asphaltbuffet's review against another edition

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5.0

A well-selected group of stories that keep the plots fresh and never seem to touch a common element, the machine, quite the same way.

The illustrations for each piece expand the narrative even further for the reader.

emdoux's review against another edition

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4.0

My brother read this last year for a class, and I got it with a Humble eBook Bundle, but didn't really start reading it until this month. I had planned to read it slowly, one or two stories a day, since, as I mentioned before, it's hard for me to not just read a book cover to cover. The premise of this book, however, and the quality of the stories, made it really difficult for me to stick to this limit and I sometimes found myself reading four or five stories a day because I just couldn't not turn off my Nook and see what the next story twist would be like. Highly recommended stories: Suicide, Almond, Vegetables, HIV Infection from Machine of Death Needle, Killed by Daniel, Cocaine and Painkillers, While Trying to Save Another.

antilegomena's review against another edition

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challenging funny sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

So many great short stories here. A fantastic premise with a myriad of wonderfully different executions. 

clawfoot's review against another edition

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4.0

The wealth of possibilities for this premise is limitless. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories, wasn't disappointed by a single one of them, and hope fervently that those who put it together might make this a series.

beeostrowsky's review against another edition

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4.0

Dang, these are some really good stories. We've got a lot of smart people coming up with interesting responses to the idea of a machine that predicts infallibly (but not unambiguously) how you'll die. How will it change society? How will it change how we spend our lives? Download the whole thing at machineofdeath.net and find out for free.

mistrum_crowe's review against another edition

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4.0

Perhaps a bit of a morbid recommendation, but Machine of Death is a surprisingly thoughtful look at what the human race does with the knowledge of their own demise, with reactions ranging from relief to outright paranoia. Maybe not for those who are after a bit of light fiction, but definitely a book that I can recommend to those willing to suspend their disbelief.

clonie's review against another edition

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5.0

I really enjoyed this book despite the times that it triggered my death anxiety.

balzat28's review against another edition

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4.0

Late last year, Glenn Beck of FOX News was prepared to take the #1 spot on Amazon's bestsellers list with yet another ego-feeding poli-historical confabulation that was, quite honestly, destined someday soon for the 49-cent shelf at Goodwill stores all across the country. (If I were writing an honest, respectable review, this is the point where I'd discuss exactly what the book was about rather than hide behind vacuous adjectives. However, at the time I had quite a bit of self-respect left, so I ignored the book. Besides, anything written by cable-news talking heads, no matter their political persuasion, can usually be summed up in the same six words: "My side good, their side bad." There, I just saved us all a lot of time, patience, and money.)

Anyway, to head off what was an assured victory for Beck and his followers, the editors of an otherwise overlookable little anthology pushed for everyone to buy THEIR book on the day Beck's was officially released rather than the pundit's. People rallied to the cause, however symbolic, and on October 26 Beck had to settle for a #2 spot on the list behind a 452-page book filled with nothing but stories about a little machine that, for just under twenty bucks, will tell you how you're going to die.

"Machine of Death" seems a bit imposing at first. Like I said, it's well over 400 pages, and heavy at that. And it's about the exact same thing 34 times over: a machine that tells you how you will die. With this in mind, you're forced to wonder, before you've even begun, how long the editors expect their little gimmick to last. After all, we live in a world that pulls at attention spans left and right--how could the casual reader NOT get bored? And yet, when the spine is broken and the pages flipped, you're drawn into stories so strange and diverse--and yes, even touching and deeply philosophical at times--that each one feels like it hits the reset button on your interests. Sure, the writers had a little fun with some of the potential causes--heat death of the universe, flaming marshmallow, piano--but none of the stories ever felt sarcastic. Every author in this collection took the idea seriously enough that their stories worked. (My least favorite of the stories is the one by Ben Croshaw, and only because the ending ruins what is an otherwise excellent work of fiction.)

In fact, not only does "Machine of Death" turn an otherwise ridiculous subject into an interesting one, it manages to be profound at certain times. The first story in the collection, Camille Alexa's "Flaming Marshmallow," shows us a world in which high school cliques are based around causes of death rather than clothes, athletics, or smarts: those who will one day die tragically and unexpectedly are ironically cool, while those who will live long and reasonably healthy lives are shunned. All the story's protagonist wants to do is be cool, which also means eating at the same lunch table as the boy of her dreams; her desires are pushed back by her father, who lives beyond the pettiness of status and worries only about his beloved daughter's well-being. Rafa Franco's "Piano" gives us a character who finds wealth in his fate rather than despair; once he knows how he WILL die, he's free to take risks and adventures in areas where fate cannot reach him. (As the character notes, pianos do not fall on airline pilots.) Of course, the one question that hangs over the head of every reader, from one story to another, is what we'd do in their situation--get tested or not. Know or not. It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer, and quite a few of the authors in this book feel the same way...a discomfort that only enhances many of the storylines.

Not that this book isn't also darkly funny...because it is. In fact, my favorite story from the entire book ("Fudge" by Kit Yonda) concerns a man looking to prove that the infernal machine can be wrong, no matter what it takes. The story ends, funnily, with a realization that the machine might sometimes be vague, might sometimes be cruel, but it's never wrong. The same can be said of this book: it might be disturbing at times, and other times it might be a little comfortable with itself, but it's never wrong.

NOTE: Each story in the book is accompanied by a full-page work of art, also submitted by contributors, and they complement the stories rather well.

onehtl1ama's review against another edition

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5.0

So I’m not sure how many of you followers are fans of webcomics. I would say I enjoy them quite a bit, I casually read a few – I’ll let their archives build for a month or two then read them all in one day but I routinely read two of them. I cannot start my day without reading Questionable Content (www.questionablecontent.net) or Dinosaur Comics (www.qwantz.com). Seriously, my days are incomplete with out these two gems.

Machine of Death is the brainchild of Ryan North, the writer of Dinosaur comics. Five years ago, T-Rex (the main character of Dinosaur Comics) mentioned how awesome it would be if there was a machine that would draw a small blood sample and then tell us exactly how (not when) we died. The fun part of this machine is that there is no avoiding this death. No matter how much you try, it’s fate, it cannot be changed. If someone’s slip reads DROWNING, no matter how much they avoid water for the rest of their life, they will drown. As T-Rex would say, super fun times!

The brilliance in this book is how it came to be, the writer of the webcomic, only actually has one story in this anthology, this rest is fan written. Pretty cool, huh? After North wrote that comic, the fan response was so positive that he called for Machine of Death Stories. Out of the hundreds received, these are the 30 best.


With all that being said, I’ve got to say, man I love this book. And let it be known, I’m not usually a fan of short stories. I don’t have anything against short stories in particular, but if I’m given the choice between a short story and a novel, I’m going to choose the novel. But these stories are sooo good! And there’s such a wide variety too. It feels like each time I sit down to read it, I think, there can’t possibly be a better story than that last one I read. And it proves me wrong every time! These stories are good because they explore the idea of whether it’s good to know how you die or not. Also, the machine is often cryptic in it’s output, that you may think you know how you die, to realize that you were completely wrong. There are funny stories, like “Torn Apart By and Devoured By Lions” where the character finds out how he’s going to die and becomes so excited about it, because it’s going to be the best moment of his life. There are sad stories, like “While Trying to Save Another”, where the character understands how he’s going to die, tries to get out of it, and realizes at the end that he has to save this person. And there are poignant stories, like “Nothing” which is a sweet story about a 170 year old man who will never die, and he hates it.

I don’t know what else to say. This book is good. Actually it’s great. Every story is good. Ryan North has been nice enough to put up the PDF of it online for free, so if you want to read it RIGHT NOW you can: http://machineofdeath.net/a/. But I encourage you read a sample of it online and if you like what you see, buy a copy on amazon (it’s only $10) because North self-published this beast, and it’s always nice to give back to a project so fantastic. Also, sidenote: the editors of MOD asked fans to buy a copy on the release date so they could get on amazon’s top 100, the response was so great that they got to #1. Let that be a tasty tidbit to give you an idea of how awesome this book is.

If you haven’t guessed: 5 stars.

Review at: http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.com

lou1sb's review against another edition

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5.0

I thought at first it might be hard for me to review this book without bias. Firstly, it is the brain child of Ryan North, who in my eyes can do no wrong, and has significant contributions from David Malki (who is occasionally even more awesome), secondly its contributors look like an odd who's-who of slightly known but nevertheless brilliant people in the webcomics business, and thirdly but perhaps even more awesomely, it pissed Glen Beck off. I love that they offer if for free to download, knowing that people will buy it if they like it enough (I certainly will) I love that they managed to get an independently published book on Amazon's Top Books list. But I loved all of these things before I read the book, I wasn't sure how I'd actually like it after reading it.

But it turns out I love it even more. Or maybe as much. Perhaps almost as much. But five stars. I love the variety of stories. Of course I have my favourites (Flaming marshmallow, Torn apart and devoured by lions, Starvation, Cocaine and Painkillers, Prison knife fight, While trying to save another, and Miscarriage are the top of my list, I think) but I love that they all take of the theme in different ways; the introduction certainly does not lie, you will have your funny-bone tickled, your heart-strings tugged, and so much more.

I don't know why I'm reviewing this, because anyone who reads Dinosaur Comics (http://qwantz.com) or Wondermark (http://wondermark.com) will have heard of this, and anyone who doesn't probably won't care. But no-one reads random reviews anyway. If you're trawling goodreads looking at random reviews I suggest you go find something better to do with your time. I know, read a book! I recommend [b:Machine of Death: A collection of stories about people who know how they will die|9548075|Machine of Death A collection of stories about people who know how they will die|Ryan North|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510oDPREcjL._SL75_.jpg|14434509]!