The Razor is a genre-bending action adventure turned thriller turned horror that keeps you glued to your seat with its use of multiple narratives, a harsh setting, and a story that never gets dull. If you’re looking for an action-packed thriller with unexpected plot twists and strong writing, this is it.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. I only publish reviews of books I enjoy, and this novel meets that criterion.
By J. Barton Mitchell
Quick Summary: A handful of characters find themselves on the Razor, a remote prison planet where the worst criminals in the universe are tossed out of sight. World-altering events escalate quickly, plunging the Razor as they know it into a chaos that is as layered as it is terrifying.
Surprises abound as you weave through The Razor‘s intricate plot, discovering the dark and terrifying secrets the planet holds. I was confident I knew what the book was, only to be thrown for a loop about halfway through. Much like the planet that dominates the story, there is so much buried beneath the surface of the book. I reveled in the masterful use of multiple points of view and the story that barrels like a freight train full speed ahead. Here are a few things I loved about the book:
The Razor follows multiple characters with extremely varied backgrounds and skillsets as they work their way through the extreme events overtaking the planet. First, you have the brilliant engineer who unexpectedly finds himself sent to the planet. From him, we get the technical aspects of the story and insight into the massive structures crawling across the planet. Second, you have the former ranger whose single crime turned his circumstances from employee to prisoner. Third, you have a hardened criminal with nothing left to lose. Mitchell has created a fascinating set of narratives and perspectives, both on the events and society at-large. There’s never a dull moment in the story, thanks mostly to how different these characters are.
This planet is intense. I’m not sure if it’s scientifically possible, but it’s a brilliant use of setting to set a tone for the plot. There’s nothing about the planet that fosters life, save for a tiny strip known as the Razor. It’s a horrifying place filled with misery where most people die soon after arriving. There are few settings in recent memory that hold absolutely nothing positive, that are the epitome of terrible places. It works well in this instance, adding a tinge of fear with every interaction, knowing full well that the planet is just waiting to kill our characters with its natural environment. Add in the intense technology and transport systems and the shady practices taking place in hidden corners, and you have one hell of a world.
The Razor is a definite genre-bender. From the description, I was expecting a pretty typical action-adventure sci-fi with a few thriller elements. Instead, the book skates between these genres generously, building tension through intensely deadly scenes that transition to pure action-adventure and puzzle-solving. Halfway through the book, there’s a huge turn into horror that was unexpected and glued me to my seat for the rest of the book. Mitchell’s use of these combined elements creates an eminently readable novel, taking you from one genre to the other as you switch between protagonists whose connections continue to get closer and closer until the end.
This is space technology on a MASSIVE scale, all centered on a volatile power source that few planets can provide. We’re talking 100-foot tall moving vessels that rival the largest of cruise ships. Though the Razor is a horrible place with no creature comforts, it has to be highly technical for the day-to-day operations to succeed in the harsh environment. We get a unique insight into the workings of these machines via the engineer character. It’s a smart take on resource development at an enormous scale.
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