So I’ve read the first seven Chapters of Judge Dredd, and can’t say I’m too impressed. Now, to be fair, the author is limited by the movie script; his obligation is to infuse the scenes with thought, verve and personality. What he can’t dictate in plot he can compensate in description, in tone, in metaphor. A challenge! When deprived of plot, character choice, pacing and so on, all you have left is your voice. Your style.

However, Neal Barrett, Jr. isn’t doing more than the basics. At times the book verges on the ludicrous. My favorite part thus far deals with Judge Dredd’s introduction. He awakens in his room, where he sleeps on a blanket on the floor. He briefly reflects on how strange it is that he doesn’t care for heat or cold, for comfort or decoration, and then throws himself into a grueling exercise routine. Upon finishing, he showers, and then pauses to reflect on the four hours he has lost while asleep during which he could be prosecuting criminals:

It was four hours wasted every day. They were always out there, whether he was on the job or not. There were thousands of them – the killers, the rapers, the druggos-belly-gutters-head-hackers-sex-choppers, and the screaming maniacs.

Let me interject real quick – I love this glimpse into Dredd’s head. I like how he pauses, stands still in his cell, head perhaps canted to one side, eyes half closed as he considers the nature of the world, and his own limitations. How he rapidly grows incensed, the thought of the ne’er-do-wells arousing him into a torrent of rage. He hates the killers. He hates the rapers. He hates the druggos-belly-gutters-head-hackers-sex-choppers. And oh, he hates the screaming maniacs too.

In a rare display of emotion, he clenched his fists and let a cry of rage escape his lips. It wasn’t anger at them – he had no feelings at all about the citizens of Mega-City who broke the law… The fury he felt was not for them but for himself – for the hours he was not allowed to do his job, for the crimes being committed at that very moment he didn’t know about – and though they were few – for the times he had pursued a lawbreaker and failed.

Picture it – Dredd is freshly showered, dressed in his skin-tight black undies, stoic, almost inhuman, portrayed as a cold blooded Law machine – and then apropos of nothing he lets out a cry of rage! It makes you wonder if he screams every morning. In less than two pages we’ve been told that this dude doesn’t feel temperature, he doesn’t feel hunger, he doesn’t need companionship, and that he throws tantrums because he slept for FOUR hours.

Judge Dredd sounds delightfully kooky. My delight will continue as long as Neal Barrett, Jr.’s attempts to make him the ultimate bad ass serve instead to make him ludicrously weird and bizarre.