Tuesday, November 27, 2018

#GIVEAWAY Review - The Razor - Interview with J Barton Mitchell

Back a few years ago I had the privilege of reviewing J Barton Mitchell's outstanding, award winning YA Conquered Earth series for RT Magazine. Now it's time for a brand new adventure, this time in outer space on the most inhospitable place in the solar system, The Razor is his brand new just released today adult hard sci-fi novel. Not only do I have a review and an author interview but Jack's publisher TOR is graciously sponsoring a #Giveaway details below.

ISBN-13: 9780765387929
Publisher: TOR
Release Date: 11-27-2018
Length: 400pp
Source: Author for review
Buy It: Amazon/ B&N/ Kobo/ IndieBound



J. Barton Mitchell's The Razor is a riveting science fiction thriller about a man struggling to survive the chaos on a prison planet.

Brilliant engineer Marcus Flynn has been sentenced to 11-H37 alongside the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals. A hard labor prison planet better known as the Razor, where life expectancy is short and all roads are dead ends.

At least until the Lost Prophet goes active…

In a few hours, prison guards and staff are evacuated, the prisoners are left to die, and dark mysteries begin to surface.

Only Flynn has the skills and knowledge to unravel them, but he will have to rely on the most unlikely of allies--killers, assassins, pirates and smugglers. If they can survive each other they just might survive the Razor…and claim it for their own.

Giveaway is for one HB copy of
The Razor US only
please use Rafflecopter form to enter
Good Luck!

Read an excerpt:


Every time he closed his eyes, he was drowning. Water poured into the car, flooding the leather interior as it sank into Elliott Bay. He remembered looking to the passenger seat and the shock that washed over him. The wound in her head. The spray pattern on the window. How her hair floated up with the rising water, copper strands shining in the city lights outside the shattered glass. He watched her vanishing in the cold, and realized two things.
He didn’t know who she was.
And he was holding a pulse pistol …
* * *
The world shook and jarred Flynn awake. He was staring through the shuttle’s tiny window again.
The starfield from before had been replaced with something more distinct now. Inspiring and frightening all at once. He recognized it instantly. A planet. 11-H37. Unique in all the galaxy. Utter darkness on one side, raging heat on the other. He could just make out the slim streak of green that split the two massive halves. It looked tiny, nestled precariously between its giant siblings. It looked like it was being crushed.
It was called the Razor.
In spite of everything, Flynn felt excitement looking at it. Everything that had made him what he once was came from this world. Then again, it had also made him who he was now.
The image of the planet, fire and ice split in half, lasted a moment longer, then the shuttle hit the atmosphere and the windows were full of red streaks and Flynn remembered where he was and why and for how long and reality came crashing back. Excitement faded. Fear returned.
He sat back in the hard, cracked seat and breathed deep as everything around him shook again. Before the heat shields slid down over the windows, he saw the ship’s energy field flare to life with a bluish, crackling sheen. He wondered how many shuttles actually made it through the planet’s ionosphere to the surface. The numbers probably weren’t even published. After all, the ship was remote-piloted, and as for the occupants … well, no one really cared about them, did they?
The shuttle shook again. He jarred upward before the restraints on his ankles yanked him back down, biting into his skin. A strange static hum built in the air; he could hear it even over the engines. He felt the tingling on his skin, felt his ears begin to itch. It wouldn’t be long now.
There were thirty seats inside, screwed into each wall, forcing the occupants to stare at one another. A woman with worn-out skin, a big scar over her left cheek, and wiry, muscular arms sat in front of him. She was breathing heavily, the pace increasing each time the ship contorted. To her left was a kid with more tattoos than Flynn had ever seen—swastikas and hash tags, skulls and dragons—his head shaved clean, no older than twenty. The tats and the head made him look tough, but Flynn could hear him whimpering, trying not to lose it. The pattern repeated everywhere he looked, in the eyes of every person who was shackled to the shuttle. He’d never met any of them, but he could guess who they were. Killers. Thieves. Gunrunners. Tweakers. Smugglers. Hackers.
No matter how shrewd or scary they had once been, they were all frightened now. All of them. Because everyone knew where they were going.
The shuttle vibrated. The static hum grew louder. The edges of Flynn’s vision were beginning to whiten and flare out.
Next to the kid with the tats sat another man. He didn’t seem absorbed in his own anxiety as much as everyone else. Average height, in good shape, and his hair was wavy, probably even stylish a few weeks ago, before whatever happened to get him on this shuttle. There was a sense of order about him too, the way he corrected his posture each time the craft rocked, the equal lengths of his shoelaces. He had a different look. It felt like he didn’t belong here as much as everyone else.
Flynn could relate.
For a moment, the man looked up and the two stared directly at each other.
Then the shuttle contorted violently and they both closed their eyes, waiting for what was to come.
The static hum became a whine, and then there was a scary groaning from the window behind his head as the fuselage began to stretch and bend. Flynn felt the gravity press him into his seat, but sensation in his feet and hands was gone now. The white in his periphery grew. Nausea blossomed in his stomach. The static whine filled his ears, threatening to burst them as the shuttle rocked and shook.
Flynn passed out. There was nothing but darkness.
Until pain lanced through his body, jarring him back awake.
Electricity. It burned and froze, contracted all his muscles at once. He would have yelled, but his body was locked down.
He heard people moan, recognized the sounds of vomit hitting the metal floor, could barely make out blurry shapes moving through the shuttle. They all looked the same: shades of gray and black, with a single glowing spot of color on their arms. One of them stood above Flynn, a gargoyle with horrible elongated arms and glowing blue eyes and a sword that crackled lightning.
“Wake your ass up,” the thing spoke to him harshly, a frightening, staticky mess of sound. The sword arched down. More pain, lancing through him, hot and cold.
Flynn tried not to vomit at the streaking pain and the leftover nausea from the entry. He wanted to curl up in a ball, but he was still shackled to the seat.
The pain refocused his senses. He looked back up and saw that it wasn’t a gargoyle at all. It was a man. Wearing a gray and black armored uniform like the half dozen others now inside the ship. A yellow, holographic patch glowed on his arm, flashing and morphing between a logo of a spinning circle and the word Admissions. The glowing eyes were the reflected light from the HUD in the helmet he wore, and the sword was just some kind of electrified baton that sparked and fizzled.
Wake up!” the figure barked, his voice emitted electronically from the helmet.
Flynn’s face stung in pain as the man backhanded him, hard. He tasted blood.
Another armored man moved to the woman on his left. His club sparked as it struck her. Flynn could see her body contort. The pattern repeated everywhere in the shuttle, which was no longer moving. They’d landed. They were being woken up from the unconsciousness that came from passing through the Razor’s charged ionosphere. Not gently, either.
Moments later, rapid-fire metallic clicking echoed up and down the interior as the shackles on the passengers’ legs and arms disengaged. Half the people inside fell to the floor, still dizzy and sick. Flynn managed to stay in place, but just barely.
A man stepped inside from the rear air lock, and as he did the guards all stood straight. The silence that followed let the sounds of vomiting and whimpering fill the cabin.
The man wore the same gray and black body armor, the same yellow holographic patch, but unlike his men he had no helmet. He was tall, older than the others, with a gray buzz cut and a tightly trimmed white beard. The way he stood—perfect posture, feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped behind his back—he looked exactly like what he probably was: former UEG military. He swept a stern, unsympathetic look across the passengers.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, his voice carrying easily in the cramped confines of the shuttle, “let me be the first to welcome you home. The last home any of you will ever know. But most definitely … the one you deserve.”
One by one, the whimpering and the complaining stopped. Every person inside the shuttle, down the line of seats and restraints, looked up at the guard captain; his armored suit, his shined boots, his short hair, flanked by his men. It was all very real now.
“Get them up,” the captain said, then stepped back into the air lock without looking back.
The back of Flynn’s head stung as a fist knocked him forward. He barely managed to stand through the dizziness and disorientation. Ahead, he could just make out a hallway beyond the air lock, made of drab, faded cement. Words had been stenciled there in a nondescript yellow print.
A line had been drawn through the 11-H37, and another word was scrawled hastily in its place. Razor.
The paint was fading and old, and something about that, the fact that something so obviously against protocol had been allowed to remain for so long, implied many unsettling things.
A boot kicked Flynn forward with the others, marching them in a line toward the air lock, and every step he took toward the faded words gave him a feeling of finality. It was all really happening …

Copyright © 2018 by J. Barton Mitchell

My Interview with the author: 

Jack Hi Welcome to The Reading Frenzy blog.
I’m about 75% through The Razor and loving it.
Tell my readers a little about it.
Thanks for having me, Deb, really love your blog. The story takes place on a prison planet in the future. That planet’s rotation is such that one side of it always faces the system’s star. One half is always bathed in fire and heat, and the other is always in shadow, but the planet itself is at just the right distance for a thin band of habitable atmosphere to form in the middle, and that’s what’s nicknamed the Razor, this thin little line of life sandwiched precariously between two deadly and powerful geologic forces.
The Razor became a prison planet because it’s a source for Xytrilium, the element that basically powers the galaxy, and because it’s so dangerous to mine, prisoners are used for the work. Being sentenced there, even though it’s lifetime incarceration, is basically a death sentence.
The main character is Marcus Flynn, a brilliant engineer who has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit by his former bosses, the corporation that owns the mineral rights to the Razor. Flynn is, of course, eager to prove his innocence and escape the Razor, though the reality that that’s impossible quickly dawns on him.
Which is when the entire planet gets completely abandoned by the guards and its corporate overseers for reasons that aren’t exactly clear.
Flynn and an ensemble group of different kinds of villainous sorts are the only ones left to figure out the mystery of what’s going on on the planet, and what is going on is really bad news, and begins to hint that the planet has a whole lot of dark secrets that are now coming to light. Secrets that Flynn and these prisoners are the only ones left to deal with…

Where did the idea of writing about a penal planet in the late Twenty Second Century come from?
It was an idea that my editor at Tor, Brendan Deneen (who’s also an author), and I bounced around, that prisoners on a planet in the future find themselves suddenly abandoned for mysterious reasons. I liked that idea, because for one, it was a cool hook…what could occur that was so bad it necessitated evacuating a planet full of really dangerous people? It allowed for a LOST type mystery, where the prisoners learn that the Razor has a history no one really knew about.
I also really liked the idea of being able to do a cast of villains, or, at least, a cast that on the surface seems like villains. All the characters are sort of at the end of their respective roads when the evacuation happens, and it’s kind of a second chance for them, which gives some interesting character possibilities.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions for me.
Is this the start of a new series or will things reach a climax soon?
You’ve read it by now, so you probably can tell it’s meant to be the beginning of a new series. I have it in my head as something like four or five books, but we’ll see how the first one does, and if Tor wants to continue it. I hope so, I really love this world and these characters.

Your novel is set in the year 2174, is there a significance to this date or is it something you just pulled out of your imagination?
Basically, I pulled it out of my imagination, but certain things kind of set the date range, I think, in Sci-Fi stories. A prison planet in a different solar system, for instance, means interstellar travel, colonization, all the technology that comes with those things, and that informs how far in the future you’re going to have to set something.

Which character gave you the most trouble during the writing process of this novel and why?
They were all challenging in their own ways, really. Each one, if you look at them, is basically a villain or anti-hero archetype. Pirate. Mercenary. Serial Killer. Etc. That was by design. I really liked the idea of taking those archetypes and finding new things to do with them, or, at least, injecting elements into them that you may not expect. We all come to pop culture with a pretty big “vocabulary”, for lack of a better word, with things like characters and plot devices and twists, because we’ve consumed so much of it. So, it’s fun to play with that.

Do you have a favorite character or would that be like choosing a favorite child?
That’s a hard one, it is like choosing a favorite child. They all live inside you and compete with each other for your attention. Gable, though, is probably the most fun to write. I always wanted to write the Hannibal Lector type character who’s smarter and scarier than everyone else, but because of how Gable is set up, and her relationship with Flynn, it’s even more fun. If the series keeps going, she becomes very important to what’s transpiring on the planet, and she’ll get even more chapters of her own, which I’m looking forward to.

I love a good sci-fi scare. They affect me different than in say a horror novel, they aren’t likely to really happen.
What about them intrigues you as a writer?
I think that’s right on, Sci-fi scares have a different feel because they are much more transparently impossible in real life. It lets you just kind of sink into the experience in a way that’s less tense than a slasher film or something. Monster stuff has always been my favorite kind of “horror” for that reason, and it’s fun trying to come up with new and different ones.
But it can’t just be superficial scares either, because those don’t really “land”, especially in print. Like pretty much everything in storytelling, you have to make it about character, not just the threat of death or of being eaten. You have to establish real stakes for the character, what happens beyond simple death if the monster gets them? All the characters in the book have deeply personal reasons for surviving what they’re going through, and that’s what makes you invest in the situation, and feel tension in the scares, even if they aren’t realistic.

There is a lot of technology in your novel, both real/available now and made up.
How does your made up stuff come about, and could any of it really work?
In the Razor, I’d say two things determined most of the tech you see.
First, 11-H37 is actually a theoretically possible planet type, called a Hot Eyeball planet. If you think of the half of the planet that’s bathed in fire as the “eye” in this situation, you can see where it gets that name. Secondly, there’s the fact that it’s a prison planet for mining a rare element inside the heated part of the world.
Those choices inform the technology at play in the story. Mining technology, terraforming, as well as all the various technology you need to contain, transport, monitor, and, not to mention, control a giant prison population as a work force.

It’s been a few years since your last Conquered Earth YA hard fantasy series. (Which was Amazing btw)
What’s kept you busy between then and now?
Thanks, I really love that series and those characters, and still hope it finds its audience. I’m a screenwriter as well as an author, so I’ve been working on projects in that arena too. I have some personal projects I’m developing as well, including a Sci-Fi narrative podcast that I hope to produce and get out there next year, which I’m excited about.

Jack congratulations on your new novel, I know it’ll be a smash. Will we have to wait another four years for the next read?
I sure hope not. In publishing these days, so much goes into developing and setting up projects, that may or may not even continue, not to mention trying to promote them from your own side with social media. Writing itself, sadly, starts to become a rare treat. But my intention is to have several new things out here in 2019, both in prose and other formats, so stay tuned.
Thanks so much, Deb…

My Review:

The Razor
J. Barton Mitchell

Mitchell’s latest is a sensational scare your socks off, fast paced adult sci-fi apocalyptic thriller set roughly 150 years in the future on an unwelcoming penal colony planet and staring the most unlikely rag tag group of criminals heroes ever to grace the pages of fiction. The backdrops are beautifully brutal and the author’s narrative brings the amazing alien landscapes to life for his readers complete with strange lifeforms, altered humans from both successful and failed bio-experiments plus your requisite sci-fi nerdy engineer/scientist. The first-rate tale is tightly plotted, inventive with believably unbelievable futuristic people places and things that will keep the audience on their toes, hearts pounding while constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. The real standouts of the story are his main players, Flynn, Key, Maddox, Raelyn, Zane and Gable. And the ending leads one to believe that fans will hopefully be making a return trip to The Razor in the future. Well-done Mr. Mitchell, well done!

When you’re sent to planet 11-H37 there’s one thing for sure, you will die there. It's a hard labor penal planet an unforgiving inhospitable place where half the planet is boiling in constant heat and the other half is dark and colder than a freezer and dividing the two uninhabitable parts where the prison is located is a tiny green space called The Razor. A place that Dr. Marcus Flynn helped build and design and now a place that will become his ultimate final resting place because someone needed him gone– framed him for a crime and made sure he got sent there. Then without warning all hell breaks loose and while the alarms are screaming all prison personnel evacuated the planet leaving the inmates to perish. Flynn and a few other inmates make their escape. But where are they escaping to and who can be trusted?

My Thanks to J Barton Mitchell for a copy in exchange for an honest review

The Conquered Earth Series

About the author:
J. Barton Mitchell is an author and screenwriter of speculative fiction, living somewhere between Austin, TX and Taos, NM. The Razor is his fourth novel.

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  1. Really enjoyed the excerpt, The Razor sounds like an absolutely gripping read.

  2. I do love sci-fi :D But for some reason I read it so seldom

  3. Great interview Debbie. I do love good apocalyptic thriller and the setting sounds intriguing!

  4. I love the sound of this prison planet. Balanced precariously in the middle of two atmosphere's that could kill you. That sounds so wild and unique! I love a unique spin on a story and this sure has it.

  5. This novel sounds captivating and intriguing. Thanks.

  6. Oh my! This does sound riveting particularly since its sci-fi and mystery. Neat getting the down lo on the background for the book with the interview, too. I'll have to look up his other series, too.

    1. Yes Sophia Rose I think you'd like both this novel and his Conquered Earth too