Judge Dredd: America

By John Wagner

Judge Dredd: America, a novel by John Wagner
Book details Books in the series

Growing up my group of friends was obsessed with America and all wanted to move there. They had all been taken in by the glossy American films and TV shows that suggested that even if you were unemployed, you would own a swanky loft apartment. I had relatives who live there and was far more aware of the other side of the country; the race tensions, of families living in a single Motel room, the lack of a safety net. I was not the only cynic and John Wagner’s Judge Dredd: America for Judge Dredd Magazine was a powerful reminder how the medium of Science Fiction and Comics can perfectly distil a contemporary story but set it in the future. Would this excellent run translate into audio? 

Mega-City One is one of the few liveable environments on future Earth and houses billions of residents all under the rule of the Judges. Democracy is a thing of the past as ever citizen is a potential criminal. Even so, the idea of a free vote floats to the surface. How will the Judges deal with these radical ideas? With an iron fist or do they give the people what they think they want?  

The original America storyline have rightly become some of the most loved Judge Dredd runs and rightly so, as they are excellent. To translate them to a vastly different medium is a risk, but one that Penguin Audio has approached in the right way. For one thing, the quality of the audio mix and acting is exceptional. This is less an audiobook and more audio play. A series of actors play the different roles, and the brilliant use of background noises and audio tricks give you a sense of Mega City One. Close your eyes and you can almost feel yourself living in this oppressive future.  

Joseph Fiennes playing Judge Dredd and is the best-known name, but there is not a bad turn by any of the actors. Even those who played numerous roles did an excellent job of differentiating between the characters. The sheer quality of the acting and sound mix makes this a sumptuous listening experience, but also an uncomfortable one. The story that the listener is drawn into is a very dark one.  

America has different elements to it, but all have common themes – democracy and America. The stories question the autocratic rule of the Judges, but also queries whether democracy is better. Written in 1990, this storyline is over 30 years old, but it is as relevant today as it was then, if not more so. Sections based on a referendum will remind Brits of a recent decision that this country made. Wagner was able to hold a broken mirror up to the process decades before it was even dreamt of. 

This audio version of America is so impressive as it has been able to take the dark humour and cynicism of the comic and recreate it perfectly. You still get that wonderful 2000AD sense of British humour and manners being painted onto an American setting. How Wagner sees America is perfect for Judge Dredd and he uses this series to ask whether Dredd is a hero, or the villain. If this is anyone’s first taste of the character, you may think that Dredd has no redeeming features, they are few and far between, but they do exist. 

I can heartily recommend Judge DreddAmerica to any fan of hard-edge science fiction. It is an excellent marriage of quality source material with wonderful production. Fans of the character will gain the most from listening as it as close to being immersed in Mega-City One until a VR experience is released as you are going to get, but the standard of writing, acting and audio are so high, that anyone will enjoy it. 

Written on 11th March 2021 by .

You may also like

Shovel Ready
Killing is my Business
Red Dust