Alec Worley’s collection of three novellas covers Judge Anderson’s first year on the job. Unfortunately for Worley, the book also reads like his first year on the job. Anderson is constantly told she is exceptional, some kind of psychic genius, but she only ever shows the reader how incompetent she is. She complains about the corruption within the Justice Department, how she doesn’t like to use deadly force (why did she become a Judge in the first place?) and is constantly going off on missions half-cocked. There is very little character development over the course of the three stories and the ‘action sequences’ (aka 90% of the book) are far too long. Judge Anderson: Year One is a tedious read that will leave even the most hardcore fans fatigued.
‘Psi-Division. Hands on your haircuts.’
The first novella in the collection, Heartbreaker, actually started off very promisingly. The concept was extremely novel and fun, taking online dating to the extreme in a dystopian future. It allowed the author to explore the character and how she interacts with those around her. Worley has fun with the world he is writing in, developing a vocabulary unique to Mega-City One. And right up until the close of the first novella, I was enjoying myself. But then it all went to shit.
What could have led to interesting character development and internal reflection fell away to focus entirely on a big action sequence. There were pages and pages of action description that read more like a comic book storyboard than accomplished prose. There’s nothing to break it up for the reader; no dialogue or personal motivations. The passages read like they are written by an uninterested journalist: ‘she did this, then she did this.’ It becomes very dull very quickly, and it is a real shame when it was good fun up until that point, interspersing the action with character meat for the reader to hold on to.
‘Madness is all we have left.’
The second novella, The Abyss, is woeful from start to end. While Anderson’s psychic abilities added to the first story, it is all the second story is about. I couldn’t help but feel Worley was attempting to recreate the tension of the ‘shut-in’/pressure boiler in the Dredd film. It doesn’t work.
I’m honestly not sure what else to say about this novella. It was a real struggle to push through to the end.
‘Blood and meat slapped Anderson’s face like a wet flannel.’
The final novella of the collection, A Dream of the Nevertime, opens with a dream sequence! This is one of the oldest rules in the book! Don’t do it!
Like The Abyss, A Dream of the Nevertime hangs its hat on Anderson’s psychic abilities. Much of the action in the book happens by accident. I hate coincidence, especially when it happens to someone who is meant to be good at their job. Why couldn’t she have found the mutant group from actual detective work? On the plus side, she does get an amusing cowboy robot sidekick in this story. I think I would have liked a novella about him tending to his herd out in the wasteland more than yet another action-packed, character-light tale of psychic trauma and emotional woe.
Worley does attempt some personal growth in the form of entirely half-arsed self-reflection. Anderson harps on about how she will stop being reckless and follow the rules before she goes and ignores her own wisdom! Don’t highlight a problem with the construction of the character only to continue playing it out! Worley makes things more difficult for himself than he needs to. It is tricky to create character growth without her having any friends. She has people she interacts with within the mini stories. Apart from the head of Psi Division, there’s no one else who carries over through all three. It feels like a series of MacGuyver episodes though less clever and far less interesting.
Verdict: A completely flavourless addition to the tales of Mega-City One. Judge Anderson deserves better.