Paragon is the third in the Vertex series by Soren Summers and the review below contains spoilers for both Monster and Parasite. These books must be read in order for the story to make sense. So if you don’t like spoilers or haven’t read the first two novels, turn back now.
Life in the Hive has taken a strangely hopeful tone in recent weeks. The survivors managed to beat back a zombie horde and now have even stronger protections are in place. For Jarod Samuels, hope is a fragile thing and not terribly trustworthy, but he has Gabriel and that’s the only thing that matters. He dares to think, in time, he might be able to find a measure of happiness in the Hive and in the life he has built with Gabriel.
But then Jarod sees a face from the past. A face that should belong to a dead man…does belong to a dead man, and suddenly there is only chaos. The Hive is attacked leaving Jarod, Gabriel, and a precious few others to risk a return to Vertex. The terrible story of Paragon began there and Jarod plans on ending it there. Even if means he must lose the people he loves the most.
Paragon is a brutally intense story that never lets the reader have a moment to breathe. It is considerably more violent than either Monster or Parasite, so consider yourself warned. Soren Summers seems to be a master of is setting a level of nerve-wracking tension within a plot that simply never stops. This is done especially well in Paragon. You can’t help but devour the book and as you do you realize, in a way, you are as powerless as Jarod and Gabriel to stop the nightmare from unfolding. It’s devastating and I was left with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach more than once. This is truly a horror novel. There are no evil clowns or ghosts or things that go bump in the night. Instead there is the cruelty of survival, the terrible truth of humanity, and a rage that threatens to consume the world. The zombies in this series have always been smarter and more dangerous than the stumbling creatures we see on the Walking Dead. The zombies of Paragon are even more evolved, almost to the point of being human, but still trapped by the virus that steals their sense of self and will.
Another wonderful strength of this series is the author’s portrayal of the survivors. Beyond being simply good or bad, these characters are truly human. They struggle with indecision, jealously, and grief. Jarod and Gabriel are complex, imperfect men who wear the mantles of leadership unwillingly, but admirably. We can’t help but want the best for them, despite the fact we know a happily ever after is never promised.
My only complaint with Paragon concerns the ending. The last few chapters felt abrupt and a little rushed. The book has excellent pacing and while it falters only a bit here, it does falter. Still this is a minimal issue at best. As I saw it the author left us with two possible interpretations on the last page. One serves as a possible peak into a fourth novel. The other is more reminiscent of Voltaire’s Candide. I suspect most of you remember Candide from high school or college so I won’t re-hash it save to say this: Paragon may end the Vertex series with the realization that Jarod and Gabriel simply have to do the best with what they have. While I can’t help hoping there will be another novel, if Paragon is the last, the bittersweet aftertaste it leaves is perfectly in line with the series as a whole.
Paragon is the strongest in the already fantastic Vertex series (so far). And while it ratchets the gore and violence up a notch, the book never feels gratuitous. Instead it forces readers to serve as witness to the brutal reality of survival in the face of utter destruction. I cannot more highly recommend Paragon and the rest of the Vertex series.