Joseph's Sunday morning routine of church, beer and solitude is interrupted by a ragged screaming coming from the far side of his farm land. What he finds there will challenge his resolve in ways he hasn't faced since losing his wife or facing the horrors of the Korean War.
Numbers 16:32 is a long short story (25 pages), which makes it a novelette. It gets off to a slow start as Koch focuses on character building. I stuck with it as Koch successfully forged a connection between this reader and Joseph, the protagonist. Once Joseph sets out to find the source of the screaming, the pace of the story picks up and stays steady right up to the end.
Joseph's actions and dialogue ring true. As a Korean War veteran and widower living out his remaining years on a farm out in the Midwest, you really get a sense for the loneliness that he keeps bottled up. There's no self-pity with this man. He's seen far too much to bother with any of that.
Once the reader's connection with Joseph is made, Koch leads Joseph out into the fields to face the peril. I can't say too much more without spoiling it. Joseph's military training kicks in. No, I'm not talking about his combat skills. He assesses the problem, comes up with a plan, and acts on it. He's the "cool under fire" type. As the situation changes and the stakes escalate, Joseph adapts.
Unfortunately, the story is marred—for me—by typos: many missing commas, some capitalization issues, and several misspelled words. If Mr. Koch had sent the manuscript to a proofreader before publishing, 95% of these would've been caught (A cheaper alternative would be to have had it peer reviewed in a writer's group). It takes away from the experience for me. To be fair, even traditionally published books have typos. I'm also reading Moving Mars by Greg Bear. There's a scene where they talk about eating cheesecake for dessert, but it's misspelled as "desert".
Numbers 16:32 is a finely crafted story. The plot and characterization are solid. Despite my grumblings over typos, I enjoyed Numbers 16:32 and would recommend it for the character of Joseph alone. I hope that Mr. Koch will continue to hone his craft.
Stop by the author's website to find out where you can get a copy.