The Music of Razors – Cameron Rogers
Penguin, May 2001, pb, 292pp, $17.95
Cover by David Althiem. ISBN 0-1402-8078-2
Review by Jonathan Strahan

The epigraph from Terry Dowling's story "The Daemon-Street Ghost Trap" that opens Cameron Rogers first novel, The Music of Razors, states that "Anyone alive is bait for demons". From this chilling premise, Rogers builds a dark, surreal fantasy about what happens in the interstices between the waking and sleeping world that has its origins in the gaps between Judaeo-Christian mythology.

The Music of Razors opens with a slightly different account of God, Lucifer and the Fall. Following Lucifer's rebellion, a powerful angel, aware for the first time of the possibility of opposing the will of God, decides to throw its lot in with the Fallen. However, aware that things could go badly, the angel, kills one of its fellows and uses its bones to fashion tools capable of assigning form and function to matter. When its approach is rejected, and it is exiled by God, the tools it fashioned continue to exist in our world as a means for the angel to gain its freedom, and for mankind to have a third choice, a choice other than God or Lucifer.

Against this background, Rogers tells the story of a family torn apart by illness. Four year old Walter is scared of the dark, and of the monster that lives in his closet. When a mysterious dark stranger appears in his bedroom one night and tells him that he can banish the monster with a word, Walter does. What he doesn't realise is that the monster was all that was protecting him from the other monsters which live in the dark, especially the mysterious stranger. Walter finds himself trapped outside our reality in a nightmarish world of dark terrors and ancient monsters. While he struggles to understand what has happened to him, his body falls into a coma that it will remain in for decades. It is something that destroys his family. Obsessed with a beloved son stricken mysteriously down by illness, his parents relationship collapses and his newborn sister Hope grows up hating this strange wasted body. What Walter discovers, though, is that there is a reason for what has happened to him.

The dark man is an agent for the banished angel and its Army of the Third Option, and he is looking for someone to take his place. When it becomes clear Walter won't suffice, he turns his attentions to Hope, and it falls to Walter to try to protect her.

While The Music of Razors is a strong and assured debut, it is not a perfect novel. There are some parts of the book, especially those relating to the history of the angel's assistants, that simply didn't unravel smoothly or convincingly. However, Rogers' ability to build a world filled with plausible characters is impressive. Dark, disturbing, and filled with moments of real charm and magic, The Music of Razors is the best first novel I've seen this year.

Cameron Rogers's
The Music of Razors
(May 2001)
© 2001 Jonathan Strahan
This review originally appeared in Locus
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