After the success of the first Machine of Death collection, there would of course be a sequel. This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death is that sequel, and its backstory is still the same:
The editors looked for stories that pushed the boundaries beyond what had been explored before. It made this collection more rewarding than the original. The stories range from short gags (“Made into Delicious Cheeseburger” by Sarah Pavis) via could-be-an-fun-filled-James-Bondish-action-movie tale (Tom Francis’ “Lazarus Reactor Fission Sequence”) to Sherlock Holmes pastiche (“Apitoxin” by John Takis), and deaths range from “Peacefully” (M.J. Leitch’s take on what happens after the zombie apocalypse) via Ed Turner’s “In Battle, Alone and Soon Forgotten”, in which an Orc searches for his own demise, to “Your Choice”, a choose your own adventure story by Richard Salter.
A whole bunch of stories take a classic trope and apply the Machine of Death to it: “Not Applicable” by Kyle Schoenfeld is a perfect example of Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and “Drowning Burning Falling Flying” by Grace Seybold explores what would happen if alien technology got available to mankind. Then, some stories make you feel slightly uncomfortable, like “Screaming, Crying, Alone, and Afraid” by Daliso Chaponda, where a serial killer makes the predictions come through, and “Execution by Beheading” by Chandler Kaiden. If collecting Cause of Death cards is the hot thing, how would you like to get one from that creepy neighbor that is rumored to have an awesome death?
Two stories were just no fun at all. In “Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones” (by ’Nathan Burgoine) we find out that the machine cannot tell identical twins apart, which places one of them for quite the conundrum, and in Liz Argall’s “Blunt Force Trauma Delivered by Spouse” the title really says it all. These two were, coincidentally, my favorites from the book.
So, a Machine that will inscrutably, infallibly, inescapably yet obliquely tell you how you will die. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
- Book read
- This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death (edited by Matthew Bennardo, David Malki and Ryan North)
- First line
- The “Coming soon” sign was gone, and in its place stood a shining silver booth. (from “Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones” by ’Nathan Burgoine)