The Razor Gate. by Sean Cregan, is the second novel set in a gritty ‘not quite-SF urban weird "biohazard noir"… with horror to follow at some point’1 world. Cregan also writes crime novels as John Rickards.
A person or persons unknown are randomly infecting residents of Newport City with a nanotech engineered agent that gives them one year to live.
It’s labelled ‘The Curse’ by those who have it and the powers that be fight to ensure that it remains an urban legend until they can control and patent the technology for their own gain.
Thrown together in this mix is a cop nearing the end of his career, sick of the graft and corruption, a fledgling journalist who has come up against the powers that be and lost, a group of urban terrorists and new age cult - just to spice it up a little. It’s a race against time as the cop and the journalist attempt to find a cure and save his girlfriend. They are thwarted at every turn by ‘Foundation’ members engaged in power plays and terrorists bent on administering their own justice.
Gotham without Batman
The darkness in this book is ever present and pressing, the cops are corrupt and the power brokers known as “The foundation” rule with an almost omnipresent iron will. It’s the Gotham of Dark Knight without the hope of a caped crusader swooping in to administer justice. It verges on a dystopia with scenes of the Port; a floating district, cobbled together from years of illegal boat arrivals juxtaposed with the very rich ensconced in their glass fortresses.
What I liked
Cregan has a definite flair for noir, and I enjoyed his almost artistic approach to painting the the novel’s landscape. The action, when it started was quick and nasty, as suits the genre. It has echoes of 80’s cyberpunk, without the advances in technology but there’s a definite sense of despair, that things don’t get better, they just go on.
What I didn’t
While the sketching out the world of Newport City is beautiful and I loved it, it did take a while to ramp up the pace. The first half of the book felt a little slow to be a thriller, though its well enough paced to be a crime/mystery novel. I would have preferred it to be a little faster, though no doubt this would have impacted on the gritty ambiance that Cregan creates.
The Razor Gate is at its core a mystery come thriller novel. It does, however, flirt with some spec-fic elements, the power wielded by some of the factions seems a little left of centre to consider it a traditional thriller and the new age cult makes the Branch Davidians seem quiet normal.
Overall a pleasurable read with a few surprises at the end.
Note: This book was provided to me, by the publisher, at no cost to myself.
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