Reading Legends by Robert Littell marked a departure from my usual reading habits. Legends is the first spy thriller that I remember having read. It is also one of the first times I turned reading a novel into part of a larger event. I had just started watching Legends on TNT and was curious about the book on which it was based. So, I saved up episodes to watch until I finished the book, watching the last five episodes back to back last night. The effect raised questions for me about the context of my reading. Do I just want to keep reading book after book, or do I want to see if I can integrate books into a larger experience? In which case, what experiences do I want? What do I want to explore?
Briefly, a “legend” is an elaborate identity created for a spy by the CIA. Martin Odem is that spy. In both the novel and in the television series he is confused as to his true identity. Someone is keeping the truth from him. He is outwardly tough and inwardly fragile.
In the Legends novel, Odem is a detective who has been hired by Stella to find her brother-in-law, Samat, so that her sister can obtain a Jewish divorce. Odem has a number of mysteries to solve. Who is Samat and where is he? Why doesn’t the CIA want Odem to find Samat? They would rather kill Odem than have him find the answers. At the same time, Odem struggles with his own mental health. Is this merely a side effect of taking on too many legends or does he have multiple-personality disorder?
Reading Legends was a relatively fun and interesting experience for me. I enjoyed how Littell wove the different storylines together, putting chapters with different time periods side by side. Odem is a fascinating character. But, what I found most interesting was learning about the end of communism and the role that the CIA played. I just never thought about it, and the novel made it come to life. A German friendly acquaintance of mine has a rather harsh opinion of Americans and their knowledge of World events.
I had a different experience watching Legends than I did from reading the novel. Unlike the novel, Odem is still belongs to the CIA and plays an integral part in missions. The plotline of the series is driven by Odem trying to uncover the truth about his identity. Most of the episodes don’t have clear ending; a couple of times I thought I had fast-forwarded too far. I especially enjoy watching Odem transform into the different personalities. Watching the show made me remember the work of Hal and Sidra Stone, who believe that all of us are made up of different personalities.
I don’t intend to start reading and watching spy thrillers on a regular basis. But, Legends has been an enjoyable experience for me.