Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die edited by Ryan North

Machine of Death

First Published: 2010 by Bearstache Books
My copy: Bought on Kindle

Memorable quote: “I’m scared. I could live with OLD AGE; that gives you a reasonable chance of having a decent amount of time left. But… how are ya supposed to live with VEGETABLES?”

My husband suggested I get this themed assortment of short stories (edited by the guy who writes Daily Dinosaur Comics) on my Kindle and the two of us have been reading the whole collection aloud to each other ever since – yes, that is the sort of thing we do in bed!  The simple but fascinating premise of all the stories in this collection is that a machine exists which can sample your blood and then predict how you are going to die: not in great detail, but just in an all-caps short sentence or even single word such as CANCER or DROWNING or SHOT BY SNIPER or VEGETABLES or IMPROPERLY PREPARED BLOWFISH or even TORN APART AND DEVOURED BY LIONS. All of those are story titles from the collection which ranges in tone from deeply satirical, to the sweet and touching, via some full-blown dystopias and works of brilliantly funny black comedy.

How would life be different if you knew how you were going to die (or thought you did)? These stories look at every aspect of society: teenage cliques based on how cool your predicted death is; unemployed astrologers who no longer have a trade to peddle; dinner party games matching the prediction to the guest; fearless pilots who fly dangerously knowing that a crash is not how they are fated to go. The style of writing varies tremendously and some stories feel more professional than others but there’s a fascinating range of responses here and overall this is a thought-provoking and entertaining collection which I highly recommended. Yes it is morbid, but I happen to enjoy a bit of morbid.

Edited to add: if my review has piqued your interest in this great little anthology you may be interested to know you can download the whole thing as a free PDF.


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