Legion: Skin Deep - Review

Ever had an imaginary friend? Stephen Leeds has several, but they're not quite imaginary.

Working as a contractor for tough jobs whilst evading eager journalists and psychologists in a house built for forty, Leeds - known colloquially as "Legion" - has it tough. Mostly because he has a strange kind of multiple personality disorder; different parts of his mind - or "aspects" - spin off and form separate people, which he can then see as hallucinations. The aspects have distinct personalities and backstories, formed fully in his brain either whenever he requires a certain skill, or when the aspects just feel like it.

His mental state is so fragile that he has to imagine his aspects as real people, otherwise he'll go completely crazy rather than just partially. That makes him perfect for a job hunting a stolen corpse that contains the secret to human DNA memory storage, right?

Despite being a humungous Brandon Sanderson fan, I'd never checked out the original Legion short story or Skin Deep, its novella-length sequel. While Sanderson is most well-known for huge, world-spanning fantasy epics in The Stormlight Archive and the Mistborn books, he's also dabbled in more real-world based stuff, like this series and the Reckoners trilogy (which I heartily recommend to fans of actually-crazy superheroes). The style of Sanderson's modern-day stuff doesn't quite measure up to the assured, comfortably-paced ease with which he illustrates his fantasy worlds, but they're still fantastic books in their own right.

Skin Deep is no exception. It's a frenetically-engaging story with an easily accessible plot. The characters are all well-articulated and interesting, particularly the main aspects like J.C., Ivy and Audrey, whom Leeds utilises within the story. The story's also fairly swift, which makes sense given the book's brevity, almost taking a few cues from the James Bond school of plot development. It's the kind of book that makes you feel like you're reading it whilst clinging to the top of a Ferrari on the autobahn (so maybe bring a harness).

While it lacks the more thoroughly-fleshed-out aspects of world-building that is Sanderson's trademark, and there are a few plot developments that cried out for a little more explanation, there's still more than enough to keep any reader - Sanderfan or no - satisfied. My only big issue with Skin Deep is that we have no idea when a third story for the Legion universe will arrive; there are enough sequel hooks at the end that aren't cliffhangers, but definitely tantalise with some intriguing questions about the world of Stephen Leeds going forward. Since Sanderson's busy writing doorstopper epics, it might be awhile before we read the third instalment.

So I guess what I'm saying is, my big problem with Skin Deep is it was written so well that I want the next one. Because that's totally a flaw, right?

- Chris

Legion: Skin Deep is out in bookstores now.

Review copy supplied to Geek of Oz by Hachette Australia.


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