Author: Soren Summers
Length: 129 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Horror
At a Glance: Smolder succeeds at adding another layer of intrigue to the already firm foundation of dread laid in Monster. I want more.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Ambitious office drone Zachary Glazer just wants to come home for the holidays, but strange things are happening in the snowy town of Huster.
There’s this man at work with a razor smile and a cadre of alluring executives. There’s that handsome stranger who just moved in next door, the one with a perfect body and a shrouded past. And what about those fires all over town?
Huster is supposed to be quiet, and boring, and cold. Why all this weirdness? Why now? The questions stack up like kindling in the back of Zach’s mind, and a single spark is all it will take for his whole world to go up in flames.
Review: There’s a reason I loved this book. It’s for very much the same reason Soren Summers’ debut novel, Monster, made my Best of 2016 list. This author knows his way around the telling of a story that keeps you on the hook with a little eerie, a little awesome, and a little romance—which is a great juxtaposition when you find yourself rooting for a happy ending amidst the absence of pleasance that is this -verse’s default setting.
Related to but not necessarily intertwined with book one in the Vertex series, Summers gives us a further look at the workings of the corporation and its leader, Jonathan Hargrove, in Smolder. Working for the betterment of mankind is the party line, but it’s evident that the methods of Hargrove’s madness are somewhat at odds with humanity’s overall wellbeing. He’s creepy as hell, to be blunt about it, and this book only makes him seem more so; somewhat more malevolent too. Vertex is inclined to spread its self-proclaimed beneficence like a virus swooping in unchecked from place to place. And, in this case, from person to person—let’s just say that Hargrove’s headitors give the term hostile takeover a new meaning, and their latest prey, DomestiCore, has something Vertex covets.
There’s a catch, though—and there’s always a catch, isn’t there?—that being that Hargrove and his drones purposefully harvested and then unwittingly nurtured a formidable foe…maybe one who had some influence in the events at the end of Monster? For certain there’s a question mark in my mind over the way we left Jarod and Gabriel, one I hope might carry over into future books in a “you reap what you sow” kind of way; though it’s hard to nock Smolder into the series timeline, so I may be way off base.
Smolder is told in the present tense, as was Monster, which isn’t always a storytelling style I warm up to, but for this series it works so well. The way Summers guides readers through “real-time” revelations of all the unusual (or downright macabre) events gives readers a more intimate sense of involvement in every scene, and complements the atmosphere he fashions throughout the narrative. Told from Zachary Glazer’s point of view, he is a loyal DomestiCore employee and the personal assistant to the company’s founder, Tobias Wexler. Zach is the kind of man who keeps lists and has his life goals mapped out, determined to be more and better than his ex-boyfriend predicted he’d ever be. But Zach isn’t exactly on the fast track to success, and his career plans start to derail little by little with Vertex’s intrusion in DomestiCore’s business.
And then, his personal life takes on an interesting plot twist when a new guy moves into his apartment complex.
Nathan is that guy. He’s an enigma who catches Zach’s eye for any number of reasons, and intrigues him—and readers, by association—with some unusual behaviors and innocent requests that make him seem more child than man. Or, at least, unprepared to live on his own in the real world. There’s something different about Nathan, something about him that makes him seem “other”, and we get to learn why he isn’t like other guys right along with Zach, the more suspicious of and smitten with Nathan Zach becomes. There are things about Nathan that just aren’t normal. But, then again, normal in this series is entirely relative.
As the mysteries of both Nathan and Nathan’s connection to Vertex play out in intersecting storylines, Summers adds a little tension in Smolder in the growing connection between Nathan and Zach. They begin with a series of awkwardish encounters that endeared me to both characters with the quickness, those interactions becoming increasingly fraught with attraction and tension and the eventual suspicion on Zach’s part that Nathan is hiding something. Finding out exactly who Nathan is—and what he can do—drives the story along. Not only was it easy to root for Nathan and Zach to find their way to each other, it was also great just to hope they’d live through what I’m going to start calling the Vertex Effect because where there is Vertex, there’s always some sort of creepy effect left in its wake.
While Smolder‘s length doesn’t provide the word count necessary to delve deeper into the horror that pervades Vertex and its business practices like Monster does, it’s still a delicious taste of the malevolence and manipulation this series is building around. Would I recommend reading this book without having read Monster first? Not really, but, then again, I am a bit biased toward the book. Monster is the genesis, the origin story, and Smolder succeeds at adding another layer of intrigue to the already firm foundation of dread laid in book one. I want more.
You can buy Monster here: