Thanks to Rebellion Publishing and Netgalley for the advance digital copy of this book – offered in exchange for an honest review.
Formed of three novellas following Cassandra Anderson in her first year as a Judge, Judge Anderson: Year One by Alec Worley explores what it’s like as a psyker living and working in Mega-City One. The search for a powerful, rage-filled psyker infecting others with his anger; a fight for survival in the midst of some of the most deranged of Mega-City One’s inhabitants; and a quest to find the source of a psychic malaise infecting dreams…these are among the challenges facing the young psker as she wrestles with how to reconcile her responsibilities as a Judge with her inherent compassion.
While the three stories aren’t immediately sequential, they do take place in order with each one feeding into the next and contributing to the growing picture of a woman whose greatest strength might just be her biggest weakness. Worley talks in the foreword about how hard it was to write Anderson, but he’s achieved a great balance between her physicality and her psychic nature, showing how they complement each other and how she relies on both in conjunction in order to succeed. Her powers are varied and well described, and while some of the more out-there moments can get a little trippy, it will all feel comfortably familiar to anyone who’s accustomed to similar science fiction – especially the various Warhammer worlds.
Each of the novellas tells a smart, interesting, well paced story, each one nicely focused as a standalone story whilst contributing towards the book as a whole. Between them they provide a great sense of the Dredd IP, even to someone [like me] who’s not that familiar with it. Sure, they benefit from some prior knowledge, but there’s no requirement for the reader to be intimately familiar to be able to enjoy them. The workings of the Justice Department feature heavily, of course, but this is a detailed world with masses of world-building having taken place, and Worley taps into that to add flavour and character to the setting, without ever letting it take away from the narrative.
It’s all pretty bleak stuff, as you might expect, but Anderson represents – and searches for – a point of hope in the darkness. She provides an intriguing, nuanced viewpoint of a pretty black and white world, viewing the Judges from the perspective of the general population as well as one of their own. If you’re looking for straight-up action from start to finish then this probably won’t be for you, and it’s certainly a different experience to reading about Anderson, Dredd et al in comic book form – in case you weren’t certain, this is fully prose, and not a graphic novel! If, however, you’re after stories set in the same world but with more depth and detail, with the pacing and storytelling to really delve into the head of a particularly interesting character…this should be right up your street.