Paragon by Soren Summers
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Sci-Fantasy/Fi Horror/Gay Romance
Tags: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Humour, Action, Zombies, Series – Vertex #3, **Warning for Gore
Length: 178 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
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.
**Best to have read books 1 and 2 before this review.
I love this series. I never wax and wane about that fact. Nope. I love it. As this is book #3 I can say that unequivocally, although technically I’ve read four books in this universe. Hello Smolder. As soon as a book is released I’m all over it and I can’t say that about all books in all series. I’m a pretty stock reader, I have every intention of jumping into the next book of any series I’m enjoying, or the next book of an author I’ve enjoyed… but… well, I find myself dragging the chain while on social media or watching TV because they sometimes seem better options. That is never me when it comes to the Vertex world.
It’s been three weeks since the survivors at the Hive saw the returning flare. There is an optimism and a buzz that someone is alive, maybe rescue is imminent. But everyone is still doing the jobs they do – engineers, scavs, hunters. Supplies are running low so rescue would be good. The hunters go out in the direction of the flare but there is nothing. Gabriel is recovering from an attack that occurred at the end of Parasite, one that left him heartbroken and physically scarred. It’s something that both Jarod and Gabriel share, the war wounds of Vertex’s creations. Torres is still good friends with Gabriel and still giving Jarod grief, although there is a touch more camaraderie mixed in there, and Esther is still the Hive’s matriarch. Now they face something huge. Their water supply, the river out the back of the Hive, suddenly drops dramatically one night. On an expedition to find out why, there’s a shocking discovery. A wall is built in the middle of the river. A wall with a whirring noise. A whirring noise that means cameras. Cameras in Pleasance means one thing. Vertex. When they are making plans about what they’ll do Jarod has a very unexpected visitor. To say it starts in motion a series of unnerving events for Jarod, Gabriel, and Esther, all of whom used to work at Vertex, along with the others at the Hive, is an understatement.
The six main characters from Parasite find themselves on the run from their home of the last six months as the zombie hoard takes control. They are not totally in agreement or even sure where they’ll go. However, Jarod’s visitor gives him some ideas, as frightening and awful as they seem. Gentle, nurturing Daniel is trying to process the hurt of what just happened at the Hive before they left and I have to say it kind of ripped me a new one too. I have a soft spot for Danny and… I can’t say more.
There are cameos of great import in this book. There is action. There is love with an edge. There is friendship. There is discovery and there is an obsession from one malevolently omniscient Jonathan Hargrove to another character. Someone who is just trying to make sense of life post-Paragon in Pleasance, love someone and stay alive. That is where the plot portion of my review ends because to say more is to ruin the story.
I give this book a horror tag because there are some bloody events. It isn’t OTT, it just is and it suits the story, but I’ve read much darker books. It plays to the psychology of being human though, and it is quite sci-fantasy, alt-universe and rather dystopian in nature. But in amongst that, at the beating heart, Jarod and Gabriel love one another in their quirky, desperate way. In dark times, romance remains a vital overall storyline, but I to and fro about Gabriel. It’s written that way, or maybe that’s just me. I’ve always felt that there’s a nebulous quality to the writing around Gabriel – even in Siren, which is solely from his perspective. It adds to the general atmosphere of the overall narrative and Jarod and Gabriel’s offbeat relationship in Vertex dominated times. While they are fighting for their lives quite a lot, there is some downtime and during those periods Jarod thinks more often, needing some verbal clarification about what this is between them. Gabriel can skirt around serious feelings. Jarod can be tight-lipped. But now it’s time to make it known how Jarod feels and he needs the same from Gabriel. They started on difficult ground in Monster, but he loves Gabriel and Gabriel is the same, allowing more genuine emotions and affection to slip.
The world building throughout is superb. It’s painted around people and the creepiness of a corporation, a building, and that universally overarching cult-like, all-knowing culture that works so well in sci-fi.
The narrative seems so easy going, the quality of writing helps that, although it’s anything but. Each book tends to start a bit slower and builds toward something. Before you know it you’re in the thick of things, surviving, running or fighting along with the key characters. Hoping things will be okay and everyone will get out relatively unscathed. Unscathed is all a relative thing when it’s pertaining to these Vertex books. And the writing is so clever. The little things become the big things, a line here, a thought there, an action somewhere else that all become intertwined, critical, and more often than not quite subtly so.
I don’t know what happens from here with the series or the author’s next book(s). I believe the author is breaking away from Jarod and Gabriel but within the same verse. Panic attack notwithstanding, I have faith in Soren Summers to do something else that is completely engrossing and really interesting with more characters that will wheedle their way into my heart like Jarod and Gabriel have – particularly Jarod. Yes, I’m playing favourites. And, hello Smolder – again. That book features Zach and Nathan and it was also very good. Nathan grabbed me wholeheartedly in that one. So… goddammit, I have that to cling to the belief that the author knows what he’s (not) doing with this world or another as I wait for where I’m taken next.
When Esther is on page she is still amazing. There is more I could say but I can’t. Soren Summers gives women a resilience that I know and understand well. Esther was a key figure at Vertex and the Hive’s go-to for good reason, and she is no young dolly bird either. She’s an older workhorse of a woman with a tough shell and a tough core, with layers of care and concern – who also packs a mean weapon.
Throughout the series none of the men have been alpha types, Torres gets the closest, but they all endure very well, sometimes in a dysfunctional way, times are tough – that which doesn’t kill us gives us unhealthy coping mechanisms – and they support those around them when it’s critical – which is pretty often. They stand together. They take orders from and respect women and they’re men I would have as friends. Hmm, maybe not Torres.
I even got to hear about one anomaly I like tossing zombies around. Ah, Teddy. I hope you had fun, dear. You made me smile, because I’m twisted.
You do need to read all of these books to gain maximum enjoyment as they are the same MCs in the same world.
Symbiosis. That is all. That is enough.
I’m always amazed at how hard it appears to generate interest in queer books that are not primarily sexy contemporary romance or classified as strictly “MM.” This series is so good and, to be fair, I enjoy some well written contemporary romance myself, but it’s nice to stretch the old wings. It’s nice to enjoy more plot along with some romance and some sex in an appropriate ratio to everything else, not dominating it. There are some sexy times in this series too, but they’re organic and always fit the romance arc. If you are teetering on the edge of whether to try this series or not, to dip your toe into something different for you, download a sample and see. It won’t be indicative of the whole book but it will give you an idea of the quality of writing, if it suits. Personally? I am so glad I took the punt on this series when I initially decided to read Monster, book #1.
A cracking book to… well, I’m not sure whether to say finish this series off on, to lie in wait, or what. I’m choosing lie in wait. As it stands, Paragon ties up ends, all except one which may or may not have meant to be left ambiguous. It’s kind of freaking me out, to be honest. I’m not alone, there are currently a cluster of neurotic Aussies all feeling a little freaky. No matter what, this book is entertaining, complete with ups and downs, a camaraderie borne out of being in the trenches together, ties binding, love and commitment, intensely wicked and unethical corporate practices and, most of all, fantastic characters who draw every emotion out of the reader. Together they make for a perfectly addictive and blood-pumping time. For me, books like Paragon, the Vertex series overall, is what makes reading such a joy. Every which way I look at it, Paragon is another wonderful story – 5 stars!
It says a lot about a series when you enjoy #3 as much as you loved the first two. I know you’re not usually one for books with zombies or anything with tentacles so that says a lot as well.
This looks like such a great series. I’m all about horror, as you know, so I have no doubt that when I have time to read it that I’ll love it.
Great review. I love the visuals/quotes.
It’s very true – I’m neither a lover of zombies or tentacles. That’s how much I think of this series. The zombies only come out in books #2 & #3. The world of Vertex easily straddles both camps, the lovers of the walking dead and those who don’t normally like them. It’s definitely for supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi-ish/horror-ish readers who also enjoy some romance – or just well written stories.
Thanks, Cindi, I enjoyed getting the visuals together 🙂
I’m one of those neurotic Aussie’s from the cluster down under, that’s completely wigging out BIG TIME too! Fantastic Paragon Review and Vertex Series wrap up too Kazza! I also don’t want Soren to let my boys go ???? AT ALL. I’m hoping they’ve been popped on the back burner for a while as this particular series arc comes to an end *sob*. I too am completely confident with Soren’s next move and can’t wait to meet the new player he brings to the table. We have to keep hope they’ll return later in another Vertex arc. This Vertex verse… Read more »
Hell yes, you are one of the Aussies thinking gah! I know a coupe of others, one is pretty cool but he’s still feeling like his mind is blown. Thanks re: the review, Paul, I think it helps to have visuals with quotes. There is a lot to say about the quality of the writing so I can use that and take pressure off the plot and therefore minimise spoilers. Soren Summer’s standard of writing makes that part easy, he is very good at what he does and there is no violence or sex just for the sake of it.… Read more »
Bowled over as always by the depth of your review, but particularly by how you managed to do so without revealing anything! Especially tough in this one, I think, considering we’ve mostly done away with introducing characters and world-building. Nice work on the gifs. That Borg Queen one is just perfect. And thanks again for noting the women, Esther in particular. I’m sad that not everyone had the room to shine in this one, but if we’re talking strong women, I have my fingers crossed that readers will be satisfied by how she, uh, “performed” in this book. Above all… Read more »
You’re welcome, Soren. It is a harder book to review without giving things away but people deserve the right to read the book without having it spoiled. Besides, you gave me plenty to talk about in general. Thank you for such a fabulous set of characters and such quality writing over all the books in the Vertex world. Your women were consistently fabulous and those who were meant to shine always did. Also, I laughed at you ‘hitting people in the face sooner’. Eh, my mind works in weird ways, but, seriously, it’s not such a bad thing to build… Read more »
Don’t forget Fruity Lexia and Phyllis Uplove
So much praise and teasing reviews for this whole series makes me ultra curious to step outside my usual reading. 🙂