Book Review: Skin Deep
By: Brandon Sanderson
Narrated By: Oliver Wyman
Narrated By: Oliver Wyman
Published By: Audible Studios
Publication Date: November 2014
Audio Length: 4 hours, 23 minutes
Buy it at Audible
Source: Kindly Provided by Audible
Audience: Adult - Mystery
Legion: Skin Deep is Brandon Sanderson’s second novella about Stephen Leeds, a man with a bizarre multiple personality problem. You see, Stephen hallucinates and talks to his multiple aspects, but he is always in control of himself. He’s functionally sane; it’s his hallucinatory companions who are crazy. In this installment, Stephen and his multiple personalities are out to solve the mysterious disappearance of a body from the morgue, the body of a person who was in possession of potentially society-changing technology.
In Skin Deep, Sanderson’s sense of humor is most definitely on display as his main character solves a mysterious crime while navigating the challenges of interacting both with his hallucinations and with normal people. I was laughing out loud listening to Stephen attempt to have an ordinary first date while two of the other people in his head are giving him advice.
What makes Skin Deep such a compelling story is the fullness of Stephen’s hallucinations. They are “real” people with deep backstories and histories. Several of them even have “families” of their own and treat showing up in Stephen’s head like it’s a job. I know it sounds crazy (ha!) but it really works. And just like regular people, not all of his aspects, as Stephen calls them, get along. They all have differing beliefs about politics, religion, or even what constitutes “civilized manners,” so their interactions are always amusing.
With so many distinct characters, it would have been easy for a reader to get bogged down, but Oliver Wyman, the reader for the Audible edition, was phenomenal! Each of the many characters in Skin Deep had his or her own distinctive voice and mannerisms, and Wyman handled it with such virtuosity that honestly it’s worth listening to him read even if you think the story itself might not be for you. Accents on display: British, Korean, Nigerian, Indian, French, and more, plus at least five different regional American accents that I can count off the top of my head. Stephen Leeds’s mind is a busy place!
Brandon Sanderson is most known and honored for his epic (EPIC!) fantasy. He cleverly subverts genre conventions and twists endings like no one else I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read anything of his and are intimidated by the enormous tomes he typically publishes, the Legion series is a great way to get a taste of Sanderson’s style without committing to hundreds of pages (or dozens of hours). Even if you don’t like mysteries, you will be fascinated and entertained by this book. Legion: Skin Deep is for everyone.
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 specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous…
What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at it most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent—and unpredictable—voices.