C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".
He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.
JUDGE DREDD CASE FILES VOLUME 1 is the first installment of the adventures of comic books ultimate lawman. The satirical British comic debuted in the late Seventies and has been continuing in real time ever since, making our resident antihero roughly eighty-four in 2022. The comic took a deadpan view of the militarization of the police, police brutality, the enshrinement of the law as infallible, and overly violent views of criminals to make a hilarious send up of changing trends. Almost fifty years later, the humor is somewhat spotty because quite a few people hold these views unironically.
JUDGE DREDD is a dystopian science fiction series that has always been somewhat schizophrenic in its presentation. This is deliberate and, for many, it is a feature rather than a bug. It started as a satire on American police brutality, action movie cliches, as well as British conservatism (through an American lens) with a hefty dose of black humor. The fact this is a "serious" take on the subject and heavy with its politics means half of the audience will run screaming while the other half will probably just nod their head in appreciation.
The satire of the comic is that Judge Dredd is a fascist enforcer of an authoritarian dictatorship but the society of Mega City One is so overthetop that he is seemingly a necessary evil. Dredd is, himself, mostly unaware that the system he serves is worse than the alternative. He is the Law but the Law is run by a bunch of corrupt scumbags running a city of apathetic fools. This has been clear since the "The Day the Law Diedl" arc that was in 1978.
However, Dredd has a certain Misaimed Fandom (see TV tropes) of people who think the Judge system is just dandy and espouse many of their ideas unironically. That if you just got rid of due process, armed the police with unlimited powers, gave them the weapons of an army, and then set them loose then everything wrong with America would go away. This is aimed directly at that fandom with somewhat mixed results.
The premise is that before the nuclear war that created Mega City One when the Judge System was newly implemented, there was a transition period between "our world' and the dystopian future. In Boulder, Colorado, Judge Veranda Glover is assigned to handle protests against corporate corruption and gets eight people killed before being introduced to the local police as their newest assistance. From there, she investigates a child's kidnapping and proceeds to ruin life after life in the name of the Law.
It's effectively telling a Judge Dredd story by having the Dredd figure set against a more "normal" and less cyberpunk world. Judge Glover is lacking even Dredd's sympathetic qualities, however, and rightfully repulses everyone around her. The story is not subtle about police brutality, corruption, the prison-industrial complex, and other issues that underscore the satire of Judge Dredd is not meant to be aspirational.
This is described in the foreword as a horror story rather than a science fiction story and it's certainly both. There's just enough "cool" factor in Judge Glover that you sometimes think that she might be justified or that she'll show some sign of being redeemable. But it's not that kind of story and we know that things will get worse before never getting better. Mega City One is as bad as it was when it was first unveiled and has had a nuclear war, plague, plus regular attacks by zombies from another dimension. This book argues that's the fault of us, the people, more than anything else.
For some fans, this is exactly the kind of Judge Dredd story they want to read. Others will find it repulsive for getting politics in their satirical British comic book. I think it's less entertaining than the classic "Ameirca" arc of Judge Dredd but still worth reading. I just wish it had ended with its protagonist getting a bullet through their exposed chin.
WHEN GRAVITY FAILS by George Alec Effinger is one of the seminal works of science fiction but, sadly, has fallen out of reading order for a lot of modern fans. Which is a sham because it does belong there with Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Hardwired, and Synners. It still has a lot of respect but is something that should probably come up more. It is dark, gritty, imaginative, and presents a vision of the future that not only remains internally consistent but socially relevant. Has it aged 100% well? Not entirely, no, but better than a lot of other fiction from the Eighties.