Saturday, November 17, 2007
My novels #3: Silencer
JUDGE DREDD: Silencer (Virgin Books, 1994)
Sector 66 is on the verge of civil war. The Ape Gangs aren't going to give up their position as crime overloards easily - and they're got a weapon of mass destruction to prove it. The mysterious She-Devils, meanwhile, have Justice Department weaponry to back up their claim.
When citizens begin to go missing and Sector Chief Kozwall is found horribly murdered, fear and paranoia reach fever pitch. Sector 66 needs the iron hand of the Law - and who better to provide it than Judge Dredd?
But one Dredd's investigations are under way, he finds gang warfare is the least of his worries. Something nightmarish is stalking the pedways of Sector 66, and there's a traitor at Justice Central. Somehow, it all ties in with the sinister experiments known as the Prometheus Project.
Hmm, it's funny re-reading that back cover blurb now, when the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction' has taken on a much more political dimension than it had back in 1994. But I can't muster a lot of love for Silencer as a novel. After bashing out two Dredd tomes and learning a little bit of craft, I wanted to write a Doctor Who novel for Virgin's New Adventures or Missing Adventures ranges. But my best efforts are creating a story for those ranges proved hackneyed and ineffective. Virgin needed another Dredd novel and I greedily accepted the money.
Big mistake. Never, ever, ever write a novel just for the money. It's hackwork and cash is not inspiration enough - at least for me - when it comes to grinding out tens of thousands of words. Authors should be burning to tell a particular story, not writing words merely to reach a minimum level so they can collect their fee. The whiff of hackery spoils this book for me. It's a tired mish-mash of continuity elements lifted from a dozen different Dredd comic strips.
Occasionally the story takes flight, but mostly when I was actually inventing something new instead of rehashing old material. The basic concept of having Dredd take charge as a sector chief was later reused in the classic comics mega-epic The Pit, but there it was done with wit, verve and masses of talent [i.e. by John Wagner]. About the only things in Silencer that make me proud are the title, and Frank Quitely's cover art. A supremely forgettable book, and a depressing step backwards for me after Cursed Earth Asylum. I didn't write another novel for two years after Silencer, but when I did it was worth the wait...