The Melody of The Music of Razors

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In nineteenth-century Boston, a young doctor on the run from the law falls in with a British confidence artist. Together, and with dire consequence, they bring back to the light something meant to be forgotten.

A world away in London, an absent father, haunted by the voice of a banished angel, presents his daughter with an impossible friend…a clockwork ballerina.

For two centuries, a bullet-removal specialist has wielded instruments of angel bone in service to a forgotten power . . . and now he vows to find someone else to shoulder the burden, someone with a conscience of their own, a strong mind, and a broken will. For a hundred years he has searched for the perfect contender, and now he has found two: a brother and a sister. Walter and Hope. Either will do.

Last night something stepped from little Walter’s closet and he never woke up. Now he travels the dark road between worlds, no longer entirely boy nor wholly beast, but with one goal in mind: to prevent his sister from suffering the same fate as he. Only the creature he has become can save Hope. But is it too late to save himself?

Disclaimer: I’ve written this blog four times and failed to capture my thoughts so if the following seems bouncy it’s because..well..fuck..I don’t think the book has finished processing in my head, or it keeps changing in my head, and when I go back to reference something the words are different.

I will however say this…………..

Some books are made for things. They are made of sunlit beaches, lazy Sundays, train ride, cafes and dinners by yourself. Some are meant for rain, to be shared in book clubs, giggled about over wine with your girlfriends or clutched tight in times of grief.

The Music of Razors is made for midnight and storms and low lit fireplaces. For knives in alleys and whiskey in dirty glasses.

It is not recommended for writers going through a moment of doubt about their craft as it’s a gamble as to whether it will snap you out of it and make you work a lot harder, or it will make you think seriously about maybe doing that accounting degree that your Dad always wanted.

I’ve seen it described as Gaimanesque.

Reviewers and critics love to throw the term ‘Gaimanesque’ around; like it’s somehow become an umbrella genre for anything that’s strange, incredibly well written and that leaves you feeling fucking unsettled. It is a term that limits both Neil and the other writer it’s referring to in my opinion. It’s the box builders in this world trying to make something different fit.

Also, Gaimanesque sounds like a sex position.

It would be more accurate to call it ‘uniqueness’ and The Music of Razors is nothing short of unique. Don’t be fooled by it’s size or innocent appearance. The writing is tight.

“There are two things to remember in this life: That the worst crimes are committed in the name of love, and that everyone makes mistakes.”

You think it’s going to be about angels and demons (the opening pages had me fan girling for freaking joy) and then you find it’s going to be about monsters. Really, mostly, it’s monsters; the ones that protect, that hunt, that wear men’s faces…the ones that you become.

‘Everyone gets a monster. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are ugly, and sometimes they are nothing like that. But they all look like the one thing that scares you most. And that is how it keeps your nightmares away: it scares them, too. Everyone gets a monster.’

Here there be terrors my friends but something I found the most unsettling was the sheer failure of people, monsters and the Devine alike. God creates an angel that allocates power and leaves it with this burden, Lucifer won’t have him because it’s his fault for putting rebellion into his malakhim DNA. Henry is disappointed by his father as well as Dorian. Millicent is disappointed in Dorian as a neglectful father. Walter and Hope’s parents themselves are turned into monsters through tragedy. Suni’s mother is cold and ambivalent. Walter  and Suni fail Hope in multiple ways.  The book is not afraid to be a Jenga Tower of fucked up failures that all inevitably crash down around everyone.

It’s also about change in everyday shape and form.

‘People change. The interesting ones, at least. You start life as one thing, and become something else. Upgrade or downgrade, it’s all change – it’s all vital-and besides…up and down is all relative to the angle at which your head’s been twisted.’ 

It’s hard to talk about it without wanting to dissect and as I said…I’m pretty sure I’m still trying to figure it all out in my head. The writer in me wants to get my tweezers and scalpel out and start cutting ( ‘Oh ho! I see what you did there Cam…wait..what? where the fuck did that extra appendage come from?’ ) but the cleverer writer part of me knows that it’s not the best way to go about it. Like my other great find of the year Library at Mount Char  it’s going to take a couple of months of thinking about it and mulling over drinks and another re-read to capture all the tricks and find pleasure in all the little parts I may have over looked in a first read.

Cameron recently released the novelisation of the game Quantum Break (that he also helped write) and it’s on my list to read regardless of the fact I’ve never played the game because his writing is so damn good. I’m sure his games are fucking magnificent but after reading Music an irrational part of me thinks he needs to be writing more books. Shoot, I could do with a whole book just from the opening chapter of Music.

I heard him on a panel talk about villains…when I walked out of there I was pretty convinced he was one. After taking the time to hang out in his head my opinion on this matter hasn’t changed. He’s the kind of villain that is also a really nice guy at the same time so yeah..watch out for that. Really, keep an eye on him and follow what he does closely. Buy the books and learn everything you can to arm yourself. He’s like a fucked up Pied Piper and The Music of Razors is a song that get’s stuck in you head that you can’t stop listening to.

Seriously, stop reading this blog, do yourself a favour and buy the fucking book ok? Get it here, here and here.

 

The Inability of Words – Thoughts on Poetry and Humanity

61w-wFxqHPLI have a strange love hate relationship with poetry. I can be in equal parts thoroughly confused and delighted when I read it. Poetry takes work. It extracts a cost from both reader and writer. Good poetry will wrap its hands around the sorest parts of yourself and squeeze, leaving you emotionally exhausted and strangely purged.

Harnidh Kaur’s The Inability of Words is modern, fresh and yet there is something of timelessness to her themes of love, heartbreak, magic, anger and belief (and is confirming my suspicion that Indian writers are where it’s at, and drinking deep from the source).

Emotion is captured in its rawest form in Anger Management that echoed so much of my own rage ( ‘I’m convinced I’ll leave a smoking burn on whatever and whoever I touch’) and the relatable anxiety attacks in Panic (‘I’m not human, I’m just a wind up toy with gears and nuts and bolts in my body in place of skin and sinew and flesh and bone.’)

My own sting of being judged by Good Institutional Christians was revisited in Of Sins and brought up memories of my confusion at how people weren’t acting the way the God they professed to follow told them to (Love one another as I’ve loved you, judge not lest you be judged). Were we even loving the same God? I don’t think so. This feeling that’s always gnawed at me was addressed beautifully and completely in Blasphemy.

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This one hit me the hardest, especially now in these times when extremists are trying to shape their Gods in their own image, twisting them in forms of hatred even though they seem to forget they are all painting the same Abrahamic Tradition with their own vile colours. This hatred comes from the heart of man, not the heart of God. This is the face of the Gods men have created. Look long and hard at the horror of your own soul.

The point I’m trying to make is that The Inability of Words does what poetry should do – hold a mirror up to the human experience and force you to self reflect. It hits you where it hurts, makes you pause and feel it. Good poetry will always make you uncomfortable like that.

Find the book here and stalk Harnidh Kaur the Pedestrian Poet here.

Down Station- Simon Morden

 I’ve been reading a lot of great fantasy lately after a relatively dry spell and discovering Simon Morden has been an absolute treat. I actually found his great blog first and was blown away by his thought provoking essay Sex, Death and Christian Fiction that mirrored so many of my own thoughts and feelings.

I saw an ad for Down Station and three sentences into the description I knew it was a book for me:

A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through…and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf’s cloak and with wolves by his side. He speaks English and has heard of a place called London – other people have arrived here down the ages – all escaping from a London that is burning. None of them have returned. Except one – who travels between the two worlds at will. The group begin a quest to find this one survivor; the one who holds the key to their return and to the safety of London. 

And as they travel this world, meeting mythical and legendary creatures, split between North and South by a mighty river and bordered by The White City and The Crystal Palace they realize they are in a world defined by all the London’s there have ever been. 

It would be really hard to give this story a proper review without spoiling it for everyone so apologies if I seem a little vague. There is a lot that I really enjoyed about this book. One, you guys know how I feel about doors to other worlds so when a gateway opens to another world as workers try and flee a burning London Underground I was giddy with anticipation. Into the world of Down stumbles a rag tag group of strong personalities who are torn between trying to find a way back home and accepting there’s no home to go back to.

The world building in the story is magnificently in flux as the land manifests what it’s occupants need and desire. It is also a place that heightens what ever you are deep down inside. For example the character of Stanislav hides a deep rooted anger and violence that grows and changes him, while Mary, a street kid trying to go straight, has the ability to use a magic that has always been inside of her. Down feeds off its inhabitants, shaping itself as it needs to.

My favourite character in the book is Crows, a Myrddin Wylt type mad magician that hordes maps of Down and can travel between worlds. His motivations are guarded and ambiguous and you never really know what side he is on. Despite that you can’t help but like him. He’s an enigma.

The book also doesn’t seek to over explain magic – something I always appreciate. Magic in Down just IS. The writer could have spent hundreds of words describing the complex mechanics of how the magic and Down fit together but he hasn’t. There is a mention of magic being stronger on ley lines and thats about it. Magic in Down is as common as dirt. You accept that its apart of the scenery.

The writing itself is very clear and concise and to a not so well trained eye could almost seem a simplistic style of storytelling. Writers reading it will quietly marvel (as this writer did) because they know such writing is extremely difficult to execute with any kind of narrative success. Each sentence is carefully selected. There are no unnecessary flourishes, no fatty bits that could be done away with. Its lean and more powerful because of it.

I like books that make me question things and you can’t help but self reflect by the end: If I went to Down…what would I become?