Machine of Death, ed. by Ryan North

I came to this book in a funny way–on one of the sewing blogs I read the author mentioned that she had a story in this book. I looked it up and thought it sounded great and, surprise! It showed up a week later (thank you, Paul!) This is a 400 page short story collection and out of all those stories I only skipped two. I thought the whole thing was great, a really solid collection that actually worked so well as a cohesive book.  Each of the stories shared a single fact-there exists a machine that can take a drop of your blood and spit out a card with your eventual method of death written on it. The machine is never wrong, it does not tell you the date, but it sometimes is ambiguous.  For example, let’s say you get  “Boating Accident” and therefore avoid the sea for the whole rest of your life, but then one day are driving down the highway and the boat trailer in front of you detaches and crashes into you, thereby killing you.  The machine was not wrong, but it certainly surprised you.

What I found so interesting was how each author took that concept and then imagined the resulting world.  In some stories the machine had been around for years and was an established part of society and culture. In others it was brand new and wreaking havoc with people’s faith and civilization.  Some stories had a bit of humor, others were definitely sad.  A lot of topics can’t help but arise in this stories: fate,  the nature of human behavior, mortality, our feelings about death, and the overall point of living.  I really enjoyed this collection and have been telling many friends about it.  I didn’t recognize the any of the authors, so I don’t know how many of them are “unknowns”, but do them (and yourself!) a favor and do go find this book and read it.

*And yes, after reading the whole book and thinking so much about it my answer to “would you want to know how you’re going to die?” is NO.

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