G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

The Razor

In a future where humanity spans the galaxy, a single planet stands above all others, both in economic importance and brutality. 11-H37 is tidally locked with its parent red dwarf star, meaning one side, the Cindersphere, is a permanent furnace, while the other remains in perpetual shadow. Only a thin band of green separates these disparate hemispheres, a stretch of habitable land called the Razor, which shares that name with 11-H37's penal colony. It houses the worst of the galaxy's worst, gangs of men and women condemned to lifetime imprisonment in pursuit of one company's profit. Maas-Dorian needs the Razor to mine Xytrilium, the fuel to its ubiquitous engines, and abominable conditions in the Cindersphere make disposable labor a grim necessity.

Into this hellish world enters Dr. Flynn, ironically a former senior scientist for Maas-Dorian, framed for reasons that matter less than his immediate survival. Maddox, a former guard on the Razor turned prisoner for snitching on corrupt colleagues, joins Flynn on a mobile mining rig crawling out to the Cindersphere. During the course of normal operations, neither of them would have very long to live, but an emergency--including a planet-wide power vacuum--threatens to end their incarceration even earlier. They must escape their scuttled mining rig and reach the planet's starport before the Razor's thin edge fails to protect them.

The Razor is thrilling science fiction at its finest. J. Barton Mitchell has combined something like The Chronicles of Riddick with The Fifth Element into a pulse-pounder with its own rhythm. Though The Razor relies on plenty of sci-fi tropes, Mitchell's plotting keeps pace with any adventure or thriller tale. The Razor cuts a wide swath across genre interests. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer