When Dean Koontz appears on my reader radar, I track and follow. The read will always be some degree of amazing. That is true of Ricochet Joe, a short story that manages to pack philosophy, fantasy, weird humor, a fast-moving story, and possibly a sense of despair at the end. The despair component is up to you. Some readers might see it as hope. Everything Koontz writes is up to reader interpretation. The work necessary to perform the interpretation is what captures reader interest.
Joe Mandel is a college student with dreams for the future; he just isn’t sure what they mean, there was quite a crowd up there. He might choose to be “an English teacher or an advertising copywriter, or maybe a destitute novelist.” (loc 36-37). But now he needed to pick up trash, an activity he considered worthy and socially responsible. Joe wasn’t forced to do it; he just thought he should. This was not true of the lovely Portia; she had been forced into service by the Sheriff, a man who was also her father. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the experience was meeting Joe. Or maybe it was not a good thing. Or maybe it didn’t matter because it was fated and not dependent on value judgments of the experience.
Joe is an innocent, a person of pure heart and thoughts. Portia’s beauty makes a minor assault on Joe’s purity in the form of lustful thought, but Joe still seems to be in fine shape to save the world as well as existence in its entirety. Purity was required on the part of a knight/savior/paladin (Joe), so the story must move ahead quickly, faster than the speed of lust. Joe doesn’t know exactly what he must do to carry out his destiny. Portia doesn’t really know this either but the messenger possessing Portia is there to help instruct Joe. Joe can look forward to carrying out whatever task assigned and then replacing the possessor of Portia with himself. But there are a few obstacles along the way; they will entertain the reader more than they do Joe.
The humor throughout the story kept me glued to the story as if it were an action novel page-turner. When Portia confesses to Joe that she was not a volunteer with the organization “Volunteers for a Better Future,” Portia initiated the following: “I didn’t volunteer. I was dragooned.” “Dragooned by whom?” “Who the hell says whom anymore?” “I might be a writer someday.” “Oh, I hope not. You seem so nice.” (loc 138-141). This is the kind of stuff I find hilarious; your sense of humor may be different.
And then Koontz hints at his serious side. “All time— past, present, future— existed in the first instant of the universe’s creation.” (loc 375). From this point forward there are serious points to consider. The reader should follow, it won’t hurt too much. It also provides the necessary base for what is to follow.
This short story is free on Kindle Unlimited and is one of those I consider gives high value for the cost of the monthly subscription. Ricochet Joe (don’t you want to know where the name comes from?) occupies about 75% of the short read and is followed by a teaser for The Silent Corner. I never read teasers except for a talent such as Dean Koontz. The teaser is also good, The Silent Corner is not on Kindle Unlimited (it sells for USD 9.99) and introduces the first novel in a Jane Hawk series. The Whispering Room sells for USD 14.99, another in Jane Hawk novel, The Crooked Staircase also sells for USD 14.99.
My learned lesson, “Don’t read the teasers.” Oh, well, I’ve got a birthday coming up and lots of independently wealthy kids. Time to start sending out hints.
It probably doesn’t need to be mentioned that I gave this five Amazon stars and highly recommended it on my blog.