What if the thing you feared the most, the “monster” hiding in your closet, was actually the only thing keeping much worse monsters at bay? What if you unknowingly told the monster to go away, and in so doing doomed yourself and your family? The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers is a breathtakingly excellent foray into the world of dreams and the supernatural, equal parts Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, a book that’ll have you perched on the razor’s edge of suspense and tension.
The Music of Razors is the engrossing tale of the 72 angels who fell with Samael from Heaven, and an unnamed angel who “found Samael in His new kingdom, and made the Fallen One an offer of allegiance.” Looking into the Face of God, the angel lost its name, its sigil, its rituals, its summonings, and almost its life - but angels do not die. Instead, “It would spend eternity as unlimited potentiality without possibility of use.”
Did I say that angels do not die? That is an underlying premise to the horror of this remarkable book. The unnamed angel I mentioned “seized upon another of its kind, sundered it, and stole the silver of its bones.” This did not kill the other angel, but succeeded in making the bones powerful and much sought-after instruments, each one with very special properties:
From those bones, the angel fashioned instruments approximating its own power. As the
angel named them, they existed. Mercurial and undying, the living bone was bestowed with
aspects of the angel’s own function. The function of assigning Form and Power. It then
scattered these instruments across the Earth, a safeguard against the possibility of its own
failure, and departed the presence of the God that had Created it.
This all serves as a backdrop for the problems that Walter and his sister, Hope, face. Walter has not been sleeping easily at night. His closet door has the unsettling tendency to open seemingly by itself. He has an intense fear of dogs, made worse by his parents’ total lack of understanding that their pet dog is not, as they think, a comfort and friend to Walter but instead terrifies him with its lumbering size and sharp teeth - his personal Monster in a humongous, drooling, werewolf-ish way. By contrast the strange skeletal man who visits him in his bedroom seems almost safe and normal:
“You don’t have to be afraid, Walter,” said a dry voice he didn’t recognize. Walter saw that a tall man with hair of pale red stood between him and the closet. He was a strange-looking
man with a wide hat and a dark coat that stretched down to the floor. His coat made a
tinkling noise that Walter liked. Inside the dark coat Walter could see stars, blinking and
The man, who we later learn is a doctor named Henry, tells Walter that he can be in control; he can stop the dreams if he wants - “there are ways out of them, Walter.” All he has to do is to “Tell it to go away.” But when Walter works up the courage to confront the monster, it looks confused and hurt, uttering two words before disappearing: “Love you.....”
Too late, Walter realizes the terrible mistake he’s made: that by dismissing the monster, he’s become the prey and pawn of a much worse being. Still, his monster doesn’t give up on Walter. He can no longer help Walter in his own formidable form, but he does the next best thing - melds his body, soul, and mind with the boy’s. Walter’s body ends up in an irreversible coma, but he functions, exists, and wields considerable power on a different plane of reality. While having become an unwilling accomplice of Henry’s in his search to find the unnamed angel’s bones, instruments to create twisted beings, Walter knows it isn’t too late to help his sister escape his own fate or a worse one.
The Music of Razors is a haunting, lyrical book, one that makes you think, that keeps you awake late into the night, not wanting to put it down and finally face your own closet monsters. Reading about the doctor Henry’s life you can feel sympathy for him despite the murderous person he ends up as. The same is true for the person he takes over from, Dorian, who enlists Henry to help him call up through occult means one of the angels, which takes the shape of a beautiful leopard. Cameron Rogers not only provides plenty of thrill and chills but reveals the humanity within even his most evil characters. They’re all on a “razor’s edge,” so to speak, with the outcome of their souls in the balance, depending on the choices they make.
If you like the work of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Philip Pullman, you’re sure to also love The Music of Razors. The space that Walter, Hope, her erstwhile boyfriend, Suni, Henry, and other characters (such as the mechanical ballerina, Nimble, and the ogre, Tub) inhabit between worlds, called the “Drop,” reminded me of the world between worlds in Stephen King’s television mini-series Kingdom Hospital. The shocking King Lear-like eye-gouging Walter eventually receives at the hands of Nimble, after she has been “operated” on by Henry, is one of several memorable scenes in the book.
In dealing with the subject of fallen angels, among many other things, The Music of Razors joins authors like Philip Pullman with his excellent His Dark Materials trilogy and the impressive debut by Alan Campbell, Scar Night. All three seem to have been influenced by John Milton’s masterpiece, Paradise Lost. Cameron Rogers is a force to be reckoned with, a bright light on the writing horizon. Buy The Music of Razors and be prepared for a Zen-like experience of reading bliss.