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The Music of Razors
Cameron Rogers
Del Rey, 314 pages

The Music of Razors
Cameron Rogers
Cameron Rogers has been an itinerant theatre student, a stage director, a stand-up comic, nightclub doorman, video game motion capture model for an elf who needed food badly and had a question mark instead of a photo in his high school yearbook. He spent three months cutting up vegetables in a stainless steel room beneath a shopping mall with a defecting Soviet weightlifter, and almost got suckered into working in, what turned out to be, a Yakuza-run all-gay bowling alley in Kyoto. His last real job was with the Crime Management Unit of the Queensland Police Service.

Cameron Rogers Website
ISFDB Bibliography

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A review by Nathan Brazil

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'"Did you ever actually see the Devil?"
Suni thought that was a strange question. "No," he said. "No one sees the Devil."
"Depends who you talk to," Walter said."
Seventy-two angels fell with Samael, the Son of Morning, cast out of Heaven for rebellion. Then another angel, who had the task of assigning power and function, grasped the enormity of its own ability. So the angel sundered another of its unkillable kind and fashioned the bones into instruments that contained its great gift of Form and Power. It scattered these instruments across the Earth, to safeguard them in case its plan failed, then attempted to ally with the Fallen One. But Samael rejected the angel. Then God stripped the angel of its name and Power and imprisoned it nowhere, rendering it Forgotten by all in Heaven, Hell and Earth. But its instruments of living bone remain on Earth, awaiting discovery.

Fast forward to 1840, Boston, MA, where red-haired farmer's son, Henry Lockrose, begins to study at the Massachusetts Medical College of Harvard University. It is the young man's ambition to become a surgeon. The one thing that can stop him is a terrible secret, something that, if discovered, could result in his imprisonment, or even death. Henry is a natural loner, until curiosity gets the better of him and he risks involvement with fellow student Finella Riley, and Dorian Athelstane, a duplicitous, esoteric Englishman. The pair run a kind of coven, for which Finella acts as a medium. When the group makes the mistake of attempting to raise a demon, the result is death and revelation. What is discovered are supernatural instruments made from the bones of the fallen angel rendered Forgotten by God. Skip forward to modern day Australia, where four and a half year-old Walter realises, to his horror, that the monster hiding in his wardrobe is real. Then, in an awful dream, a red-haired man tells the boy how he can send the monster away.

Taking the advice, Walter eagerly banishes the beast, only to discover that the creature was, in fact, his protector. It was the red-haired man who was his true enemy. Walter is left in a coma, with the knowledge that the man is coming for his sister, Hope. In desperation, Walter merges with the remains of the wardrobe monster, becoming a new creature that is both his sister's protector, and her nightmare. Unfortunately, Walter is limited in what he can do, and his best efforts go dangerously wrong.

A truly dark fantasy, The Music of Razors is the debut novel from Cameron Rogers, published in extended form by Del Rey. This version is 40,000 words longer than the original, Australian novel, from 2001. The style of Rogers work is reminiscent of early Neil Gaiman, but with a creepier twist. Re-imaging the Biblical Fall as a three-sided conflict is a splash of originality, which is bolstered by inventiveness, and occasionally stunning imagery. In particular I enjoyed Nimble, a clockwork ballerina, which was right up there with anything that the aforementioned Gaiman has done. Throughout, the reader is treated to a display of vivid, sometimes haunting set pieces, marred only by a lack of expertise when it comes to pacing and plot structure. For example, the first third of the book is occupied by characters that are more for effect than effective. While other characters appear, give the impression that they are important, then abruptly vanish. If the author was using this as a deliberate technique, then it is a limited success.

The cleverness of his work is never in doubt, but in the main this effort would have been better applied to characters vital to the plot. Having said that, being led down the wrong path isn't always a negative here, because some of the time the journey is agreeably diverting. The real meat of the story, the fate of Walter and his sister, is reserved for the second half of the book. Here the major characters do not convince as much as the props. In other words, the ideas outweigh the characterisation. Overall the consequence of this is a feeling that something has gone missing, although the loss is far from ruinous. The one big problem is the ending, which comes with the suddenness of a guillotine blade. In a movie, this might work, but for a novel, I couldn't help but feel that many readers will end up wondering if anyone got the number of the truck!

Copyright © 2008 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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