Joe4: solar empire engineer by day, anonymous composer for a famous pop star by night. When the star dies mysteriously, Joe4 is coerced into creating his final masterpiece. Leaving New York City for a desert studio, the inspiration comes easily. But soon his dog talks and sanity drifts like sand. Joe4 believes an alien muse is awakening. Don't believe him? The solar empire does. And in the next 48 hours, the whole world may be listening in to the abduction of Joe4. From award-winning author salem and smart science fiction publisher Metapulp comes a creeping novella that explores alien abduction through the seductive power of sound and the familiarity of man's best friend, the dog. This is an alien tale reinvented for a future of now and explores a different thread from the dark world of salem's novel Black Hole Butterfly. Joe4 is a standalone story.
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Set in a future dark pulpy science fiction world, Joe4 works as an engineer for a company that has tight security. By night, he composes music for his own entertainment, sometimes releasing certain bits for public consumption. A famous record label picks up his work and has him ghost-composing work for a famous singer, DJU. But then DJU dies and Joe4 is coerced into creating the singer’s final record, which must be grand.
Now toss in some corporate espionage, the mysterious desert lands of the Four Corners area, the love for a retired racing dog, and possible alien contact, and you definitely have an odd and fascinating tale. At the beginning, the reader is immersed in Joe4’s work life – all the checks and balances to his work plus all the security protocols. For Joe4, these are simply inconveniences to a viable paycheck and to doing what he really enjoys – his music.
Now Joe4’s music is special, at least, to him. Early on, us readers know that Joe4 suspects his music is inspired by some extraterrestrial muse. Mostly, he’s just having fun with it and appreciates it when consumers also enjoy the work, even if the music isn’t released under his name. He keeps track of his musings and thoughts in his various notebooks. Later on, these will come under scrutiny.
Once DJU dies, the record label company more or less forces Joe4 to quit his engineer job in order to go off into the sandy isolation of the Four Corners area and compose full time. They want their golden opus record! Joe4 takes very little with him and that includes his best friend, his dog. I really liked this dog. She gets a little backstory and is a constant companion. Joe4 never thought he would fall in love and yet when he did, it was with this dog.
Now once Joe4 gets to the desert, things do get a bit odd. Talking dogs, alien music, etc. In avoiding spoilers, I can say that some of the odd bits from earlier in the story all come together in this final quarter of the book out in the desert. Joe4 himself has become a valuable commodity because of this unique contact with an alien. People will fight and die to have him within their keeping.
It’s all rather dark, pulpy, mysterious. I really loved how this over all feel to the story remained constant throughout. The science fiction bits were nicely sprinkled here and there through cool bits of tech and, of course, the alien muse. It was a worthy listen and I’m glad I gave it a chance.
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author/narrator (via a post on GoodReads Audiobooks group) in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: While Salem spins a fascinating tale, his narrating skills could use some work. As the voice for Joe4, he was excellent. He definitely gave voice to this picture of a youngish, intelligent man trying to figure out his life in this future crowded scifi city. However, his voices for additional characters were sometimes clear and sometimes they didn’t differentiate at all from Joe4’s voice. Also his pacing felt unnatural. Still, because the story itself was so engaging, I found myself embracing this lukewarm performance and enjoying the tale.
I received this audiobook from the author/narrator in exchange for an honest review, and honestly I loved the story and hated his narration of it. I mean it kind of sounds to me like a bad imitation of William Shatner if he was losing his voice.
I cannot say enough good things about the story itself. Joe4 is a well developed character who quits his job with a major corporation whose owner is so paranoid that he places 24/7 surveillance on employees who leave the company for at least 10 years. Joe4's dream is to write music full time, and he is quite the hit machine. He is so good that he has written practically every top ten hit for the past year and a half. A performer known as DJU hires him to write music for him on a full-time basis paying him a hefty 7 figure salary and buying him his dream home out in the desert southwest where he can work undisturbed.
When DJU suddenly dies, his record company wants Joe4 to write all the music for what will be billed at DJU's final album, which he agrees to do. In the meantime others are scheming to get to Joe4 first and claim the album for themselves so they can sell it for a fortune on the black market.
From talking dogs, to aliens, to paranoid former employers to all of the wonderful things that make Joe4 a wonderful sci-fi story, Joe4 is a story should not be missed. I would read it in print though. Skip the audio version unless you just don't mind choppy reading by an author who sounds like he is losing his voice. If this story were to be rerecorded with a professional narrator with lots of experience with this type of story then I would be inclined to recommend this as an audiobook. Salem's narration just falls short of the mark.