2 out of 5
I like that Maura McHugh started to take over as the leading Cass shepherd – Anderson is a character who I think benefits from a strong, solo author, such as Alan Grant’s ownership of her writings. But while I respect Grant, I tend not to be a fan of his works, and McHugh’s balance of slightly cringe-y quippery and complex scuffles hasn’t landed with me yet; furthermore, the stories collected here need some context which they’re not given, with the main focus – Psi Hotdog run The Dead Run – suffering from some pacing issues in its climax due to that aforementioned complexity. It’s not a bad story by any means, and given its many cadets with varying powers, benefits from being collected in terms of keeping everyone straight, plus excellent Patrick Goddard art, and an imaginative array of Psi applications, as the cadets (and Cass and Corann) battle some Cursed Earth spirits.
So what would’ve been good is if prior to this, Judge Corann had been given some setup, as her past definitely plays a part in the story; even having read a lot of Anderson’s past adventures, her history is very all over the place and easily mixed up and it took me a second to place the character. But the floppy uses the preceding story for an unrelated Grant / Jake Lynch oner where Cass battles some Judge Death worshippers, which is a lot of fun – Jake Lynch looks great in black and white – but because the following two stories are linked by Corann, it feels really out of place.
That last story – Be Psi-Ing You – is even worse, contextually, because it requires having read the preceding Sci-Fi special to make any sense. A fresh reader is instead likely to try and connect it with The Dead Run, and will only be greatly confused, and returning readers – well, what’s the theme here? Why collect this stuff together? The Dead run makes sense, but the rest is clearly just trying to fill the pages, and perhaps completely standalone tales (that didn’t suggest greater connections than are present) would’ve been better.
So it’s a confusing, ultimately dissatisfying set of Cass stories.