In my last review I mentioned that right after reading Altered Perceptions, the final 20% of which was composed entirely of an early draft of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, I read Brandon’s (second) most recent novella, Legion: Skin Deep. (I say second there because in the intervening week I noticed he released another novella.)
Legion: Skin Deep is the sequel to Legion — which I read, thoroughly enjoyed, and didn’t review — both of which feature the same rather peculiar protagonist. Stephen Leeds is a man with multiple personalities. The catch? His personalities aren’t quite hallucinations. And he uses their help to solve mysteries. Sound fun? It is! In the first book, he takes catches a flight to Israel to recover a camera that can (presumably) take photos of the past. It’s action-packed, fun, quirky, and leans heavily on one of the most unique character dynamics I’ve read in any book.
In Skin Deep, Stephen Leeds has been brought on for a new case, this time dealing with an interesting development in biotechnology. He’s chasing down the body of a scientist that mysteriously vanished, which also happens to contain encrypted data…in it. I won’t say how, even though it’s not a huge plot point, but for a writer steeped in fantasy, it’s great to see some sci-fi muscles getting flexed. The most interesting parts of the story aren’t even in the main mystery plot; they’re in the deteriorating relationship Stephen has with his aspects (personalities,) and his worrisome loss of control over them. Brandon neatly throws in several theories in the midst of the action that made my mind churn, and I really hope another sequel is on the way to answer some of the burning questions I was left with at the end of the story. It was short, sweet, and very well paced, and the writing is worlds better than the early draft of The Way of Kings I’d read the day before. It really is inspiring to see how much he’s developed as a writer, and it fills me with the desire to work harder on my own projects. Thanks for the inspiration!
Bonus: The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere – John Chu
Checking a calendar, it appears I downloaded this in 2013, before it had won the 2014 Hugo award for best short story. It’s a powerful story set in a world in which lies and truths manifest physically. Lies result in water falling on you, no matter where you are. The strength of the deluge depends entirely on the strength of the lie. Truths cause warmth to blossom all around you. It’s a clever pinnochio-esque theme.
The plot revolves around a young Chinese man and his lover, and the difficult process of coming out to a traditional Chinese family. Despite the foreignness of these issues (to me,) John Chu expresses them in such a viscerally relatable way that as I read, I was consumed by emotions that felt as though they were buried deep inside of me. Straight, White, and Jewish, I felt comfortable riding behind Matt’s (the protagonist’s) eyes. I felt his pain and shame, and his love, self-loathing, fear and doubt. It’s a powerful story, and I can see why it’s an award winner, despite my feeling that Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Lady Astronaut of Mars was a far better candidate for the Hugo that year. For what it’s worth, The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere is great writing, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a quick, moving read.