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Joe4 by Salem

Joe4 - Salem

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.