A Knife, a Fork, a Bottle, and a Cork by Sean C Hayden is a post-apocalyptic novella packed with enough dystopian elements to fill a full-length novel. Though the ending may not be as climactic as we are set up for and the story bounces around a bit, what makes this dark tale stand out is the author’s ability to present such realistic characters in this unsettling stage where humanity sits on the brink of self-destruction.
From the first page, readers will be thrust into a world where many lost cities lie dormant in the watery depths below and what’s left of humanity fights for the remaining crests of land, sometimes the most twisted minds become the most powerful. That thin line between ethics and the desire to preserve humankind becomes blurred as each character is introduced and we learn that the future may not be so bright.
This short story is likened to the 1967 novel Logan’s Run written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (and 1976 film of the same name directed by Michael Anderson) where an over populated society is governed by the ideal that it is noble to end one’s life at a certain age to make room for the younger people. In this case, the End Day comes at the ripe old age of forty. And in a similar rebellious epiphany, we follow along with our heroes as they struggle to reclaim the right to live.
The twisted mind behind this plan is Commander Martin. Petite in stature, but monstrous in power, the anticipation of meeting this imposing figure builds throughout the story. The most telling (and clever) use of foreshadowing by the author hinting at Martin’s horrific leadership is the poetic verses that introduces each chapter.
Chapter Two begins with:
Martin is my shepherd, I shall not want
He lays me down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil, for Martin is with me
His rod and his rifle, they comfort me
With such ominous tones luring readers along, the anticipation of meting Martin is what makes the journey worthwhile. Not surprising, these little snippets help the reader visualize a world where a man purposefully confuses popular nursery rhymes and noted biblical references with himself.
In all, this was a fun, quick read. Though the climactic confrontation does not live up to the hype built up throughout the story, A Knife, a Fork, a Bottle, and a Cork by Sean C Hayden does have a satisfying conclusion with just enough lingering questions to open the door for more adventures.