We talked about ghosts in our last post. Today we’re gonna talk about death. But don’t worry, we’re also gonna talk about science fiction. Both can be found in today’s recommendation: Ryan North’sshort story anthology, The Machine of Death.
Science fiction is one of the things I mess around with. It’s a constant battle between my love of technological escapism, and my deep-seated, borderline phobia of space.
(That’s real, by the way. Space is my worst nightmare. It’s huge and empty and full of pure nothing. If someone were to conjure up the very situational definition of fear, for me, it would be floating around space forever…and I have herpes, but that’s another blog, we’re talking about sci-fi here.)
But, in Machine of Death, everything stays nice and safe on Earth with one of the most exciting premises I’ve heard for an anthology: there’s a new machine that tells you how you’re gonna die.
Not when. Not where. Just how.
Ryan North calls on a host of writers to bring to life thirty-four stories from a universe where such a machine exists. And each story branches from that seed into a morbid, eclectic, enthralling tree.
Each story gets its title from a Machine of Death read-out. Some are comedic, like Yahtzee Croshaw’s (yes that’s the same snippy, quippy Yahtzee Croshaw behind the Zero Punctuation video game reviews) “Exhaustion from Having Sex With a Minor” (it’s not what you think). Some stories are heartbreaking like John Chernega’s “Almond,” some are dreamlike meditations like Erin McKean’s “Not Waving But Drowning.” Every story spans the timeline of the Machine, from its early development years to mainstream acceptance. But, no matter the setting, every author bring some their full gameface and cracked-knuckle talent to each story, providing a riveting, close-to-home meditation on a society obsessed with its own mortality.
This book is a pitch-black, depressing and heartwarming treasure.
It’s a terrific read, but the book isn’t just a book. That’s the really exciting part. Every story is available to listen to as an episode of the Machine of Death podcast. Some stories are read by the author, others by professional and amateur voice actors. The added platform makes every story more accessible and more engaging.
This is a book and a team of writers who care about building a fan base and reaching out with their art, and it’s clearly working. Machine of Death has a sequel anthology, This Is How You Die, and a party game based on the concept raised over $500,000 on Kickstarter.
Every story is as rich and darkly engaging as it is diverse and each one is very much worth your time, after all, as the Machine so kindly informs us, no one of us knows how much time we really have.
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Download the book for FREE here: