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The Razor    by J. Barton Mitchell order for
by J. Barton Mitchell
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a fast moving science fiction thriller with elements of both The Shawshank Rebellion and the Prison Break series - J. Barton Mitchell's The Razor.

A genius engineer, Marcus Flynn, made the mistake of telling his bosses he was planning to start his own venture. They set him up and he was sentenced to 11-H37, a hostile prison planet (tagged The Razor) where the galaxy's worst criminals are housed and set to hard - and dangerous - labor. Life expectancy is short there.

Another lead in the story is James Maddox, a prisoner who had been a Ranger, which gives him very useful knowledge of the prison and planet layout. Tough female prisoner Key takes on an assignment to kill Flynn, in return for desperately needed medication. She almost succeeds. Prison doctor Raelyn has also been offered something she badly needs, in return for torturing and killing Maddox. She declines to do so.

Then comes disaster, the Lost Prophet protocol instigated, leading to the evacuation of most prison staff and guards. Prisoners are left to die, but some in particular work hard to survive - each other, as well as the planet. Maddox and Raelyn pair up, as do Flynn and Key. Separately and together, they make their way to the starport, as do extremely powerful mutants (Zane and Gable), who had also been held prisoner.

Mitchell throws everything at his leads, who keep on skimming though by the skin of their teeth, though not all will make it. It's clear that the story is unfinished as The Razor ends, so we can hope for a sequel to this hard edged, incredibly fast paced and engrossing read.

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