Title: Paragon (Vertex: Book Three)
Author: Soren Summers
Length: 178 Pages
Category: Romantic Horror, Sci-Fi
At a Glance: Paragon is a pulse pounding, adrenaline spiked finish to the Vertex trilogy. It’s some of the finest and funnest horror fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: The sighting of the second flare has kindled new hope in what’s left of humanity. Perhaps there are other survivors outside the Hive. Maybe it’s the military, finally come to save Pleasance from the horrors of Paragon. But neither flares nor optimism can erase the colony’s bleak realities.
Supplies are dwindling. Food is low, medication running out, and the garden won’t ever grow enough to feed the Hive. And there’s the small matter of the water from the river drying up. The Hive needs a miracle, and fast.
With Gabriel Anderson at his side, Jarod Samuels seeks out the source of the flare and an antidote for the Hive’s plight. But some mysteries are best left unsolved, some secrets left undiscovered – especially when the answers hide deep in the heart of the colossus.
Review: “This might be it. This might be the fight that they don’t win. The one nobody survives.”
The Vertex trilogy made me feel a lot like a voyeur, as if I was watching everything on page play out through a window of opportunity, which is exactly where you want to be, trust me. Safe and sound in your own imagination—even if I do still have a wee case of the heebie-jeebies days after finishing this third and final book. This series’ core group of characters are simple folk, people I could relate to on a human condition level, just going about the business of trying to live what’s left of their lives, an existence laid to waste by a monstrous ideal of perfection, folks just trying to figure out a way to increase their long-term survival rate while not getting eaten by and turned into zombies*.
*This series brought to you by Jonathan Harcourt and Vertex, makers of Paragon, the genetic mutation that keeps you ticking after you’ve taken a licking™.
One of the more impressive feats accomplished in this series, which I didn’t process until the final scenes of Paragon, is just how claustrophobic the setting is, and how brilliantly Soren Summers draws readers into this oppressive survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere, thanks in large part to the limited POV and Jarod’s present tense narration. In Monster, the bulk of the storyline takes place within the Vertex compound which, while sprawling, is isolated and heavy with danger and pathos; Parasite is confined to the Hive, the abandoned mall that became a survivors’ shelter, where its residents are often little more than bait and moving targets for the zombies just outside its doors; and in Paragon, it’s a mélange of everything, but the more cloying and confining element of this book is encompassed within the basest subliminal fear it engenders. It’s the not knowing what to expect around every corner, whom and what to fear most, and if there is anything ‘out there’ beyond the walls of Pleasance even worth fighting and living for that gets you. There’s an overwhelming sense of desperation yet there’s something to be said for a human’s hindbrain instinct for survival, and through his narration Jarod gives readers a fly on the wall perspective of every single scene as it’s happening. The end result is that I was so engrossed in every part of these novels that I felt like I was in the thick of the fight right along with him, Gabriel, and those who were lucky(?) enough to still be on page when Summers typed “END” in this book.
If there’s a better way this story arc could have wrapped up, it’s far beyond my capability to imagine. Characters I thought were long dead and gone not only reappeared, but did so in such a spectacular fashion. The evil genius of this is that Summers made me care for some of those characters—though I’m still not sure if I was supposed to. Feeling a sense of empathy towards a character who displays a propensity towards the monstrous and is yet the victim of a monster is an outstanding conundrum, and shows a deft hand at characterization.
Alliances were made, some of those connections more like family than friends, and I grew to care about these people and root for their survival; people—men, women, children—died and their loss made the small band of survivors fight all the harder to make it out alive, to not become the horror they fought. Nothing like a near death experience to make you appreciate the little things in life. Nothing like the near loss of civilization to make you appreciate the big things—like water, food, a cool breeze that doesn’t carry the stench of rotting flesh with it. You truly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
And then there’s the romance between Jarod and Gabriel. Yes, there’s a love story in this series, one that grows over the course of the three books. “This is how things were meant to be for us. Helping each other survive. Symbiosis, is that what they call it? It’s who we are.” Are they just two people who became everything to each other because of circumstance? Or did circumstance bring them together, and fighting side-by-side deepen their commitment and their need and their love for each other? Yes. While I wouldn’t call this series anything like a typical romance, it is a romance, nonetheless, set within an atypical world, and for whatever reason (who can pinpoint why any two people fall in love?), Jarod and Gabriel became everything to each other.
Symbiosis is what they call it when a reader meets their perfect book. That’s what happened between me and this series. I was emotionally invested because Summers gave me everything to become emotionally invested in—truly, madly, deeply. In the characters’ lives and the outcome of their story. Paragon is a pulse pounding, adrenaline spiked finish to the Vertex trilogy. It’s some of the finest and funnest horror fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Summers’ writing is evocative and provocative, his characters so well fleshed-out (yes, I went there #zombies), and then he spent a great amount of time dismantling the world he’d so carefully constructed, all for the benefit of my voracious appetite for dystopia.
You can buy Paragon here: