanderson! Review first posted on

    :

    is set of three interlocking science fiction/mystery novellas, with the detective role played by schizophrenic genius Stephen Leeds and his legion of hallucinatory alter egos or “aspects,” as he prefers to refer to them. The first two previously published novellas, “Legion” and “Legion: Skin Deep,” are now published together for

    I was SO excited to see a wrap-up to this trilogy of SF novellas by Brandon Sanderson! Review first posted on

    :

    is set of three interlocking science fiction/mystery novellas, with the detective role played by schizophrenic genius Stephen Leeds and his legion of hallucinatory alter egos or “aspects,” as he prefers to refer to them. The first two previously published novellas, “Legion” and “Legion: Skin Deep,” are now published together for the first time, along with a new third novella, "Lies of the Beholder," that wraps up the series and answers some questions that have been loose threads since Legion. (What happened to Stephen’s mentor and lost love Sandra? Why did she disappear from his life? And why do some of Stephen’s aspects periodically vanish?)

    In the preface to this set, Sanderson comments:

    It’s such a unique concept, and Brandon Sanderson has a lot of fun with it. Stephen Leeds has given form and shape to the voices in his head, giving them each a unique personality and field of expertise (based upon Stephen’s own readings). And once Stephen passes off his knowledge about, say, computers to a particular aspect, that knowledge is completely unavailable to him, “forgotten” by Stephen unless the aspect tells him about it in an imagined discussion. Stephen has been so successful solving crimes and other complex problems using his invisible army of experts that he’s been able to buy a mansion large enough to house himself and his cohort of some forty-plus aspects (who each require their own room) and distance himself from an overly-curious world. Now he accepts only those cases that he finds particularly interesting.

    The mystery in “Legion,” the first novella, involves an international search for a stolen camera that can take pictures of people and events at any time in the past. It’s a device that’s been used several times before in science fiction; most notably, T. L. Sherred’s 1947 novelette “E for Effort” (collected in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 2B), Isaac Asimov’s 1956 short story “The Dead Past,” and Orson Scott Card’s 1996 novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Legion doesn’t really add anything new from a science fiction point of view. Sanderson’s story points out some of the problems with the theory of time travel (branching paths of reality; Earth not being in the same place in space as it was in the past you are traveling to, or taking pictures of), but it doesn’t ever try answer those questions.

    Sanderson’s primary focus, and the real attraction of these novellas, is the unique psychology of Stephen Leeds, and the hilarious and colorful cast of hallucinated aspects surrounding him: J.C., the paranoid, trigger-happy ex-Navy SEAL and weapons expert; Armando, the trick photography expert who is convinced he’s the rightful emperor of Mexico; Tobias the schizophrenic historian and philosopher; Kalyani the linguist; and so on. Stephen’s aspects all are brilliant in different fields, all have their own differing mental illnesses, and all are utterly real to him, even though at the same time he is logically aware that they’re imaginary. It’s odd because they’re so completely real to him, but at the same time he *knows* they’re not real. And his hallucinations (for the most part) also understand that they’re not real, but so much of Steven’s life and his tenuous hold on sanity depend on him, and them, acting like they are real. It’s fascinating, and sometimes it gets really meta, which I love (it’s great brain exercise). Monica, who hires Stephen to solve the case of the missing camera, points out to Stephen:

    But real or not, Stephen’s legion of invisible experts are a lot of fun to read about.

    I’m especially fond of J.C., the politically incorrect ex-Navy SEAL aspect whose smart-mouth comments are the source of most of the humor in the Legion stories. “Skin Deep,” the second novella, gives J.C. another chance to shine, as Stephen and his aspects (he’s up to 47 now, though only a handful play a significant role in these stories) search for a missing corpse whose cells contain an invaluable scientific breakthrough.

    The mystery of “Skin Deep” concerns a dead man who was a pioneer in biotechnology, and developed a method for storing massive amounts of information in the cells of the human body. He’s believed to have stored some ground-breaking scientific information in his own body before he died. His corpse has now gone missing, and competing parties are in a potentially deadly race to find it. Stephen, despite his intentions otherwise, gets roped into investigating the case.

    The mystery in “Skin Deep” is much more satisfying than the one in “Legion.” Still, I thought “Skin Deep” would have benefited from more depth and detail; I’m not sure the novella length was the best choice. The real pleasure in this novella is, once again, reading about Steve and his hallucinatory alter egos. Sanderson handles it all with a deft, humorous hand.

    I was also hoping for more answers in “Skin Deep” about the mysterious Sandra, a psychologist who disappeared from Steve’s life a decade ago and whom he desperately wanted to find again. In the first two novellas Sandra kept being dangled in front of us like a particularly annoying worm, but nothing ever really happened with that particular plotline. Sanderson finally tackles the Sandra problem head-on in his final Legion novella, “Lies of the Beholder.”

    As “Lies of the Beholder” begins, Stephen Leeds is giving a private interview to Jenny Zhang, a reporter who begins displaying far more insight into Stephen’s mental state and thought processes than he’s comfortable with. This uncomfortable interview is interrupted by a text from the long-missing Sandra that says, simply, HELP. Stephen is desperate to find Sandra, but her trail is elusive … and some of Stephen’s aspects are becoming alarmingly unreliable.

    “Legion” and “Skin Deep” are both fun, fairly light reads with some intriguing psychological aspects. “Lies of the Beholder” is significantly different in tone. Without getting into spoiler territory, I admire Sanderson’s decision to take the final Legion story in a different, darker direction, but the final story felt like it needed more fine-tuning.

    The concept and basic plot of “Lies of the Beholder” is a strong one and had several truly surprising ― even shocking ― moments. However, there are some significant plot holes here, and I didn’t think the various elements tied together in a way that was sufficiently logical within the framework of this universe. As a result, I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the resolution of Stephen’s story. That dissatisfaction was underscored by a final wrap-up that suggested a far too simple answer to the problem of Stephen’s schizophrenia.

    I’m still enthusiastic about

    as a whole. Stephen and his aspects are both original and appealing, and their interactions never cease to captivate and amuse me.

    The new hardback edition of these collected stories has an appealing, clever cover image of a fractured Stephen, and the evolving images at the beginning of each chapter are even more fascinating, not to mention thematically appropriate. It begins as a Rorschach test type of inkblot image, then I thought it was turning into a brain scan. But gradually it becomes clear that the artist has created something far more significant ― particularly as the image starts to devolve later in the book. Kudos to both artists!

    The hardback ARC of this book just appeared on my doorstep today!!

    *happy dances around the house*

    *throws confetti in air*

    *forgives our puppy for chewing up my new shirt and my computer mouse this morning*

  • Gavin

    This book was a compilation volume containing all three of Sanderson's Stephen Leeds novellas. I'll mainly focus on giving my thoughts on the newly released third novella, Lies of the Beholder, as I've already shared my thoughts on the other two in previous reviews.

    I did reread both Legion and Skin Deep before starting Lies of the Beholder and enjoyed them both. I liked Legion just as much the second (or third) time around. It is a fantastic introduction into the crazy world of Stephen Leeds! W

    This book was a compilation volume containing all three of Sanderson's Stephen Leeds novellas. I'll mainly focus on giving my thoughts on the newly released third novella, Lies of the Beholder, as I've already shared my thoughts on the other two in previous reviews.

    I did reread both Legion and Skin Deep before starting Lies of the Beholder and enjoyed them both. I liked Legion just as much the second (or third) time around. It is a fantastic introduction into the crazy world of Stephen Leeds! While I did enjoy my reread of Skin Deep I felt it showed a few more flaws the second time around. I like JC, he can be hilarious, but the fact that he is such a gun nut is a little annoying. His character feels a bit like the personification of Sanderson glorifying guns which seems a bad social message at a time when mass shootings are common place! The other thing that annoyed me was how judgemental Stephen was of his date early in the book. Judgemental characters who feel like they are better than others always piss me off so it was disappointing to see it here. Outside of those moments I did still enjoy Skin Deep and felt it had a good mix of humor and an intriguing mystery.

    The first two Stephen Leeds novellas had a light and fun tone but Lies of the Beholder felt like a change in direction for the series. It still had a bit of the humor and mystery we expect from the series but had a lot more serious tone and dealt with a few more weighty emotional issues.

    In terms of story we still got a bit of mystery as, out of the blue, Stephen gets contacted by his old flame Sandra in the form of a cryptic text message. It sets him off on the hunt to find and rescue her! I found it an engaging enough tale and actually loved where he did track her down to. I was also happy with the way Sanderson dealt with the Stephen/Sandra relationship. It was built up in the first two books but I'd always been a little uncomfortable by the way Stephen was always trying to track down a woman who clearly left him of her own volition and cut contact. Seemed a bit stalkery to me! Luckily Sanderson got things right in this one so I enjoyed the pairs interactions.

    The main focus of this third novella was actually Stephen's deteriorating mental state. He seemed quite in control of his hallucinations in the first two books but that was not the case here as we saw him struggle to separate what was real and what was imagined and witness the fact that he had become ever more reclusive and anti-social since we last seen him in Skin Deep. It gave the story a darker tone as Stephen struggled with mental health issues. Sanderson also went heavy on the theme of grief and loss as Stephen had to deal with it in a bunch of different ways of the course of the novella.

    Lies of the Beholder was definitely an engaging read but it also turned out be be a darker and more melancholy tale than its predecessors. I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied by the ending we got here but I guess it was passable. I just wish it was not a series finale as Sanderson has created a fantastic world in this series and I feel it had tons of potentially fun tales still to tell!

    All in all I rate the Stephen Leeds novellas as one of the better novella series I've read over the years. Yeah, even considering the flaws I've just spent the whole review moaning about lol!

    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Audio Note: Oliver Wyman is a top narrator who did a fantastic job with all three novellas. He gets the tone of the story and was spot on dealing with the humor and with the more emotional moments. He aced the character voices as well!

  • Karishma

    This was my first Sanderson and will definitely not be my last.

    This was a near perfect series for me in terms of characters, plot and pacing till the last chapter which flickered out towards a crushing disappointing and an ending which seemed just wrong.

    I would highly recommend this series - it's great, short and complete - if you are into audiobooks it's great in that format as well.

    Just imagine something else for the ending of the series, that's what I plan to do!

  • Dave

    Blurring the lines between reality and imagination and between sanity and its opposite, Sanderson offers us three interlinked novellas, two of which were previously published. Stephen Leeds is a genius, but he is crawling along a tightrope perched precariously over a steep drop. In order to solve cases such as missing corpses, he calls upon his aspects or hallucinations, forty varied and extraordinary beings who no one can see but him. Although he sets chairs out for them. Offers them drinks. He

    Blurring the lines between reality and imagination and between sanity and its opposite, Sanderson offers us three interlinked novellas, two of which were previously published. Stephen Leeds is a genius, but he is crawling along a tightrope perched precariously over a steep drop. In order to solve cases such as missing corpses, he calls upon his aspects or hallucinations, forty varied and extraordinary beings who no one can see but him. Although he sets chairs out for them. Offers them drinks. Hears about their awkward social lives. It’s like schizophrenia on steroids and then some. Lots of voices. Like Alia Atriedes calling on her past genetic ancestors. Sort of. But, anytime Leeds needs help he can plug into their vast knowledge like Neo plugging into computer files in Matrix. It’s an exciting concept and the raw banter between Leeds and his aspects is the best part of these stories.

  • Robin (Bridge Four)

    This is the final novella to complete out

    We first met Steven Leeds on the worst blind date ever. It is a little disconcerting to find out the man you are on a date with sees and talks to people who aren’t really there. Over the course of a few books we’ve gotten to know many of the hallucinations that he has created to compartmentalize all of the stuff in his head

    This is the final novella to complete out

    We first met Steven Leeds on the worst blind date ever. It is a little disconcerting to find out the man you are on a date with sees and talks to people who aren’t really there. Over the course of a few books we’ve gotten to know many of the hallucinations that he has created to compartmentalize all of the stuff in his head, including most of his psychological problems. Each hallucination has one from paranoia, germaphobia, schizophrenia and many many more.

    Lies of the Beholder examines what happens when the controls that Steven has set up in his mind to deal with his problems starts to break down.

    and they take on a mind of there own so to speak. It got a little dark in there. The mind is a beautiful and sometimes dark place when fear leaches in and starts breaking things apart.

    Steven is having a difficult time in this. His life has some changes happening in it as the butler he has relied on for years has decided to retire. The Butler’s granddaughter is training to replace him since Steven has some very specific needs from the people who work for him since he treats all the hallucinations like real people.

    In the conclusion to this series we find out what happened to the ever-elusive Sandra and why she left and disappeared in the first place. It is a good conclusion and I could see how some parts of this might mirror a little of Sanderson’s personal life especially with where he took the conclusion.

    It wasn’t my favorite of the series, most likely due to the darker tone to the book and less humor throughout. There is a pattern of loss in this conclusion to the series and I liked where Steven ended up, but I can’t say the same thing about the endings for the Hallucinations. See even I’m treating them like real people.

    Oliver Wyman is the perfect narrator for this series. Sanderson has picked a lot of great narrators for all of his books and this series is no different. He did a great job at conveying the emotions of Steven and playing all the other characters too.

  • Claudia

    Mr. Sanderson’ writing is great when it comes to fantasy, especially to his

    series. However, he should stay away from science fiction, as this is not a genre for everyone to write.

    The science part is missing completely from this novella, there is no worldbuilding; this is just a work of fiction with lots of gaps between events, with a preposterous plot and an unconvincing and unrealistic main character – he has 46 alter-egos which act as hallucinations, not personalities (as

    Mr. Sanderson’ writing is great when it comes to fantasy, especially to his

    series. However, he should stay away from science fiction, as this is not a genre for everyone to write.

    The science part is missing completely from this novella, there is no worldbuilding; this is just a work of fiction with lots of gaps between events, with a preposterous plot and an unconvincing and unrealistic main character – he has 46 alter-egos which act as hallucinations, not personalities (as he told us), but from which we met just a few - thank God for small mercies.

    I said to myself that I won’t read another sci-fi work by him, after the fiasco with

    , but I thought to give it another chance. Turned out to be an even bigger disappointment. He really should stick to fantasy, which he’s brilliant at, and forget about writing science fiction.

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