Once upon a time a dinosaur had a pretty rad idea for a story: imagine a machine that will take a sample of your blood, analyses it, and spit out a card telling you how you will die. No dates, no details, just the cause. It’s just that the machine delights in ironically vague deaths. A card saying “OLD AGE” might just as well mean that you get run over by an old guy in a car.
Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die is a collection of stories that explore this idea. And it’s a hoot and a half.
What probably makes the book work as well as it does, is the fact that most stories don’t really deal with the actual dying. For example, in Jeffrey C. Wells’s “Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions” absolutely no one gets torn apart or devoured. It’s just that the guy cannot shut up about how awesome his demise is going to be.
My absolute top favorite tale was “HIV Infection From Machine of Death Needle” by Brian Quinlan, which I will now reproduce in full:
- Book read
- Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die (Edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki)
- First line
- The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die (from Introduction)