Sunday, July 31, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: Machine of Death

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has one of the most unique premises and "development stories" that I've found in a long time.

Book Premise: A machine is exists that can tell, from a sample of blood, how any individual on earth will. It doesn't give you a date or time or even specifics; it just spits words and phrases like DROWNED or CANCER or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN out onto a slip of paper. These words are always vague and more often than not, ironic. OLD AGE, for example, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion.

Book Development:The premise for this book was inspired by a Dinosaur Comic by Ryan North. From January 15 - April 30, 2007, Ryan and his two co-editors Matthew Bernnardo and David Malki welcomed short story contributions based on this premise from anyone in the world. The three editors then chose their favorites from the nearly 700 submissions.

For fear of spoiling any of the surprises this book contains, I won't go into exactly why I liked any one of the stories. As a collection, however, I thought North, Bernarrdo, and Malki did a find job of choosing 34 unique stories. Some were extremely well-written, some not so much. This is the case in any short story collection, however, and the promise of another new, completely different perspective on the same theme kept me reading avidly.

Machine of Death will especially appeal to fans sci-fi and dystopia writing, but it can most definitely be appreciated by anyone with a love of suspenseful short stories, surprise endings, and unknown writers.

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