Literature / Legion

"My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad."

A novella by Brandon Sanderson.

Stephen Leeds is a schizophrenic, but not an ordinary schizophrenic. The people he sees are not only developed enough to be their own person, they are experts in a wide variety of fields — Ivy the psychiatrist, Audrey the handwriting expert, J.C. the Navy Seal, etc. Professors want to study him. Governments want to hire him. Stephen just wants to be left alone.

Until a woman named Monica shows up, representing a company that claims to have invented a camera that can take pictures of the past — a camera that's been stolen. Too intrigued to pass it up, Stephen accepts the case.

A sequel novella, entitled Legion: Skin Deep has been released, and there are tentative plans for a third story.

The author intended for Legion to be a possible TV series, and it was optioned by Lionsgate, but another series came out first, with the same name and based off an X-Men character with similar mental issues, so any plans for an adaptation are now on hold.

Legion provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: J.C. is able to keep up with a car doing 40 miles per hour on foot... until one of Stephen's other hallucinations wonders how he's doing that in Stephen's hearing, at which point J.C. suddenly has to stop to catch his breath.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: "We're on a plane hunting a camera that can take pictures of the past," I said. "How is it harder to believe that I just learned Hebrew [in a matter of hours]?"
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: J.C. gets called on his unsafe gun handling techniques; he claims he has "total control" over every muscle in his body. Justified because — he's a hallucination.
  • Artistic License Medicine: It's repeatedly mentioned that Stephen's condition is completely unique and makes absolutely no sense when compared to other forms of hallucinations or multiple personality disorders. One of the ways he makes money is by charging the many many psychologists who want to study him. He initially did it to get them to stop, but it ended up making him rich.
  • Art Major Biology: Skin Deep revolves around an invented tech that uses a virus to store information in DNA, turning the human body into a giant flash drive. Too bad they may have created a cancer-triggering virus in the process.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The reason Stephen keeps getting called on for odd jobs. He can wander through a room and in minutes have detailed information and background on it's occupant, or handle a conversation like he's reading a mind. From his perspective, his hallucinations are poking around with him and feeding him what they notice and their own analysis.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: J.C. and Ivy, apparently, to Stephen's consternation when he catches them making out in a corner.
  • Berserk Button: Do not dangle Stephen's decade long quest to find Sandra in front of him like a carrot to get him to take your case. In fact, just don't mention her at all. He's calmer when people are actively trying to con him, or pointing guns at him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As the page quote states, all of Stephen's hallucinations are crazy in their own way:
    • Tobias has his own hallucination named Stan, who lives in a satellite and predicts the weather for him (often badly).
    • Armando styles himself the emperor of Mexico, even after being told Mexico doesn't ''have'' an emperor. The megalomania has gotten severe enough that Stephen doesn't use him (photography expert) unless he has to.
    • J.C. refuses to believe he's a hallucination and invents wildly outlandish theories for why he can't interact with anything real (stealth tech, parallel universe, and at one point, Time Ranger, complete with future slang)
    • Audrey believes that she's a hallucination, to the point that she starts writing words in the air with her finger, just to give Stephen a headache.
    • Ngozi is such an extreme germophobe that she refuses to leave the mansion, without extensive prep (J.C. jokes a hazmat suit, she doesn't contradict him). Standout example, as her expertise is supposed to be forensics, and this cripples her ability to examine a crime scene.
    • Ivy has trypophobia (fear of holes, usually set off by things that look like bug nests), but other than a brief mention of covering up a wastebasket during Stephen's therapy session and pointedly avoiding looking at wormholes in a post, it never comes up.
    • And finally, Stephen himself, who contains all these other Bunny Ears Lawyers entirely in his head.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: While Stephen has many different hallucinations, he sticks with a core crew of 3 'aspects' for most jobs: Ivy (sanguine), J.C. (choleric), Tobias (phlegmatic), and then there's Stephen himself (melancholic).
  • Gag Boobs: Apparently, J.C. would like Stephen to imagine Ivy with bigger breasts.
  • Guile Hero: Since his boisterous backup J.C. is completely in his mind, Stephen is forced to become this. He doesn't always divulge everything he knows, and he's savvy enough to know his employers never tell him everything. Even when not in direct contact with his hallucinations, he shows signs of picking up the more common analysis skills, and he can get a plan going or have a Eureka Moment without their help.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Discussed. Stephen says likes things the way they are, though he wishes people would leave him alone. Monica suggests he finds being quite possibly the smartest man alive a burden, and invented the hallucinations as a way of coping.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Stephen points out this isn't the case, but when he briefly loses his cool with Monica when she dangles Sandra to hook him, he can tell she — like most people he meets — assumes it to be the case.
  • In-Series Nickname: One of Stephen's many psychologists came up with the name "Legion". He doesn't care for it much.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're aspects, and not split personalities (although hallucination is just as frequently used).
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In Skin Deep, Panos's body, that everyone thinks contains sensitive intel, is removed from the morgue this way, wheeled away in just another trash can.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: People tend to assume Stephen is a reclusive, amoral jerk. He admits to being a recluse and a jerk.
  • Living Lie Detector: Ivy is very good at reading people, though she can't always tell if someone is telling the truth or not.
  • Loophole Abuse: Attempted by Audrey in the second book. Since Stephen is running right up against the limits of his ability to create new aspects, Audrey decides to find out whether an existing aspect can learn new skills. It works, sort of; Audrey gains cryptography skills (in addition to her original handwriting analysis) minutes after Stephen "downloads" a book on it for her, and does some quick social hacking not long after. Later that same day though, Stephen randomly develops another aspect without intending to, creating a major Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: While it is not actual magic, and the hallucinations are all (supposedly) in Stephen's head, Sanderson applies his usual standards and there are rules Stephen has to follow.
    • Stephen can make himself an expert in just about any field, with a ridiculously short study time, so long as he can create a new hallucination or 'aspect', which in his mind actually carries the knowledge and expertise he just gained.
    • The aspect will have their own personality and background, sometimes even offscreen family, and they will also have their own personalized psychological problem. They also seem to have their own lives, he finds they head off on trips, or catches them just out of a shower, etc.
    • Once he has an aspect, he has to treat them as much like a real person as possible. They get living quarters in his mansion, seats to drive around with him, meals and drinks. Stephen's mind can fill in some gaps, but the more he has to the less stable all the minds are. Stephen acknowledges they aren't real, and will even tell them so, but otherwise they are as real to him as anyone else is.
    • The aspects have access to all of the information Stephen has, and it's implied Stephen has photographic memory, so he usually arranges to keep half an eye on as much as possible and let aspects call things to his attention. He can occasionally imagine them interacting with the real world if it makes sense, but any action taken he has to do himself (J.C. picks up a reel of duct tape to show him, but puts it right back down where it was).
    • Stephen does have limits, but he's also constantly pushing them. As of the first story he has 45 separate hallucinations, and he has created three more by the end of the second story, and he thinks he's riding his upper limits of what he can do. It also taxes his energy the more of them he has hanging around; his three aspect core crew he seems to keep around constantly, but five or six hallucinations at once becomes draining, and more requires a concentration aid.
    • If Stephen is separated from an aspect, he can't use the knowledge it has (although as of Skin Deep, he's started imagining them having cell phones so they can contact each other for quick consults). It's outright stated that one hallucination actually died, with permanent memory loss as a result.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The story deliberately leaves it ambiguous whether the projections are "real" or Steven is just using them as a trick to avoid admitting that he's doing all the thinking.
    • The ending leaves the question of the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth ambiguous in a very intriguing fashion.
  • Mentor Ship: A woman named Sandra taught Stephen to use his mind this way, although it's ambiguous whether or not he was hallucinating before that. It's strongly implied their relationship was more than teaching. Unfortunately, she hopped on a train, without a word, ten years ago. Stephen is desperate for any leads to find her, enough to take Monica's case despite misgivings, and even he doesn't seem sure if he needs her for love or just to stabilize his mind.
  • Mr. Exposition: Tobias often falls into this role. His expertise is never detailed, but he seems well versed in history and philosophy, and he diverts to rambling speeches on the sources of some concepts. Stephen seems to keep him close as a grounding influence against more colorful personalities in his team, and often uses his voice as a calming balm. May cross into Magical Negro, as the voice and his description brings Morgan Freeman to mind.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
    • Multiple times, usually with J.C.
      Stephen: I'm not a genius. My hallucinations are.
      J.C.: Thanks.
      Stephen: Some of my hallucinations are.
    • And remember that everyone else only hears half the conversation.
      Stephen: They're useful.
      J.C.: Thanks.
      Stephen: Some of them can be useful.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • A disturbing one: Apparently, before he was in control of his aspects, some of Stephen's projections became, in his words, nightmares. We don't get any clarification, but we honestly don't need it.
    • From Skin Deep:
      • "Not all of my missions involve terrorists or the fate of the world. Some are far more simple and mundane. Like locating a teleporting cat.
      • "Not again, I thought, 'I hate zombies.'"
    • Whatever happened to Ignacio, Stephen's chemistry expert. Somehow an aspect died, and it's never explained how that's even possible.
  • Oh, Crap!: Whenever a hallucination does something Stephen doesn't expect to be possible, and makes him question how stable he really is:
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Stephen claims he isn't this, since it's his hallucinations that are geniuses. But since all his hallucinations are in his head ...
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: What does J.C. stand for? Word of God is J.C. was based on Jayne Cobb/John Casey.
  • Only Sane Man: From his own perspective, dealing with multiple aspects that are usually more colorful than he is, Stephen can come across as this. From everyone else's perspective, not so much. Among his aspects, Ivy may qualify, as her skills are in psychology and reading people, and her own quirk (trypophobia) rarely comes up.
  • Properly Paranoid: Played with. Never outright stated, but J.C.'s mental issue seems to be paranoia, and he's constantly referencing conspiracies that everyone else doesn't have clearance to know about. As a (imaginary) former Navy Seal though, it comes off like he would actually know these things, and given Stephen's usually investigating topics of interest to powerful people, he's often right when he sees trouble coming.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Stephen insists that while he may be crazy, he's not insane. He is functional, despite clear issues and outlandish requirements. While refusing to be studied he does try therapy, both with Ivy and someone real.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Audrey believes that she's a hallucination not because she actually is one, but because she's crazy.
  • Sequel Hook: The first book was deliberately written in the style of a TV pilot, and leaves several questions unanswered. The sequel continues the trend. While plans for a TV adaptation are on hold, the author is holding out hope for future changes and intends to keep the setting going.
  • The Reveal:
    • The reason the Mega Corp. could never get the camera to work properly without the inventor. The flash the inventor used was the key component to make it work. Stephen grabbed a sample, and one of his aspects is working on recreating the tech to help find Sandra.
    • What actually happened with the bio-information tech in Skin Deep. The info was never on Panos' body, and there never was a cancer virus. Panos stole his own virus research from I3 and spliced it into a common harmless skin bacteria, and then made sure to shake a lot of hands, making lots of copies so it couldn't be destroyed. It's encrypted, but Stephen has the key. Panos' little brother had a dream of using the research as a vector for auto-delivering immunizations and eliminating disease wholesale.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, though some aren't particularly helpful. Stephen has both Ivy and a non-hallucinatory psychiatrist, though we never see the latter.
  • Third-Person Person: Armando, the photography expert, styles himself the "Emperor of Mexico" and occasionally talks like this.
  • Third Wheel: Skin Deep opens with Stephen trying out a date. Ivy and Tobias are along and hamming up every detail, but he manages to avoid interacting with them (and thus freaking out his date) for a bit. Then he slips up. Then he fumblingly explains what it's like to be nuts. Then J.C. shows up checking the perimiter. Turns out the date was a plant for a reporter anyway.
  • Time Travel: Only indirectly. The first story is about a camera that can take pictures of the past, it just needs to be in the same location. The Mega Corp. that helped build it wants to use it to gain sensitive intel. The inventor who stole it back wants solid proof of his religion, pictures of the resurrection of Jesus.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Most of the hallucinations are aware that they aren't actually there, and Stephen often directly addresses it with them, but they tend to ignore or gloss over it whenever convenient. Breaking the illusion too much means breaking Stephen. The two exceptions are J.C., who refuses that explanation, and Audrey, who embraces being imaginary so much that Stephen concludes that not being real must be her own personal psychosis.
  • White Void Room: Stephen has one room in his mansion set up to look like this. The emptiness lets his mind focus on just the aspects and hallucinations, so he can call together a conference of all of them and get them all cracking on a single problem. They even use the walls as a whiteboard.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Naturally, but the story's ambiguity leaves this zig-zagged with Power Born of Madness - it's never fully clear whether, as Monica suggests, he is inventing people to cope with being too intelligent, or whether he is channeling his mental illness into a constructive form, or something else altogether.