Series: Vertex #1
Author: Soren Summers
Genre: MM Romantic Horror
Word Count: 88,000
Bloodied corridors. Mangled bodies. Deranged test subjects. Just another day at Vertex, a corporation devoted to perfecting humanity by any means necessary. It’s up to Jarod Samuels to keep the hallways pristine and safe, but scrubbing bloodstains and bagging bodies is losing its luster.
Then someone new joins his department, this man with a huge ego and an even huger mouth. Gabriel Anderson is 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. 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.
JAROD SAMUELS works at Vertex, a secretive organization which runs medical experiments on human test subjects. Jarod’s job description as a ‘garbageman’ is to run toward medical emergencies (while everyone is running away), contain them, and then clean up afterward. In his daily work life, he lives in a confusing state of mind-numbing boredom and adrenaline-spiking fear, alternately roaming the empty halls for hours on end and then corralling violent psychic sociopaths and cleaning up rooms full of blood and viscera. It becomes exceedingly clear Vertex is an evil corporation hell-bent on the domination of the entire world… but Jarod is a bit clueless.
The question for me became, why does Jarod work for these people?
Jarod is clearly stuck in a rut of massive proportions, reliving the glory days of high school (a decade or so gone now) when he was a track star and everything was looking up. Working at Vertex allows Jarod to pretend he’s still a hero and he’s convinced himself his heinous work is actually saving people’s lives for the betterment of the world. (You know what I call that? Delusional.) He doesn’t consider changing his perspective until a new guy is hired, one who is faster, smarter, younger, and more likable than he is.
In horror, there’s an expectation the reader may not like the protagonist and the protagonist may not even be a good person. I’d like to submit the idea that Jarod is one of those not-quite-likeable-or-good protagonists, and I loved how that worked into the story.
Because the new guy, Gabriel, does everything better than Jarod, he takes away the comfort of Jarod’s delusions, and despite his grandiose ideas and his loathing, Jarod actually starts to pay attention to the nature of his work. Not only that, but he and Gabriel begin a strange game of courtship, with lust and jealousy being Jarod’s primary motivations.
At first Jarod’s jealousy struck me as another symptom of his narcissism, but it turned out Gabriel was not all that he seemed and was definitely using him on a few levels. At several points I thought the story was going to take a dark–dark–turn, but it had an astonishingly campy finish for its psychological thriller aspects.
My favorite moments were when we were first getting a glimpse into the horrors of Vertex. I enjoyed watching Jarod struggle with the demons of his job and the demons within himself. There was potential to give Jarod his comeuppance and ultimately I found the story entertaining, but I did feel as if the author was pulling some punches toward the end, which make less of an impact on me.
I recommend this for horror and thriller lovers who appreciate a happy ending.
Ben Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys running, whisk(e)y, the mythical gluten-free donut, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.