Monster by Soren Summers
Publisher: Self Published
Tags: Dark Gay Romance-y, Horror, Humour, Dystopian Sci-fantasy, Quirky MCs. **Warning Tag for Graphic Violence, Gore, Psychological – Human Test Experiments, Dark/Intense Work Environs
Length: 241 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
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.
**GRAPHIC AND NSFW REVIEW**
I know readers, and especially reviewers, tend to be nervous about first time authors. There’s definitely some justification for the concerns. Personally, though, I love being blown away by good or exciting new writers. Nothing like some new blood coming into the genre. I want to see them succeed. If you fall into the ‘worried about new writers category’, have no fear about this book, it’s well written and well edited. The story is good, the plot, the characterisations excellent. So many boxes for a fabulous novel are well and truly ticked by Monster. Obviously you have to like the content of the book and the type of storyline. You have to like darker reading – I have a warning tag above, there is violence and gore and horror. Reader beware.
Jarod Samuels is in waste management. A garbageman at Vertex, a company that has it’s fingers well an truly in everything and anything society can think of, and then some – particularly those things it ethically shouldn’t be involved in. The seemingly small, nebulous exterior of Vertex hides an interior that is impossibly huge and just as cloudy as the exterior. On top of the company’s mysterious surroundings, it is clearly and definitely a dangerous work environment, especially in, but not limited to, waste management. The garbagemen clean up – not like ordinary garbagemen, not like sanitation, another department. They are there for things that are not good for the image of Vertex or the health and welfare of its employees and people who exist beyond the staff carpark and gates.
Jarod is a runner. He held the track record at his school, his coach took him under her wing and turned him into what would be the number one runner at his job. For five years Jarod has quietly and diligently run and cleaned up at Vertex – things, experiments, test subjects, people gone wrong. He hoists industrial grade body bags and boxes into a mysteriously self-cleaning black dumpster at the back of the building. A place that one of the morgue guys, Johnson, claims is people to be used as food. Johnson admires that the Hargroves family, the mysterious owners of Vertex, leave nothing to waste. In spite of his job, Jarod finds that idea a bit of a tall tale. Besides, Johnson sleeps in the morgue drawers, so his credibility is kind of… off. The garbagemen’s work is not something most people have the stomach for or want to know too much about. Jarod says nothing, does his job, and is seen as a close-to-the chest, loyal employee. One who is fast to get to mishaps and clean-ups that are called nervously over the comms devices by central, or the nightcrawlers. “Hero” is a word bandied around by management and nerds, even other garbagemen, because a hero – in reality cleaning up people who have gone wrong and are the stuff of nightmares – sounds a lot more palatable than sociopath, enabler, or emotionally flat-lined. Sure, Jarod has some issues, who wouldn’t, but they are well and truly compartmentalised. His job pays well enough, he has a couple of acquaintances at work, one good friend in Nessa, a lab tech – nerd – and he has a small place of his own.
At the next comms-call Jarod is about to run down an escaped medical experiment when another gray, their nickname for the outfits they wear, beats him to it. A stunned Jarod has always been the fastest at Vertex and suddenly a newbie has beaten him. Not only a newbie, but a guy with a cocky grin and an attitude to match. At twenty one, Gabriel Anderson is six years younger than Jarod and has been running track a lot more recently than Jarod has. Jarod’s boss, the stoic, cross-stitching Britta, pairs him up with Gabriel so Jarod can teach him the ropes. As Jarod takes Gabriel around Vertex, showing him the different areas, some with an intention to scare the newbie just a little, gradually Gabriel grows on Jarod. What was once a too sure smile becomes nice, what was once a cocky attitude is now friendly, and they have the same home town, Coach Bennett, and running in common.
Jarod and Gabriel become close but there appears to be some secrets that Gabriel is keeping. Why he looks so tired. Why he bolts out of work every afternoon like a shot out of a gun. Jarod discovers that Gabriel is living at Vertex, apparently homeless. It doesn’t make sense, given they earn a reasonable amount, but Jarod offers Gabriel his place to stay. Jarod cares, in spite of his reservations and massive effort to keep neutral. From here they grow closer. Gabriel is flirtatious, but Jarod is reluctant to take it to the next level. He still doesn’t know where Gabriel goes to after work. He also wonders why he always finds a special smile for Nessa. Nessa is working on a new project called Paragon. It’s supposed to be able to make people who are irreparably disabled or terminally ill whole and healthy again. Paragon is the stuff of Vertex’s wet dreams.
Nessa Wong and Jarod became friends when she was saved on an occasion by Jarod, and he is her personal workplace hero. Through her friendship with Jarod, she ropes Jarod into being friends with one of the medical experiments she is hoping to help via her new Paragon project. Robbie is a sweet teenager who is charismatic and full of life, despite being terminally ill. He’s on floor 14, the Terminal – so named because it’s where people go to die or move onto another life. Either way the people in the Terminal are just passing through, but mostly not in a positive way. Jarod doesn’t want to form attachments or care, it doesn’t do him any good. He doesn’t want to be close to/be friends with test subjects or experiments. Hopefully Robbie will be a success story and Nessa’s new project will make the other things that go on at Vertex worth some ‘errors’ and difficult ‘clean-ups’.
No more plot, just some extra stuff –
Monster is written in third person present tense, something that not every writer can pull off. If you don’t get it right it can make the characters seem clinical and detached. Soren Summers has done it right. The narrative follows Jarod around and it’s Jarod’s words, body language and interesting thought processes the reader is most privy too. Gabriel is more enigmatic, for all his flirtatious words, play and glimpses of vulnerability. There is a battle going on within Jarod as to how sincere Gabriel is and why he asks some of the questions he does. Jarod hasn’t really felt it before, but since Gabriel has come along he’s more cognizant about being lonely. Gabriel coming into his life is better than the puppy he briefly thought about buying, the plant he bought that died but he still hangs onto.
This book is an interesting psychological study, if you choose to look at it that way, and maintains a dangerous and unsettling quality that flows throughout. You are left on edge and there are some intense moments and nasty situations that involve blood and creepy factors. Things that make you ask yourself could you do this; human guinea pigs, having no choice, test subjects screaming about something being put in their shaved and stitched up head. Telekinetic Anomalies, people with powers and other gifts being played with by the nerds at Vertex is never ever going to be a nice story or outcome. The horror and squick factor, the ethical dilemma, is never not in your face. There is also action when some incidents occur that the grays have to take care of and that is graphic and dire.
It is not a traditional romance between Jarod and Gabriel. Gabriel isn’t exactly front and centre about everything and I wonder what there is that I don’t fully know. Maybe I’m being paranoid now. Monster appears to be book #1 of a series and while it ends in an interesting and quietly edgy manner, one befitting the MCs and story, not a cliffhanger so much as a, “crap, I need more” manner, it isn’t over. There is still much to learn about these guys, Vertex, and Paragon, not to mention at least one other character I’m hoping I can see more of. It appears it has only just begun –mwahaha! and I cannot wait for more. Jarod and Gabriel have run their way into my heart, particularly Jarod. I have a huge soft spot for his sometimes naïve but self preservation mindset. I can see why the phrase “you’re the best” got to him. No one really likes fake people. No one wants to feel used or in a game.
There are lots of little things that add up to bigger ones in this book and I can’t adequately cover them all. The shifting of roles like mother, father, brother. Jarod’s pride at never using his gun, and love being equated back to that weapon and its use. His questioning view of love and what it is. They are little things that are really clever and a second read would be great to fully digest them all. This book fairly begs to be read by those people interested, even curious, and not just once.
Okay. Listen up. Seriously do not worry about a first time novel writer here. It’s my firmly held belief that if someone can write, they can write – whether their first or fiftieth book. This book is incredibly entertaining and gripping, and I want that when I read. But it goes beyond entertainment to being on point with the style of book and all the little details. Soren Summers takes a great premise and he backs it right up with quality writing and storytelling. The characters are well developed for the tale at hand – meaning there has to be an enigmatic quality to the characters in this type of story while still delivering depth and believability; and that balance is struck perfectly.
If you enjoy dystopian settings, you’ve found it. There is no sense of time, no mention of it, just the skewed moral compass of place. The emphasis is within the walls of Vertex and it’s effect on people, each individual monster, and what that encompasses, making it all the more eerie. If you enjoy murky and all-knowing corporations doing unspeakable things. If you like darker tales with some gay romance and organic-to-the-story sex, and if you like strong, quirky, off-kilter characters, ones you feel attached to and keep your fingers crossed for, it’s here. If you don’t mind a building story that is atmospheric and character driven, with some action as well. If you like good storytelling, a fascinating plot… then, ding, ding, ding, here is your winner. 5 Stars! all the way. Bring on more of this world and more Jarod and Gabriel.
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