Author: Soren Summers
Length: 244 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Sci-Fi, Dark Fantasy, Horror
At a Glance: If you love a great psychological thriller, Monster is that and so much more.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Bloodied corridors. Mangled bodies. Deranged test subjects. All in a day’s work at Vertex, a corporation devoted to perfecting the human form by any means necessary. But even corporations make mistakes. Sometimes the path to progress is littered with corpses.
It’s up to Jarod Samuels to keep Vertex’s hallways pristine and safe. He’s quiet and unquestioning, the perfect mix of tight lips and loose morals. But Jarod’s been looking the other way for five years. Scrubbing bloodstains and bagging bodies is losing its luster.
Then a handsome young maverick named Gabriel Anderson joins Jarod’s department, this man with a huge ego and an even huger mouth. He’s infuriating but intriguing, as brash as he is beautiful, and almost enough to keep Jarod preoccupied. Almost.
But between workplace hazards, psychic sociopaths, and a mysterious formula that alters the human body, Jarod’s doubts are surging strong. Should he stay with the corporation, or run like hell? This is Vertex, after all, where the walls watch with glass eyes, the laboratories groan with secrets – and employee termination ends more than just careers.
Review: “Running is vital in waste management. It helps to get you to the scene of an incident as quickly as possible. It also helps when you’re running away from the situation, or anything in the vicinity that might want to destroy, eat, or borrow your vital organs.” ~ Jarod Samuels, garbageman
Author Soren Summers’ outstanding debut novel, Monster, tells a story of man vs science, and succumbing to the temptation to play God when knowledge and access to the right resources breed hubris—all for the greater good. Or so the party line goes. But, the road to hell and whatnot, right? Reading this book made me feel a lot like I did the first time I read some of my favorite Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz novels; the adrenaline rush is so addictive, and I can’t wait to see what Summers has up his creative sleeve for the continuation of this story.
Corporate intrigue and the ethical question of using humans as guinea pigs to test Vertex’s latest innovation, Paragon—a scientific breakthrough that will make mankind better, faster, stronger, virtually impervious. And dangerous—gives this novel its dark and gritty edge. Summers’ writing is perfection, every scene is brimming with action, suspense and/or curiosity piquing, and the moral dilemma of right and wrong and who the monsters truly are elevates this novel to another level of excellence in the horror genre. Of course, whenever man interferes with the natural order of life and death, nothing good can come of it, which creates the twist in this novel—once the pin is pulled from the grenade, there’s no turning back. I loved the way the author sprinkled bits of information here and there in what seemed to be an innocuous way, when what was being revealed was not only disturbing but could be downright bone-chilling as well. There are some heartbreaking and brilliantly frightening scenes in this story, too, some great human touches within the inhumanity that gives it an emotional punch I wasn’t at all expecting.
As the story’s protagonist, garbageman Jarod Samuels plays company drone. Jarod is in waste management at Vertex, which is not at all as simple as disposing of office refuse. “Out here in Pleasance, he’s just the department’s best runner, but hey, he’ll take what he can get.” Vertex’s “grays” serve a very different role, a macabre cog in the God machine that pushes the moral ambiguity question even further into the…gray area. There’s justifying what he does for a living as just a job. But then, there’s also the question of that job separating Jarod from his own humanity in his ability to compensate his conscience by detaching emotionally from what is expected of him. When Gabriel Anderson storms onto the scene and into Jarod’s life, neither man is prepared for the bond that grows between them. They are nemesis and pawn at the outset, but things change as they begin to see each other in a more humane way—a jarring contrast to their willingness to protect each other, no matter the cost to themselves.
There isn’t much pleasant about Pleasance, Paragon is the epitome of horror, and Vertex seems to be the apex predator at the top of the Machiavellian food chain. The end of Monster leaves questions unanswered—for the city, for the corporation, and for Jarod and Gabriel—and I’m salivating for its sequel. All the characters in this novel so richly serve the story—some giving the world a sense of normalcy; others, not so much—and every single detail of this cautionary tale is just sublime. If you love a great psychological thriller, Monster is that and so much more.
Also, as a bonus to readers who subscribe to Soren Summers’ newsletter, there’s a free companion short story up for grabs, called Siren. I grabbed it. As Monster is told from Jarod’s point of view, getting a bead on Gabriel’s actions and motives can be murky, at best. Being able to read some of the novel’s key scenes from Gabriel’s point of view not only added great insight but left me still on the fence as to whether they’re the heroes or antiheroes of their story, which is another brilliant hook for readers.
You can buy Monster here: