Joe4 is a novella by Salem that continues the author's story from his novel Black Hole Butterfly (BHB). Both books describe restricted life in a futuristic New York City. In BHB, the Naranja solar empire fought opposing special interest forces to corner the market on physical energy in the City and manipulate psychological energy to control the thoughts and behavior of the citizens. Detective Rook Black attempted to solve crimes in the city and because of his detecting methods, became the eye of the storm of characters competing for control of the City. He was a "psychonaut" able to enter dream states that allowed him to experience parallel realities, escaping the artificial feedback loop of time controlled by Dr. Naranja that kept other citizens in an artificial reality.
Joe4 is an employee of Dr. Naranja. He is an engineer who analyzes the effects of acoustical vibrations on solar satellites that are used in the Naranja empire to generate the artificial energy source "sunjuice." But, like Rook Black, Joe4 is able to enter a dream state in which he escapes the physical and psychological domination of the Naranja solar empire. He receives "alien" messages in the form of visual/acoustic "dark music" that he can transcribe with pen and ink in his journal into classic reality tunes. Presented on radio stations by pop star, DJU, most of Joe4's compositions rise on the music charts to top ten positions. He is offered a contract to produce music full time if he can resign from his position with the paranoiac Naranja empire, not an easy task.
Dr. Naranja has a team of agents who look for spies within the organization. Usually, a person can come to the solar energy manufacturer but not leave. Dr. Naranja decides that Joe4 is an unusual threat to him and allows him to resign with the plan of spying on him and secretly discovering Joe4's alien source of musical inspiration. Rook Black was drawn by an alien impulse to the desert to live for a year and attempt to solve his mystery cases. Joe4 is also drawn for a year to the desert to work on his grand opus. He arrives at the Four Corners area of the United States that is historically the site of extraterrestrial alien activity. With his dog, Aoede (named after the Muse of Song and Voice), Joe4 sets out to find his source of power that makes him the tuning fork of an alien communication code (444) that came to him in a dream state.
Joe4 is a very good stand-alone novella that can be read and enjoyed without exploring the connections with Black Hole Butterfly. But, BHB allows the reader to understand the complicated alien source of power for both Rook Black and Joe4 (father and son?). Both books make it possible for us readers to go beyond our daily limitations of artificial reality. By reading the books, we may be able to tune in to a pirate radio station narrow casting information about space, time, and existence and join Joe4 in his abduction.