Title: Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God*
Author: Martin Egblewogbe
Publishers: Self Publication (Printed in Ghana)
Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God is a collection of short stories by Martin Egblewogbe. Written in different narrative styles ranging from an omniscient narrator to a first person narrator, the stories describe everyday affairs of life such as adultery, abortion, and unusual events such as ones thoughts or musings at the point of death, the life of a neurotic and a psychotic and man's place in the universe. If the title seems surreal, the stories are no less. The collection is divided into two parts. The first part consists of seven stories and the second part consist of three.
"Pharmaceutical Intervention" tells of the guilt and mental suffering of a young girl who aborted a pregnancy in order to save face in the society. "Down Wind" is about a man who has committed a crime but does not know the crime he has committed and the reader is also not told of the crime and whether the man is really innocent as he claims to be. "Small Changes within the Dynamic" tells of a young man who married a particular lady against the advice and wishes of family and friends. He was later to catch her, unashamedly and proudly, cheating on him after he has made her the heir to his properties. "Twilight" presents the thoughts of a man at the point of death. "Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God", the longest of the short stories, tells the story of a young man who was threatened with a demon by his auntie whilst a boy and was later to find out throughout the stages of his life that the demon has a physical representation that just don't go away whether you are a devout Christian or somewhere on the continuum between an Agnostic and an Atheist. "Three Conversations with Ayuba" depicts the hopelessness of a neurotic man who sought the help of a phantasmogorical man, Ayuba, for the solutions to his problems.
The narrative is poetic and one common theme that runs through all the stories in this collection is the pursuit of happiness or the hopelessness of man. The author explores the human mind and makes nonsense of our everyday quest and makes complex and understandable issues we gloss over or hardly ever think about, for how often do we think about the cause of someone's madness and even if we do, how often do we not associate it drugs? Though the stories are short, they are neither straightforward nor their ends easily predictable. Rather than 'inventing the wheel' as most first time novelists do, Martin's short stories are different from any other story I have read in terms of content and presentation. It deeply explores the mind and the metaphysical with such a passion and intensity that other storytellers lack. With this style I believe Martin is in a league of his own. If this book had had the necessary publicity I believe it would have made waves even more than what similar books (other collection of short stories) are making.
Whereas some authors are at home when describing morbid scenes and others are able to turn the worst debauchery into a longing activity, Martin is at home with the metaphysical and the ease with which he does this needs to be appreciated. He easily weaves his way in and out of his characters' mind carrying the reader smoothly along. As a Physicist it is no wonder that Martin writes in this manner. After all, both the metaphysical and the laws of physics are only perceived when they are expressed. How many of us have seen gravity, except when it expresses itself through a falling object.
However, I think most of these short stories could have been expanded because sometimes they end suddenly and leaves the reader asking for more; wanting to know what happened or would happen. Besides, if you are one of those whose mind sometimes slips from the story at hand no matter how short a time or how interesting the story is, then you are in for a disappointment because before you would regain your consciousness the story would have ended. Yet, keeping the stories 'too' short could be an advantage as it continues in your mind, telling you that even though life is short, it doesn't end, it revolves.
I recommend this short story anthology to anyone. With its fresh stories, those who want to cultivate the reading habit can start with this.