I have been attending meetings of the Central Nebraska Writers Guild for a year and have met some brilliant writers. One of those is the young woman who is an aspiring author named Katherine Wielechowski, a very friendly person and a writer who shows great promise if this first released publication is any indication of what will come in the future. Anyway, while running through my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Katherine giving away the second of her four novelettes in the 1-800-Henchmen series for one day only, so I grabbed that one and bought the other three as well, not really sure what to expect.
1-800-Henchmen: First Shot centers on Alfie Vihar, a young man that is days away from high school graduation and looking for a job that hopefully pays more than fifty dollars a week. Answering an ad for Resources, Inc., a company that is apparently hiring a summer intern. Alfie secures an interview with Mr. Kadish, who is awaiting his arrival. After Alfie gives his memorized stock interview answers, Mr. Kadish prompts Alfie into giving him some real answers to a few rapid fire questions. We learn that Alfie is an aspiring writer that speaks three foreign languages, two of which he learned to impress girls, and the third, Chinese, so he could understand the Chinese cursing that is used frequently in his favorite television show, Firefly. Kadish tells Alfie that he is not quite the right fit for the summer internship, but he is qualified for another opening at one of the company's other divisions.
When Alfie reports for his first day of work, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, but soon finds out that he either has a dream job for an eighteen year-old, or he is in so far over his head that he may not measure up. He finds that he has gone to work for the Henchmen, a quasi-mercenary group that aids whomever hires their services to accomplish their missions, for good or evil. Funny thing is that all he really wanted to do was earn enough money to go backpacking around Europe, but his first adventure finds him traveling all the way to Beijing, China!
What came through this novelette for me was that Katherine has a huge talent for character development. RIght from the opening, I found Alfie to be someone that I would like to know. He is a nice young man who has a tendency, as most eighteen year-olds do, to speak before his brain is engaged. He obviously has a good brain and an ear for languages. Even on his first mission, he and his team is looking for what might be his specialty, to what talent he posses that will add to the team he has been assigned to. Alfie has a good home life in a middle-class family that is close. His best friend is a girl that he has apparently known for quite some time, however they are not romantically involved, which I find very refreshing.
Even the supporting characters in this story have some degree of fine character development. For instance, Mr. Kadish, whom Alfie only briefly visits for his interview, is alive and very real. Brief descriptions of Alfie’s Henchmen team mates are packed full with great visual clues that make them also jump off the page, appearing as personalities as opposed to simply being supporting cast.
All in all though, I found that as I read, I wanted more. While the first three-quarters of the story was full of marvelous character development, as well as brief but detailed well written descriptions of things and places, I wanted more story on the hero; I wanted more on Alfie’s training and more on why the villain was plotting an attack with a nuclear weapon on Beijing. I would have liked more on how the fight went before the UN soldiers and the super heroes arrived on the scene to break up Huanxiang’s (pronunced wone-she-ow) little party. In short, the last quarter of the story felt rushed.
Nevertheless, this was a fun story that gave me pause numerous times to laugh. At 47 pages, it is easily read in a little over an hour and is well worth the effort. I look forward to reading the next three installments of Alfie’s adventures with the Henchmen. This is a fun piece of writing and is a fine example of seeing growth in a talented writer. As someone who reads a lot of heavy science fiction, I found that this was a nice break from my usual fare and it gave me pause to laugh a little. I recommend First Shot for it lighthearted tone and interesting characters.
Well, there it is…