First edition, paperback 2011
This Kindle edition 2015
Book text and content © 2015 Michael Carroll
Razorjack and related characters created by John Higgins
Cover by John Higgins
Razorjack began life as a creation of Artist John Higgins. John wrote and illustrated the original 14 page story in 1999, self published by John. There was a sequel, a two issue miniseries, published in 2001 by Com.X. These stories were collected in a Trade Paperback published by Com.X in 2009.
In 2013 a Razorjack collection was published by Titan, much of the dialogue reworked by Michael Carroll. I reviewed this version earlier this year.
What I was unaware of when I read the collected edition was that in 2009 there had been a limited edition paperback by Michael Carroll. I became aware of this first when Michael announced he was issuing a Kindle Edition of this novel. I learnt of the earlier paperback on the 2000AD Forum.
There is no need to have read the comics to follow the action in the novel. However if you are a fan of Michael Carroll’s YA Fiction, New Heroes, you do need to know that this book is aimed at older readers.
The story starts in another dimension, known as the Twist Loop. A world inhabited by Human-like creatures who live in scattered homesteads and villages. Ruling over them is Razorjack, the Iron Queen, serving her are creatures she has engineered; whether through science or magic is unclear, the two seem to be so similar in this setting.
Then we meet Kevin Dixon, described as an Accountant but there is a clear suggestion that this is not his profession of choice. We see a London that to me seems to be from the late 20th Century, there are places like that in most cities. The setting though is clearly in this century as we see the plot unfold, the amount that mobile phones are mentioned is not the least of the evidence for this.
Dixon becomes involved with crime-boss Leonard Cotterill and his efficient right-hand woman, Mrs Savidant. Here is where the double-cross comes in. Cotterill is less than forgiving when Dixon doesn’t keep to plans made.
In the meantime Razorjack wants to invade our realm, which she calls the Core Loop. A device sent to all the known dimensions to report back the presence of life mis-fired on Earth but has recently started broadcasting. The Iron Queen sends through a servant to recover the device, the warrior Katana. Katana teams up with Cotterill to capture Dixon.
All the knowledge of the Twist Loop and the other dimensions is supplied in this novel. Indeed having read the comics though I gained a little extra colour it was interesting to see cl;early how this knowledge was not required.
Dixon is a well crafted character who we only really develop a small sense of knowing. This is because much of what the story presents about him is false, and we know this as we see much of the story from his point of view.
Similarly we are given the inner thoughts of most of the characters, or at least a candid view of their motivations. Cotterill would very much be at home in an episode of The Sweeney from the 1970s or a film by Guy Ritchie, decades apart. Mrs Savidant is in some ways similar to Dixon in so far as her personality is a construct of her own design.
Katana however is an open book. There is nothing complicated about her drives and her needs. Again we see some of the action with her influence on the narration.
So we know truths when we see them but Michael is careful to reveal those truths in a measured way that keeps the reader involved. For one thing I was thrilled to half-recognise the device that Razorjack wants to recover – as I say you don’t need knowledge from the comics for this.
The themes in this novel include darker aspects of the Human psyche, sex, violence, greed, betrayal. There is not a great deal in the Human cast to endear them to the reader, however at the same time I felt a growing attachment. Katana is no less a negative character, though her frank approach to the brutality in this story makes her in some ways more acceptable than the dark side of Humanity.
A satisfying story with diverse and believable characters in a story that pits London criminals against an other-worldly female killing machine.