Title: Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die
Editors: Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki !
Publisher: Bearstache Books, 2010
How I got my hands on it: bought it on amazon
So I’m not sure how many of you followers are fans of webcomics. I would say I enjoy them quite a bit, I casually read a few – I’ll let their archives build for a month or two then read them all in one day but I routinely read two of them. I cannot start my day without reading Questionable Content (www.questionablecontent.net) or Dinosaur Comics (www.qwantz.com). Seriously, my days are incomplete with out these two gems.
Machine of Death is the brainchild of Ryan North, the writer of Dinosaur comics. Five years ago, T-Rex (the main character of Dinosaur Comics) mentioned how awesome it would be if there was a machine that would draw a small blood sample and then tell us exactly how (not when) we died. The fun part of this machine is that there is no avoiding this death. No matter how much you try, it’s fate, it cannot be changed. If someone’s slip reads DROWNING, no matter how much they avoid water for the rest of their life, they will drown. As T-Rex would say, super fun times!
The brilliance in this book is how it came to be, the writer of the webcomic, only actually has one story in this anthology, this rest is fan written. Pretty cool, huh? After North wrote that comic, the fan response was so positive that he called for Machine of Death Stories. Out of the hundreds received, these are the 30 best.
With all that being said, I’ve got to say, man I love this book. And let it be known, I’m not usually a fan of short stories. I don’t have anything against short stories in particular, but if I’m given the choice between a short story and a novel, I’m going to choose the novel. But these stories are sooo good! And there’s such a wide variety too. It feels like each time I sit down to read it, I think, there can’t possibly be a better story than that last one I read. And it proves me wrong every time! These stories are good because they explore the idea of whether it’s good to know how you die or not. Also, the machine is often cryptic in it’s output, that you may think you know how you die, to realize that you were completely wrong. There are funny stories, like “Torn Apart By and Devoured By Lions” where the character finds out how he’s going to die and becomes so excited about it, because it’s going to be the best moment of his life. There are sad stories, like “While Trying to Save Another”, where the character understands how he’s going to die, tries to get out of it, and realizes at the end that he has to save this person. And there are poignant stories, like “Nothing” which is a sweet story about a 170 year old man who will never die, and he hates it.
I don’t know what else to say. This book is good. Actually it’s great. Every story is good. Ryan North has been nice enough to put up the PDF of it online for free, so if you want to read it RIGHT NOW you can: http://machineofdeath.net/a/. But I encourage you read a sample of it online and if you like what you see, buy a copy on amazon (it’s only $10) because North self-published this beast, and it’s always nice to give back to a project so fantastic. Also, sidenote: the editors of MOD asked fans to buy a copy on the release date so they could get on amazon’s top 100, the response was so great that they got to #1. Let that be a tasty tidbit to give you an idea of how awesome this book is.
If you haven’t guessed: 5 stars.