Legion: Skin Deep
A novella by Brandon Sanderson.
Stephen Leeds, AKA ‘Legion’, is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialised skills.
Here is an excerpt from the book, courtesy of Brandon Sanderson’s website:
“So . . .” Yol said. “I have an issue I might need help with.”
“Finally!” J.C. said. “This had better not involve trying to make people listen to that awful music of his.” He paused. “Actually, if we need a new form of torture . . .”
“Does this job involve a woman named Zen?” I asked.
“Who?” Yol frowned.
“Professional assassin,” I replied. “She was watching me at dinner.”
“Could be wanting a date,” Yol said cheerfully.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Our problem,” Yol said, “might involve some danger, and our rivals are not above hiring such . . . individuals. She’s not working for me though, I promise you that.”
“This job,” I said. “Is it interesting?”
Yol grinned. “I need you to recover a corpse.”
“Oooo . . .” J.C. said.
“Hardly worth our time,” Tobias said.
“There’s more,” Ivy said, studying Yol’s expression.
“What’s the hitch?” I asked Yol.
“It’s not the corpse that is important,” Yol said, leaning in. “It’s what the corpse knows.”
This is the second outing for Stephen Leeds, our gifted protagonist. This tale of speculative fiction revolves around the theft of a corpse. Not just any corpse, but one subject to a specialised form of genetic modification that allows it to double as a data store.
Being about 4 hours in length, it runs at approx double the length of the initial novella and allows us more time to build out on Leeds’ world with media coverage, medical studies (of him) and the occasional back-reference to other escapades and connections he has made.
It contained shady characters, hitmen, corporate dealings, science and religion, and the layers of this mystery are steadily revealed one by one. The denoument did feel a little “Midsomer Murders” despite the core speculative fiction but we can’t ask for everything! As with the first installment we delve into fringe science – in this case gene splicing to modify cells to store data – and the implications this may have, though we don’t get bogged down with hard science.
It would have been great to spend more time examining the connection and history with his previous partner/girlfriend, Sandra, who apparently really understood him and helped him get his aspects under control, yet mysteriously left him. I am sure this thread will be a long arc across the series and be more prevalent in the TV adaptation.
Legion III will be on my reading list when it’s published and I’d recommend both books in the series so far as a good mystery based around speculative science fiction.