It all started with a comic strip. Specifically, it started with a comic strip called Dinosaur Comics, a surreal series with dinosaurs discussing philosophical and existential issues. In one comic, a dinosaur proposed a story about a machine that predicts your precise manner of death. It provides no dates or details, and can be annoyingly vague in its predictions, but is always accurate. The comic was just supposed to be a one-off joke, but readers seized on the idea until the creator compiled an anthology of stories based on the concept. The result was Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die. There's a print version, but Machine of Death was also released as a free ebook, so you can download and read the anthology for free.

Every title is based on a machine of death prediction, and with names like "Flaming Marshmallow," "Firing Squad," and "Vegetables," your curiosity will be peaked just from the table of contents. For the simple premise, the stories are a surprisingly mixed bag. Some of the stories are about the world where everyone knows their death, and others are about people trying to avoid their death. A few are about people who are looking forward to the death they receive, and one is about the creation of the machine itself. Some stories are long, and others are short, and one is a single sentence. Some stories are somber, others are philosophical, and others are hilarious. If you go through the stories, you're bound to find one that appeals to you.

The only knock I can give to Machine of Death is that many of the stories don't deliver on the death predicted in the title. Some have almost nothing to do with the title. It's not that I wanted to read about a bunch of people getting killed, but I started wondering how someone could be killed by a flaming marshmallow, for example. Still, I was rarely disappointed with the actual story attached to the prediction. I think the key to appreciating the book is to be aware that it's not all about ironic deaths. If it was, it would be a pretty morbid and repetitive book. It seems the editors deliberately chose stories that stretch the concept, which ultimately a good thing.

Check it out. You'll be glad you did.
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spacerguy said...

I'm intrigued by the Machine of Death.. You've got my imagination running wild. I've logged these stories in my journal as a must read. Thanks Maurice.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Actually, this was my brother's post. I'm intrigued too!

-----Original message-----

April Dunno said...

Thanks for the heads up, looks pretty out-there....me likey!

Oh, like the re-vamp of the blog, by the way. It's pretty sweet.


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